For the last two years, the Internal Revenue Service has surveyed taxpayers to find out what makes them comply with their tax obligations. The study – called the “ Comprehensive Taxpayer Attitude Survey” is released with the annual IRS Data Book, a compendium of data related to tax filings and IRS enforcement and service activity. Prior to 2017, the last survey and study of taxpayer’s attitudes was from the IRS Oversight Board in 2014.
The Attitude Survey offers some interesting understandings on how taxpayers view the IRS and fellow taxpayers. It provides many findings about taxpayer needs and preferences – and what taxpayers value. Tax professionals can use this information to gain knowledge about what clients want and how they like to be served.
- Ethical attitudes towards paying taxes remain high among Americans. The majority of Americans continue to say that it is not at all acceptable to cheat on taxes (85%), that it is every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes (95% agree), and that everyone who cheats on their taxes should be held accountable (90% agree). A sense of civic duty to pay a fair share of taxes increases as education level and age increase. As income decreases, Americans are more likely to agree that they should only pay what they feel is a fair amount.
- Trust in the IRS to enforce tax laws has grown significantly since 2014. About 80% of taxpayers say it is very important that the IRS ensures that corporations and high income taxpayers are being honest about taxes.
- Personal integrity continues to be the main factor that influences tax compliance. However, the influence of personal integrity on tax compliance is lower for younger generations of taxpayers. Increasing education levels positively affects the influence of personal integrity.
- Nearly half of Americans say that there is a proper balance between enforcement and customer service programs. However, there has been a slight shift in preference towards enforcement in 2018 compared to 2017. Increasingly, most Americans would like to see additional funding to support both enforcement and customer service.
- Electronic filing of income taxes is important to American taxpayers; with importance increasing as education levels rise.
- The website and the toll-free telephone number are the top 2 IRS services. The IRS should prepare for greater demand for tax applications on mobile devices, and continue monitoring demand for the telephone service, which may be decreasing.
- Taxpayers place the most value on the tax advice and information they receive from the IRS website, paid tax professionals, and IRS representatives. A majority of the youngest group of taxpayers (18-24 years old) value all information sources available to them. The use of a paid tax professional increases as taxpayer age increases.
- Eight out of ten taxpayers are satisfied with their interactions with the IRS. However, more educated taxpayers are less likely to be satisfied.
- In the past year, one in ten taxpayers recall being contacted by the IRS, and about one third of taxpayers initiated contact with the IRS. The most common taxpayer-initiated interactions include a visit to the IRS website (other than to file returns) and/or a telephone call. The likelihood that a taxpayer would initiate contact with the IRS increases as education level increases.
- Trust that the IRS protects tax records is high. Seven out of ten taxpayers (rising to eight out of ten aged 18-24) indicate that they trust the IRS to protect their tax account records from cyber criminals.