TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Geithner Effect on Taxpayer Attitudes

IRS Oversight The IRS Oversight Board today released the results of its 2009 Taxpayer Attitude Survey of 1,000 respondents. This is the eighth year the board has conducted the survey.

Perhaps not surprisingly in light of the well publicized tax transgressions of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other Obama Administration officials and nominees, this year's survey revealed:

  • How much, if any, do you think is an acceptable amount to cheat on your income taxes?  A little here and there, 9% (highest in 6 years)
  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS does each of the following to ensure that all taxpayers honestly pay what they owe -- Ensures high-income taxpayers are reporting and paying their taxes honestly?  Very important, 83% (all-time high)
  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS does each of the following to ensure that all taxpayers honestly pay what they owe -- Ensures small businesses are reporting and paying their taxes honestly?  Very important, 76% (all-time high)
  • How much influence does each of the following factors have on whether you report and pay your taxes honestly -- Fear of an audit?  Great deal of influence, 39% (all-time high)
  • How much influence does each of the following factors have on whether you report and pay your taxes honestly -- Belief that your neighbors are reporting and paying honestly?  Great deal of influence, 17% (all-time low)

Another batch of results indicate that taxpayers are more self-reliant in preparing their tax returns:

  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS provides each of the following services to assist taxpayers -- A toll-free telephone number to answer your questions?  Great deal of influence, 70% (down eight percentage points from last year)
  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS provides each of the following services to assist taxpayers -- Office locations you can visit where an IRS representative will answer your questions?  Great deal of influence, 59% (all-time low)
  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS provides each of the following services to assist taxpayers -- Opportunities for electronic filing of tax returns? Great deal of infuence, 66% (all-time high).
  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS provides each of the following services to assist taxpayers -- A computer terminal located in a kiosk at a library or shopping mall? Great deal of influence, 37% (all-time high)
  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS provides each of the following services to assist taxpayers -- A tax assistance van that visits locations not convenient to IRS offices to provide information and assistance?  Great deal of influence, 40% (all-time low)
  • How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS provides each of the following services to assist taxpayers -- Community-based tax clinics at convenient locations, such as schools, community centers, libraries, etc.?  Great deal of influence, 46% (all time low)
  • How likely would you be to use each of the following services for help with a tax issue -- A toll-free telephone number to answer your questions?  Very likely, 49% (all-time low)
  • How likely would you be to use each of the following services for help with a tax issue -- Office locations you can visit within 30 to 60 minutes travel time where an IRS representative will answer your questions?  Very likely, 35% (all-time low)
  • How likely would you be to use each of the following services for help with a tax issue -- Office locations you can visit within 30 to 60 minutes travel time where an IRS representative will answer your questions?  Very likely, 20% (all-time low)
  • How likely would you be to use each of the following services for help with a tax issue -- A computer terminal located in a kiosk at a library or shopping mall?  Very likely, 18% (all-time low)
  • How likely would you be to use each of the following services for help with a tax issue --  A computer terminal located in a kiosk at a library or shopping mall?  Very likely, 18% (all-time low)
  • How likely would you be to use each of the following services for help with a tax issue -- A tax assistance van that visits locations not convenient to IRS offices to provide information and assistance?  Very likely, 21% (all-time low)
  • How likely would you be to use each of the following services for help with a tax issue -- Community-based tax clinics at convenient locations, such as schools, community centers, libraries, etc.?  Very likely, 27% (all-time low)

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Comments

I have a mere 9-12 months to get off my butt and organize a ballot initiative that Democrats don't have to pay taxes in my state.
Well, the initiative will still say they are "required" to pay taxes, but that no penalties or jail time will result if they don't pay. They only need to indicate when sued by the state IRS that they took a "Democrat's Deferment" or invoked the "Rangel Rule". I

I need some title to go with "Geithner" too. Feel free to make suggestions.

Posted by: EvilDave | Feb 16, 2010 1:34:34 PM

What about a service where the IRS automatically registers to vote those people who actually pay taxes?

Posted by: Woody | Feb 16, 2010 2:37:22 PM

How about people who are a net drain on the government (receiving more income than they pay, ie employees & aid recipients) NOT being able to vote?

That'd be fair.

Seriously.

Posted by: Jonathan | Feb 17, 2010 5:41:44 AM

Like a "mulligan" in golf why can't taxpayers tell the IRS once every 18 years that this year they are electing to take a "Geithner"?

Posted by: ocreader | Feb 17, 2010 5:46:02 AM

I made an accounting mistake and missed making a monthly payment a few years ago. The IRS caught it after a few months, told me to pay immediately and tacked on a 10% ($700) penalty. Like a sucker, I paid the full amount and penalty immediately. I figured this is what good, upstanding citizens did. To this day, I understand that Geithner has paid no penalty for his accounting "mistake". I guess being the head of the IRS has its perks. I feel like I paid his penalty for him. Geithner's position will eventually make him a multi-millioniare, if he's not already (future board positions, book deals). I will never be as wealthy as him, and he'll never pay his 10% penalty. He must get a good chuckle out of this kind of thing before he falls asleep at night.

Posted by: Willy | Feb 17, 2010 5:49:05 AM

It would have been interesting to see the survey responses to these questions:

How important is it to you, as a taxpayer, that the IRS does each of the following to ensure that all taxpayers honestly pay what they owe -- Ensures politicians, government officials and government employees are reporting and paying their taxes honestly?

How much influence does each of the following factors have on whether you report and pay your taxes honestly -- Belief that politicians, government officials and government employees are reporting and paying honestly?

Posted by: Woodland Critter | Feb 17, 2010 6:03:46 AM

I'm hoping for a rogue judge to rule that since Geitner got away with it some little guy gets off too.

Posted by: Mark | Feb 17, 2010 6:05:04 AM

"What about a service where the IRS automatically registers to vote those people who actually pay taxes?

Posted by: Woody | Feb 16, 2010 5:37:22 PM"

And de-registers (?) those who don't pay taxes. In my view everyone should pay something, even if its a dollar a year, everyone should have an investment in the game. Want to vote? Pay taxes!

Posted by: John Steele | Feb 17, 2010 6:09:07 AM

Perhaps we'd be better off with laws saying you cannot vote if you haven't paid your taxes in full.

But that will never happen. It would disenfranchise too many democrats.

Posted by: Number Six | Feb 17, 2010 8:29:17 AM

How can you expect the average citizen to be honest with his taxes, if he dosen't believe that the government officials are not honest. Prime example is appointing a Treasury Secretary that claims to be stupid. Not an excuse when you get an IRS audit, but he is the boss now so he won't get the audit or the penalties that the average citizen would get.

Put congress and their pay structure under the States they represent so they are not in charge of their pay or their retirement. See if they have an attitude change.

Posted by: cleve | Feb 17, 2010 8:33:18 AM

What a shame Geithner hiimself didn't come up in the survey! ("Do you approve of those in charge of taxation being guilty of tax transgressions?") I'm sure a certain segment of taxpayers would have had plenty to say!

Posted by: Yo Mamma | Feb 17, 2010 9:31:32 AM

Sadly the IRS is the collection agency for the criminal enterprise know as the Fed. Until it is abolished the US will continue its death spiral.

Posted by: robertsgt40 | Feb 17, 2010 12:36:30 PM

This is really a great news for all the tax payers.Now A Days people are talking about taxes.so this is a cool info on tax.

Posted by: Daniel Grow | Feb 18, 2010 2:43:54 AM