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IRS Oversight Board Releases 2012 Taxpayer Attitude Survey Personal Integrity Still Drives Taxpayer Compliance; Tolerance for Cheating on Taxes Shrinks to Low Level

​(February 26, 2013) Personal integrity continued to be the foremost influence on taxpayer compliance, according to the IRS Oversight Board 2012 Taxpayer Attitude Survey. Based on a survey of the general public, 95 percent stated that personal integrity had a great deal or somewhat of an influence on whether they report and pay their taxes honestly, compared to 70 percent for third party information reporting to the IRS, and 63 percent for fear of an audit.

Moreover, 87 percent of those surveyed said that it was not at all acceptable to cheat on your taxes – a three percentage point increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, the general public’s tolerance for tax cheating a little here and there or as much as possible dropped to 11 percent, one of the lowest levels ever recorded in the Board’s annual survey which has been conducted since 2002.

"Personal integrity is at the core of our self-assessment tax system,” said Board Chairman Paul Cherecwich, Jr. “The overwhelming majority of American taxpayers play by the rules and expect everyone else to do the same. They don’t tolerate cheating by taxpayers regardless of income, and 96 percent of those surveyed agreed that it was every American’s civic duty to pay his or her fair share of taxes,” he observed.

Overall taxpayer (i.e., the general public’s) satisfaction with interactions with the IRS remained unchanged from last year, with 76 percent reporting they were “very and somewhat satisfied;” however the share who stated they were “very satisfied” grew in 2012 to 41 percent – tying the highest level ever recorded in a Board survey.“ I believe these positive customer service findings are a tribute to the men and women of the IRS,” said the Board Chair. “In spite of budget cuts that have diminished their ranks, IRS employees continue to strive to provide quality service to taxpayers, whether it’s answering a taxpayer’s account question or helping taxpayers navigate a complex tax code. The Board commends them for their dedication and hard work,” Mr. Cherecwich concluded.

The survey also found that 67 percent of respondents supported extra funding for the IRS to assist taxpayers over the phone and in person. This is the highest level ever measured since the Board began asking the question in 2004. There was also pubic recognition of IRS representatives, the IRS website, and paid tax professionals as valuable sources of tax information and advice—with 87 percent or more of the respondents identifying these three sources as very or somewhat valuable sources.

Taxpayer preferences for service channels are also evolving, according to the Board’s survey. While the extent to which taxpayers say they are likely to use the IRS toll-free telephone service and Taxpayer Assistance Center (walk-in) offices has remained generally stable since 2003, there has been general growth in taxpayers’ likely use of more technology-based services, such as those offered over the IRS website. For example, the 2012 survey results indicated that 86 percent of the public stated they were likely to visit the IRS website, up from 72 percent in 2003.

“The 2012 survey confirmed much of what the IRS Oversight Board has heard this past year from taxpayers, practitioners, and IRS employees. There is a growing appetite for more web-based, self-serve options,” observed Board Chair Cherecwich. In addition, the survey also found that 93 percent of the public believes it is very or somewhat important that paid return preparers meet standards of competency to enter the tax preparation business, which includes 77 percent who said it was very important. “Given the important financial and legal implications of filing an accurate tax return coupled with taxpayer reliance on paid return preparers, the vast majority of taxpayers want these preparers to meet competency standards,” concluded Mr. Cherecwich.

A full copy of IRS Oversight Board 2012 Taxpayer Attitude Survey can be found at the Board’s website at www.irsoversightboard.treas.gov.

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