A recent poll, commissioned by the IRS, found that the overwhelming majority of taxpayers think that it's never okay to cheat on their taxes. It's an interesting data point, but what does it really tell us?
More than anything, it tells us that the IRS is an insecure little bitch. Like Stacey, that girl in ninth grade who thought she was your soul mate and paid Kendra five dollars to sit at your table at lunch and say, "So what do you guys think of Stacey? She's kinda cool right?" And you said, "I think Stacey's a psycho whore" because she was kinda being a psycho whore. Turns out Stacey was psycho, and Kendra was a whore1.
This poll is exactly like the Stacey/Kendra situation but with less real world applicability.
The IRS hired a research company that interviewed a random sampling of 1500 taxpayers and asked them extremely personal questions about reporting and paying taxes.
When asked how much, if any, is an acceptable amount to cheat on your income taxes, 87 percent of respondents said, "not at all." Only 11 percent said, "a little here and there" or "as much as possible."2
Those were the only three choices given: not at all, a little here and there, and as much as possible. That's a pretty gigantic difference between the last two. Using a similar convention, I've developed a Going Concern micro-poll for you to answer in the comments:
What do you think about Belgians?
A. They're great!
B. They're pretty good.
C. Kill all those Flemish cock suckers.
If you read the report
carefully, you'll find that a full 4 percent of respondents said it's acceptable to cheat as much as possible on your income taxes. Most experts agree
A more robust picture can be seen, however, when we drill down into the data. As we all know from Mitt Romney's leaked speech, 47 percent of Americans don't pay any taxes at all. Unfortunately, he was way off. It's only 46.4 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes. I would love it if all of the "as much as possible" cheaters come from this group. It's always awesome when potential malfeasance gets trumped by actual dumbassedness. "I cheated so much, I reduced my tax burden from zero all the way down to zero! Shoot, I hope I get audited! That way I can find out if I qualify for the EITC3!"4
Unfortunately, I don't believe that assumption is tenable. For the sake of argument, let's assume that the 4 percent of "as much as possible cheaters" are evenly distributed. The tax gap in 2006 (the most recent year the tax gap was calculated) was $450 million. That year 138,893,908 individual tax returns were filed. Assuming only 53.6 percent of them actually owed federal income taxes, then only 74,447,134 taxpayers could have contributed to the tax gap. And if 4 percent of those cheated as much as possible, then were only looking at 2,977,885 uber-cheaters. Finally, just for fun, let's say the entire $450 million tax gap came exclusively from the uber-cheaters (not corporations, estates, trusts, "a little here and there" cheaters, or non-cheaters). These balls-out, screw-you, 16th-amendment-hating tax cheats were able to cheat their tax bill down by a whopping $150 each. In other words, these guys suck balls at cheating on their taxes. One trip to the Salvation Army with a sack of free t-shirts that I'll never wear5, and I can cheat you down by $187.50.
1 A cheap whore. She only got five bucks.
2 Due to furloughs, revenue agents will not have capacity to follow up with the missing two percent of respondents.
3 But really, not even the IRS understands the EITC.
4 Please re-read using a redneck accent in your brain voice.