Views on corruption drive attitude to tax systems across the globe

Trust in tax systems is at its highest when taxpayers perceive low levels of corruption and diversion of funds

Taxpayers’ attitudes about paying taxes correlate closely with perceived levels of corruption, according to a major new study, Public Trust in Tax, by accountancy bodies ACCA and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). A survey of 5,900 people across 14 countries – many in developing economies – found that trust in tax systems is lower when taxpayers perceive higher levels of corruption and diversion of public funds. 

Helen Brand, chief executive, ACCA, says: ‘Fighting corruption is such a central priority for the global accountancy profession because corruption has such negative implications for trust, tax morale and sustainable development more broadly. We know from research by the IMF that economic growth goes hand in hand with a consistent stream of tax revenues.’ 

This year’s survey builds on previous research, and for the first time includes data from developing countries outside of the G20. With the UN predicting that the highest population growth up to 2050 is set to happen in non-G20 countries, this edition of Public Trust in Tax looks at issues impacting an increasing share of the global population. The survey was backed up by a series of roundtables to explore attitudes further. 

Kevin Dancey, chief executive, IFAC, says: ‘The relationship between taxpayers and governments, and between businesses, society and tax systems is fundamental to the sustainability – and survival – of the economies that support us all, in both the short and long term. Our Trust in Tax surveys provide crucial insight into these relationships and can help global policymakers as they consider the best way forward.’

IFAC recently released its Action Plan for Fighting Corruption and Economic Crime, with broad support from the global accountancy profession. The plan outlines specific actions that members of the profession can take, individually and in concert, to engage in a meaningful way in the fight against corruption. ‘Given the correlation between perceived levels of corruption and citizens’ willingness to pay taxes, this plan is an important effort to help ensure that citizens see the benefits of their tax dollars,’ says Mr. Dancey.  

Key results

The survey's key findings are set out below:

Trust and corruption 
Politicians are widely distrusted with a net trust deficit of -25%. In contrast professional tax accountants and lawyers are trusted (67.1% and 64.6% respectively). Attitudes to tax authorities are split with a significant minority – 27.9% – distrusting or highly distrusting them.

Roundtable participants saw lack of trust in politicians as a major barrier to tax engagement with the systems. Citizens don’t object to paying tax – they object to misappropriation.

Tax minimisation
In the survey 46.4% agreed that multinationals were paying a reasonable amount of tax. This contrasts with Public Trust in Tax surveys in G20 countries showing only 22.4% agreed.

Attitudes towards tax minimisation are more relaxed in developing countries with respondents more likely to agree that specific taxpayer groups were paying a reasonable amount of tax.

Incentives
People strongly support the use of tax incentives to target megatrends such as climate change (73.8%) and ageing population (72.8%).

Tax incentives were seen as a way of attracting multinational businesses to invest (73.9%) and build a more coherent international tax system through co-operation between countries (69.3%).

Author of the report Jason Piper says: ‘An efficient, effective and trusted tax administration is one building block in the sound structure of society. This survey shows that the problem lies not with the collecting of tax but what happens afterward. A lack of accountability in government spending fosters the perception – and all too often the reality – of corruption in government.’ 

Since 2017 ACCA and IFAC have been gathering data across the G20 on attitudes and opinions of the general public. The latest survey is the first to look beyond the G20 and comes at a crucial time for economies across the globe, given uncertainty following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Read Public Trust in Tax: Global Perspectives 2022

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For media enquiries, contact:
ACCA News Room
E: newsroom@accaglobal.com
Twitter: @ACCANews
accaglobal.com

IFAC 
Jennifer DiClerico
Director, Head of Communications
E: jenniferdiclerico@ifac.org
Twitter: @IFAC
ifac.org 

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants.

We’re a thriving global community of 241,000 members and 542,000 future members based in 178 countries and regions, who work across a wide range of sectors and industries. We uphold the highest professional and ethical values.

We offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. Our qualifications and learning opportunities develop strategic business leaders, forward-thinking professionals with the financial, business and digital expertise essential for the creation of sustainable organisations and flourishing societies.

Since 1904, being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. In December 2020, we made commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which we are measuring and will report on in our annual integrated report.

We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society and is vital helping economies, organisations and individuals to grow and prosper. It does this by creating robust trusted financial and business management, combating corruption, ensuring organisations are managed ethically, driving sustainability, and providing rewarding career opportunities.

And through our cutting-edge research, we lead the profession by answering today’s questions and preparing for the future. We’re a not-for-profit organisation. Find out more at accaglobal.com

About IFAC
IFAC is the global organization for the accountancy profession dedicated to serving the public interest by strengthening the profession and contributing to the development of strong international economies. IFAC is comprised of 180 members and associates in 135 jurisdictions, representing more than 3 million accountants in public practice, education, government service, industry, and commerce.