Public trusts accountants over politicians on tax

The public has greater trust in professionals, including accountants and tax advisers, than in politicians and non-government organisations (NGOs), when it comes to tax systems but the increasing complexity of tax systems comes in for criticism across G20 countries

The research, G20 Public trust in tax 2019, found that 58% of respondents expressed distrust or strong distrust in politicians, down 9% since 2017. Similarly, distrust in the media stands at 37%, down 4% since the last survey.

However, 55% of the general public report the highest level of trust in professional tax accountants, down a marginal two percentage points compared to 2017, and 50% had trust in professional tax lawyers.

Complexity of the tax system is also a major issue for people in many G20 countries, who face uncertainty, opacity, and increasing costs in dealing with their taxes. People are divided on whether multinationals should have to publicly disclose their taxes on a country by country basis – 56% believe the information should only be confidentially provided to tax authorities or not provided at all, while 44% support public disclosure. • A strong majority support tax incentives for retirement saving and green energy projects (around 70%), and half are supportive of incentives to attract multinationals.

The survey also shows consistent levels of mistrust year-on-year in NGOs at 37%, an increase of two percent compared to 2017. Views of trust in government tax authorities are more divided, with 37% saying they trust or highly trust tax authorities and 34% distrusting or highly distrusting them.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, global head of tax at ACCA said: ‘What’s clear from this research is the need for all significant players – from politicians to tax experts - to work together to build and sustain the public’s trust in tax. And while the accountancy profession fares the best again in this year’s results, we cannot be complacent about these findings.’

When it comes to evaluating their tax systems, respondents across G20 nations are most concerned about transparency, complexity, inequality and corruption in tax systems.

Respondents’ concerns about inequality stem from the perception in English-speaking countries that high income earners and multinationals are treated better by tax systems than average or low income earners. Respondents in China, Indonesia and India had high levels of trust in tax authorities, politicians and accountants, reported efficient tax filing, and supported tax competition to attract multinational business.

Citizens across G20 countries were concerned about transparency, complexity and inequity in tax systems. However, they are also aware of the international tax landscape and understand the need for trade-offs in tax policy. In tackling these issues, people say they trust and want to hear more from experts and professionals, but have grown skeptical of politicians and the media.

The survey was conducted by ACCA, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), and draws on the 2017 G20 public trust in tax report produced by the three bodies, and is based on an online survey of more than 8,400 members of the general public across G20 countries and New Zealand.

G20 public trust in tax 2019 by ACCA, CA ANZ, IFAC report

By Pat Sweet, additional reporting Sara White

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