The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Guatemalan Opinion
46 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2005
Date Written: January 31, 2006
In 1944, Martin Crowe, a Catholic priest, wrote a doctoral dissertation titled The Moral Obligation of Paying Just Taxes. His dissertation summarized and analyzed 500 years of theological and philosophical debate on this topic, much of which took place in Latin. Since Crowe's dissertation, not much has been written on the topic of tax evasion from an ethical perspective, with a few exceptions. In 1998 and 1999, a few articles were published on the ethics of tax evasion in the Journal of Accounting, Ethics & Public Policy. An edited book on this topic was published in 1998.
The present paper summarizes, updates and expands on Crowe's work. Recent literature is reviewed and the issues discussed in the last 500 years of theological and philosophical debate are incorporated into an 18-statement survey, which was distributed to graduate and upper division undergraduate business and law students at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala. This target population was selected because these students will become the future opinion leaders and political leaders of Guatemala.
Three basic views on the ethics of tax evasion have emerged over the centuries. The survey instrument incorporates all three views, which gives respondents an opportunity to express their opinion regardless of which of the three positions they come closest to. Most statements begin with the phrase Tax evasion is ethical if..., which allows the respondents to either agree or disagree with the statement. Each statement is graded on a 7-point Likert scale. The responses to each statement were tallied and ranked to determine under which circumstances tax evasion might be considered most or least ethical.
The results of the survey reveal that the majority of participants fall into the same category, which is that tax evasion may be ethical under certain circumstances. Comparisons are made between the responses given by business and law students and between male and female students.
Keywords: Tax evasion, ethics, Guatemala, Latin America
JEL Classification: H26, E62
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation