A number of studies have examined the relationship between tax collection and various demographic variables. However, until recently most of those studies have involved a United States sample population. The Internal Revenue Service provides demographic data for researchers on a regular basis. The present study goes beyond those studies in several important ways. For one, it uses data on Malaysia taken from the World Values database. Not much work has been done on the Malaysian tax or public finance system. Thus, the present study expands on the very limited research done on Malaysian public finance.
The present study expands on existing literature in at least two other ways as well. For one, it examines how various demographics interact with attitudes toward tax evasion. Secondly, we examine several demographic variables that were not examined in prior studies.
One of the questions in the World Values database asked whether it would be justifiable to cheat on taxes if it were possible to do so. Respondents were asked to choose a number from 1 to 10 to indicate the extent of their support for tax evasion. This study examines those responses, both overall and through the prism of more than 20 demographic variables. A comparison is made with other ethical issues to determine the relative seriousness of tax evasion.
The study found that attitudes toward the justifiability of tax evasion often do vary by demographic variable. Tax evasion was found to be a less serious offense than homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, suicide, wife beating, accepting a bribe and euthanasia and more serious than divorce, avoiding a fare on public transport and claiming government benefits to which you are not entitled.
Although the present study focuses on Malaysia, the methodology used in the present study could serve as a template for research on other countries or regions.