Robert McGee’s Surveys on the Ethics of Tax Evasion

Robert McGee has released another of his studies of cross-cultural attitudes toward the ethics of tax evasion: The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Germany and the United States.

This time, 71 “business school graduate students and upper level undergraduate students” at the Georg-Simon-Ohm Fachhochschule in Nuernberg, Germany were surveyed, and compared with 119 business students at Saint Thomas University in Miami, Florida.

The survey, which will be familiar to you if you’ve read or read about McGee’s previous studies, asked respondents to rank a series of statements about the ethics of tax resistance on a scale from 1 to 7, where 1 means “strongly agree” and 7 means “strongly disagree.”

The statements included such sentiments as “Tax evasion is ethical if tax rates are too high,” “Tax evasion is ethical if some of the proceeds go to support a war that I consider to be unjust,” and “Tax evasion would be ethical if I were a Jew living in Nazi Germany in 1935.”

Typically, McGee’s surveys find remarkably little support for tax evasion, even in extreme cases. The German business students ranked the “Jew in Nazi Germany” hypothetical at 3.59 on the 1 to 7 scale — on average disapproving of tax evasion in even this circumstance, though mildly. The American students were even less inclined to countenance German Jews failing to pay their dues to help enforce the Nuremberg Racial Purity Laws: they ranked the statement at 4.99 on the scale.

I’ve discussed McGee’s work on previous Picket Line entries, for instance:

Welcome, Christopher, to the tax resister fold. I thought I heard a few “last straws” snap when the Military Commissions Act was signed.