Paying tax would be less taxing if we knew how it was spent

Simon Fraser University study finds that understanding of the way tax revenues help others

Paying tax would be less taxing if we knew how it was spent
Steve Randall

Paying taxes is rarely considered a joy and much time and effort is spent trying to avoid paying more than is absolutely necessary.

But a new study from the Simon Fraser University reveals that we would find paying taxes less taxing if we knew how the dollars were being spent and the benefit to others.

Led by SFU psychology researchers Emily Thornton and Lara Aknin along with University of Kansas psychologist Nyla Branscombe and University of British Columbia economist John Helliwell, the study found that if the Canada Revenue Agency better communicated how tax dollars were used, Canadians would be more supportive of taxation and more willing to pay their taxes.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, included surveys of Canadian and American undergraduate students and more than 470,000 adults from over 100 countries.

"Some people will even go to extreme lengths to avoid paying taxes. Our findings raise an intriguing possibility-- would Canadians be more willing to pay their taxes if the CRA better publicized how their tax dollars help others?" said Thornton.

The authors cite CRA data that estimates underpayment of tax revenue of $8.7 billion due to taxpayers overstating deductions and understating income.