Integrity and Service are Both Needed to Boost Voluntary Compliance
Our system of tax administration is based on the premise that taxpayers will self-assess their tax obligations, file their taxes honestly, and pay what they owe on their own initiative.
For taxpayers to achieve higher levels of tax compliance voluntarily, they must first regard tax compliance as an expected social norm, an obligation they are expected to meet.
Secondly, taxpayers must have the information available to them to make their tax obligations easy to understand and fulfill.
The IRS does little to stress the need for integrity in the self-assessment process, yet the Oversight Board’s annual taxpayer attitude survey found strong support for personal integrity as a principal factor in paying taxes honestly.
The survey found that 86 percent of respondents cite personal integrity as a principal factor inﬂuencing whether they report and pay their taxes honestly.
The IRS needs to find ways to leverage this strong support of voluntary compliance as a critical civic duty.
It must remind taxpayers that tax compliance is a “social norm” expected of every taxpayer, much like obeying laws against shoplifting or drunk driving, and that noncompliance with taxes hurts our great nation.
Such campaigns can have a long-term effect on public opinion, such as that wages by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
In a similar vein, the Motion Picture Association of America created an aggressive campaign that equaled downloading music or movies illegally with stealing.
The Board is particularly concerned that the tax compliance message be reinforced with America’s young people.
All members of the tax administration community can help disseminate this message.
For example, the National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP) is receiving high marks for its “Teaching Taxes to High School Students.”
This presentation could be an excellent candidate for the IRS and NSTP to partner and create a similar product on the national level.