Do Tax Cheats Feel Much Shame?

According to a survey of 1,105 Americans conducted by The Shelton Group, cheating on taxes is not as shameful a thing as it may have once been.  See Forbes article for more information.

The relevant portion of the survey asked “How embarrassed would you be if someone you knew found out that you were _____.”  Then from a list of offenses, participants were to select either “very embarrassed,” “somewhat embarrassed,” or “not embarrassed.”  So what do you suppose would cause people to be very embarrassed?  The results may surprise you:

  • shoplifting (73%)
  • driving under the influence (65%)
  • throwing trash out of a car window (59%)
  • cheating on your taxes (57%)
  • smoking (39%)

I’ve been puzzling over these results today and I haven’t been able to come up with much of an explanation.  If you ask the IRS, taxpayers still have a relatively strong fear of being audited, they believe everyone must contribute to society and pay their taxes, and they feel that cheating on your taxes is a serious transgression.  So how do you reconcile the Shelton Group data?

Maybe cheating on taxes is so uncommon that people don’t really know what their reaction would be; they don’t know how it ranks in relation to more everyday sins.  Unlikely, right?  Ok, maybe tax problems (and cheating to try to reduce them) are extremely common and no longer taboo.  Maybe Uncle Sam is perceived as this massive, insensitive brute who won’t miss a few thousand dollars here and there.  The ol’ “Stick it to The Man!” mentality.  Who knows…

What I want to know is this: besides smoking, is there anything less embarrassing than cheating on your taxes?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *