IRS Tax Cheat Poll

A recent IRS poll shows that 87% of American taxpayers believe it is NEVER ok to cheat on their income taxes.

In my experience as a tax attorney, I can’t help but think this little statistic is overly-optimistic.  It is obvious that the IRS is trying to spread optimism about the integrity of the tax system at a time when many Americans are making decisions about what (and what not) to report.  I just don’t think this statistic paints an accurate picture.  Here’s why:

  • The poll consisted of 1,500 randomly chosen adults; that’s a pretty small sample size.
  • The participants were questioned over the phone.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that tax cheats are more the type to screen their calls and not participate in polls.
  • There appear to have been some follow-up questions such as “What is your reason for honest and accurate reporting?” (to which 95 percent cited “personal integrity”), but what about asking “Do you (or have you) cheated on your taxes?”  I think this is an important question because, while many people believe it is wrong to fudge numbers, I think fewer people tend to strictly follow their own advice/beliefs.
  • It is unclear to me whether or not the IRS actually defined “cheating.”  For example, if the IRS had included in its definition of cheating “providing an estimate when an exact amount is readily available,” then I think we would be looking at something less than 87 percent.  Just keeping it real.

I would be interested in seeing more details about this poll.  If anybody finds anything, let me know!