IRS building - up angle.jpg
Internal Revenue Service federal building Washington DC USA


Taxpayers hate cheating, but are less likely to think it’s their responsibility to report it, and while they trust the IRS as a source of information (just a little bit more than they trust paid tax preparers, as a matter of fact), they think that it’s doing a worse job than before when it comes to balancing enforcement and taxpayer service.

That’s all according to the Internal Revenue Service’s recently released its 2017 Comprehensive Taxpayer Attitude Survey, which was conducted in August and early September of 2017, and reached just over a thousand taxpayers by landline and cell phone.
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Cheat

No wiggle room

Apart from a very small percentage of sociopaths who think the amount of cheating should only be limited by the possibility of being caught, and a tenth who think a little now and then won't hurt, the overwhelming majority of taxpayers say no cheating is allowed -- an attitude the IRS says hasn't changed much in the past six years.
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Fairness

Everyone should pay their share

American taxpayers have a strong sense that everyone should pay their fare share, and that cheaters should be held accountable -- but they're more and more likely to say that it's not their responsibility to report cheaters (see the next chart).
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Reporting others

Washing their hands

Over time, taxpayer willingness to say that we all have a responsibility to report tax cheaters has declined.
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Why they report

Linchpins of the voluntary tax system

An overwhelming majority of taxpayers reported that it was their own integrity that influenced them in honestly reporting and paying their taxes. Given their slackening interest in reporting their fellow taxpayers, it's not much of a surprise that less than half were influenced by the belief that their friends and associates or their neighbors were being honest (43 percent and 37 percent, respectively).
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Trust in IRS

Rebuilding a reputation

Having faced serious criticism from Congress for several years over scandals involving the improper targeting of political groups, the IRS must be pleased with the direction of this trend.
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Valuable Source of information

Their best sources of information

Given that only half of respondents hired professional tax preparers (see Slide 9), it's even more impressive that they were ranked the second-most valuable source of information by taxpayers, at 88 percent.
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Service versus enforcement

A caveat

While taxpayers trust IRS information and its fairness, they've also grown to question its allocation of resources between enforcement and taxpayer service.
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Who hires a tax pro

Room for growth

Those 18-24 were the least likely to have used a tax professional to prepare their last return -- but the jury is still out on why: They tend to have less complex returns and are often more comfortable with the sorts of DIY software that's available; the question is, will they turn to professionals as they age?
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - Preparer requirements

The whole package

When it comes to hiring tax pros, respondents weren't willing to make any trade offs between ethics and competence: They want both.
2018 - IRS Taxpayer Survey - IRS funding

A budget booster?

Taxpayers were surprisingly willing to see the IRS get more funding, both for taxpayers assistance and for enforcement activities -- a result the agency is no doubt planning on sharing frequently with those in Congress who control its budget.