Tax Cheaters Tend to Be Young, Single Men
Sounds like a dating ad from the classifieds, right? Not quite. That, according to a study by the advertising and marketing firm DDB Worldwide Communications Group, is the profile of the person most likely to cheat on a federal income tax return.DDB surveyed more than 6,400 adults about taxes, spending and finances. The results have raised more than a few eyebrows.
Of those surveyed, an amazing 15% said they would be likely to cheat on their taxes. Out of that number, 64% were male and disproportionately single and under the age of 45.
Those statistics come in a little higher than the IRS' own survey about tax attitudes from 2010, which found that 8% of respondents believed it was okay to cheat "a little here and there" on their taxes while an additional 4% claimed that it was fine to cheat "as much as possible."
Why cheat? Money, of course.
Those most likely to cheat on their taxes describe themselves to DDB as spenders, not savers. They also believe that they live paycheck to paycheck, though the data doesn't show any marked difference in income from cheaters to those who play it straight.
The dishonesty doesn't stop there. James Lou, DDB's chief strategist, noted that, "[w]hile it's understandable that no one likes to pay taxes," the company was surprised to find an "overall willingness to engage in other unethical and illegal behavior." Specifically, respondents who would cheat also indicated that they would lie about income in order to qualify for government aid and would work off the books in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits. Respondents also indicated that they would file false insurance claims or lie about finding something inappropriate in their food just to get a free meal. They are also 10 times more likely to take money from a child's piggy bank.
While those behaviors might make you cringe, those who fessed up feel no shame about their behavior. The cheaters claim to be "overall better people" than others and believe that they are "special and deserve to be treated that way" compared to those people who claimed that they don't cheat.
Chances are, the IRS won't feel the same way. The IRS has increased scrutiny of federal income tax returns in recent years in order to identify tax cheats. Of course, making a mistake on your tax return -- or being simply selected for audit -- doesn't make you a cheater. There is a difference between making a simple mistake and willful tax evasion; if the IRS determines that you willfully committed tax fraud, the penalties can be severe, from significant civil penalties to criminal penalties and jail time. I'm not so sure that's the "special treatment" cheaters had in mind.