It’s Tax Day – Are You Tempted to Cheat on Your Taxes?


The American tax system is a good test case for cheating. We know it’s good to pay taxes because the government does lots of good things for us. At the same time, we have a selfish desire to pay as little in taxes as possible.

Our tax returns are self-reporting for our income and characterization of our deductions. We police ourselves, knowing that there are criminal penalties for not reporting income and the threat of an audit. With increasingly computerized reporting systems, the IRS seems to know lots more about our income.

The IRS has three dimensions of tax compliance: filing, payment, and reporting. Filing compliance refers to whether taxpayers filed required returns in a timely manner, or at all. Payment compliance considers whether taxpayers paid their reported tax liability in full on a timely filed return. Reporting compliance addresses the accuracy with which taxpayers report their tax liability to the IRS.

Math errors increased from 2.98% in 1996 to 7.63% in 2002, while under-reporting decreased from 1.23% to 0.86%

Have you finished your taxes? The compliance numbers show that you need to double-check your math.


Image is from Wikimedia Commons: No IRS.