Taxpayers’ subjective concepts of taxes, tax evasion, and tax avoidance

Christoph Kogler*, Erich Kirchler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


The motivation to comply or not to comply is considerably influenced by beliefs, attitudes, and social representations of taxpayers. These subjective conceptualizations and evaluations are often not objective or true, but they determine how citizens construct their subjective reality. Attitudes, judgments, and behavior intentions eventually shape people’s behavior which is often more affected by what they think than by what actually is. We first explain what social representations are, how they are related to individual attitudes, and to what extent both social representations and attitudes shape behavior according to the existing psychological literature. In the following section we present three of our own studies on taxpayers’ social representations of taxes and their attitudes towards tax evasion and tax avoidance. These empirical studies identify relevant differences in attitudes between different occupation groups: Self-employed entrepreneurs express less favorable views on taxes and the tax authorities and as a result feel more restricted and hindered in their work, while employed workers focus stronger on the exchange function between tax payments and the resulting provision of public goods. Despite the differences, in all occupation groups tax evasion is not perceived as a severe crime and tax evaders are even judged quite positively and as more intelligent than the typical tax payer. The most recent study suggests that tax evasion might not be evaluated as positive anymore as in earlier studies, but instead tax avoidance seems to be morally accepted and taxpayers engaging in tax avoidance are judged more positive than the typical taxpayer.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics and taxation
EditorsR. van Brederode
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-15-0089-3
ISBN (Print)978-981-15-0088-6
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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