People trust accountants more than politicians when it comes to taxes

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Approximately two-thirds of residents of Group of 20 countries distrust politicians about the tax system, according to a new survey by a trio of accounting organizations.

The survey, by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the International Federation of Accountants, and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, polled more than 7,600 people across G20 countries, which account for two-thirds of the world’s population. The survey found that 67 percent of the respondents said they either distrust or highly distrust politicians about the tax system.

In contrast, the poll respondents were more trusting of accountants. The survey found 57 percent of people in G20 countries trust or highly trust professional accountants when it comes to the tax system, compared to 49 percent who trust tax attorneys, and 35 percent who trust non-governmental organizations.

In addition, 58 percent of the people polled in G20 countries said they believe the work of professional accountants is contributing to more efficient tax systems, while 56 percent said the work of accountants is contributing to more effective tax systems, and 49 percent who indicated it’s contributing to fairer tax systems.

“Two-thirds of respondents distrust or highly distrust politicians on the topic of tax,” said IFAC executive director of external affairs Russell Guthrie in a statement. “They are cutting through the political rhetoric, and instead place their trust with the experts. Governments have work to do to rebuild public trust in tax systems. The accounting profession has always advocated for a ‘big picture’ approach to tax policymaking in the global economy—the complexity that exists now is counterproductive to the public interest.”

Asked about cooperation versus competition in the tax arena, nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents indicated they are more concerned that their government cooperates with other countries for a more coherent international tax system, than competes for national interests such as increasing tax revenue or attracting multinational business. The poll found 73 percent of the respondents believe it is important or very important for governments to cooperate with each other on tax policy to create a more coherent international tax system. They were more than 3.5 times more likely to favor cooperation over competition.

The survey respondents were generally more supportive of tax incentives for a variety of social and economic goals, with 76 percent of the respondents indicating they support government tax incentives for green energy projects, 74 percent supporting tax incentives for retirement planning, and 68 percent for infrastructure projects.

“While I wouldn’t support constant tinkering with the tax system by governments of G20 countries—as tax regimes need to be long-term and properly bedded down—it is interesting that people highly favor utilizing tax systems to achieve broad social and economic objectives,” said ACCA head of tax Chas Roy-Chowdhury in a statement.

The survey results differed across countries when respondents were asked about tax minimization strategies. Residents of English-speaking countries of the G20 generally expressed more skepticism about tax minimization. Poll respondents in Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. tended to indicate they believe high-income earners and multinational companies are not paying enough taxes.

Besides those countries, the survey also polled respondents in Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.

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