Views on corruption drive attitude to tax systems across the globe: ACCA and IFAC survey

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 global survey focusing on 14 developing economies, including Pakistan, found that trust in tax systems is lower when taxpayers perceive higher levels of corruption and diversion of public funds. The survey was backed up by a series of roundtables to explore attitudes further.

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.’

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.

Assad Hameed Khan, head of ACCA Pakistan, says: “Broadening the tax base is key to achieving Pakistan’s inclusive and sustainable economic development. A significant shift and step change is required towards documentation of the economy, increased regulatory capacity and use of technology (data analytics). Contribution of the accountancy profession is critical to these focus areas, requiring concerted efforts by all stakeholders to bridge the gap between demand and supply of professionals.”

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.

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.

This study is based on an online survey of 5,958 individuals from the following countries: Angola, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, and Vietnam. The countries surveyed were selected based on a range of economic, political, geographic and cultural factors.

Read Public Trust in Tax: Global Perspectives 2022: https://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/professional-insights/global-economics/public-trust-tax-2022.html

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