(Washington, DC) The IRS Oversight Board today released the findings of its 2006 Taxpayer Attitude Survey which revealed continued strong taxpayer support for compliance. Approximately 86% of those taking part in the survey agreed that it is “not at all” acceptable to cheat on your income taxes, down slightly by 2% from the previous year, but well within the 3% margin of error. And nearly three-out-of four respondents agreed that it is everyone’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes (73%). Those surveyed also continue to value the services IRS provides to help them understand, file, and pay their taxes, with 79% saying they were satisfied with their personal interaction with the IRS. The survey was conducted by GfK NOP.
IRS Oversight Board Chairman Paul Jones commented, “I think the survey results are reassuring. The IRS is one the right track. They show a very stable trend over the past three years in critical areas, such as taxpayer attitudes towards compliance. Taxpayers strongly believe that everyone – high income or low, small business or corporation – should pay what they owe; no exceptions. This support is crucial as Congress, the Administration, and the tax administration community work to shrink the $290 billion annual net tax gap, which is an affront to these honest taxpayers.”
The 2006 survey also showed that taxpayers believe that enforcement alone will not maximize overall voluntary compliance. “The same taxpayers also believe by an 83% percent margin that the more information and guidance the IRS provides, the more likely they are to file a correct return. This view strongly supports the Board’s longstanding position that taxpayer education and quality customer service also figure largely into the overall compliance equation,” the Board Chair continued.
The survey confirmed too that taxpayers value the many services the IRS offers, with the ability to e-file leading the way as important (93%), followed closely by access to the IRS toll-free telephone lines to answer questions (91%). However, walk-in service, the IRS’ web site and community based-tax clinics also had strong support among respondents.
“These findings also track closely with what the Board learned from its Taxpayer Customer Service and Channel Preference Survey. Different segments of taxpayers have different service needs that must be met through a variety of different channels, but many are open to new options, such as those offered over IRS.GOV,” Mr. Jones observed. (The Taxpayer Customer Service and Channel Preference Survey is available at www.irsoversightboard.treas.gov).
The Oversight Board’s 2006 Survey further revealed that taxpayers believe that the IRS should receive additional funding to enhance both its customer service and enforcement programs. Sixty-six percent of respondents supported additional funding for the IRS so it can assist taxpayers over the phone and in person, and 63 percent were in favor of additional funding so the IRS can enforce the tax laws and ensure that taxpayers pay what they owe.
“During a time of fiscal constraint and competing interests, maintaining balance in all parts of the IRS’s mission becomes critical. Clearly, America’s taxpayers recognize this need. The ultimate goal of tax administration is to produce compliant taxpayers which can only be achieved by maintaining a balance of good customer service and effective enforcement and providing modern tools. As we embark on a new budget cycle for the IRS for FY 2008, we cannot lose sight of that fact,” IRS Oversight Board Chair Jones concluded.
Since 2002, the IRS Oversight Board has conducted an annual survey to gain deeper understanding of taxpayers’ attitudes. The 2002 survey asked questions primarily on compliance attitudes, and used questions and methodology identical to that used by the IRS in a 1999 survey. The survey was expanded in 2003 to include questions about taxpayers’ expectations about customer service and in 2004, a question was added about taxpayers’ willingness to provide additional funding for IRS service and enforcement functions. The complete 2006 survey can be found at the Board’s web site at http://www.treasury.gov/irsob/reports.