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Accountants are the most trustworthy in tax

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Accountants are the most trustworthy people to contribute to the efficiency of the tax system, according to a new worldwide report by the ACCA which investigates the public’s trust in tax. 

12th Oct 2021
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Public trust is central to an effective tax system. Therefore, the accounting profession will be pleased to hear the results from a new study from the ACCA which saw high levels of trust in professional accountants. 

Who are the most trustworthy stakeholders?

The majority of the people surveyed in the Public Trust in Tax report said tax accountants contribute to improving tax systems by making them more efficient (58%), more effective (56%), and fairer (53%). The profession was followed by professional tax lawyers (50%).

Accountants fared better than politicians who remained the least trusted group, with a 22.8% distrust rating from the public. 

Opinions on government tax authorities were polarised - 43% saying they trust or highly trust the tax authorities (third most-trusted group) while 22% said they distrust or highly distrust them (fourth most mistrusted group).

Kevin Dancey, chief executive of IFAC said: ‘As leaders in the global accountancy profession, we are proud to see the high levels of trust in professional accountants. This embodies the profession that we know. At the same time, we understand that there is always more to do to sustain and strengthen that trust.

The survey also showed that people have a huge lack of trust in social media on the issue of tax, which came in as the least trusted source by more than 40% of those surveyed.

What should the tax system target?

The third annual Public Trust in Tax study comes after after tax played a pivotal role in assisting businesses through the turmoil of the Covid pandemic. 

As governments and citizens across the world re-evaluate tax priorities in the wake of the economic shock of the virus, two thirds (66%) of survey respondents favoured using tax incentives to help individuals and small businesses to recover from the effects of Covid-19.

The respondents also wanted to see tax incentives target ‘global megatrends’ such as climate change and the ageing population.

Elsewhere, the survey also showed that support had fallen in 15 of the 20 countries for international collaboration on tax, despite the fact that this year has seen historic advances in international tax cooperation, including agreement by G7 countries to enforce a minimum rate of 15% corporation tax.

Just as surprisingly, most respondents were in agreement that they felt their country was paying a ‘reasonable amount of tax’.

However, less than one in four people felt that those on a higher income paid a reasonable amount of tax.

The same went for multinational corporations, with seven countries in agreement that these establishments weren’t paying enough tax. Local companies showed a different response, with 33% believing they were likely to be paying a reasonable amount of tax.

Despite this, the survey showed that 49% of people overall were in favour of using tax incentives to attract multinational business.

‘Public trust is central to tax morale

Public Trust in Tax study is conducted by the ACCA and canvasses opinions from 8,000 people across the G20 countries (which make up around two-thirds of the world’s population) plus New Zealand.

Report author Jason Piper, head of taxation for ACCA, said: ‘The relationship between taxpayers and governments, and between businesses, society and tax systems, will be fundamental to the shape of the economies that support us all, over the coming years.

‘Public trust is central to tax morale, which is the tendency for individuals and businesses to pay their tax voluntarily and without intervention by tax authorities.

‘Anecdotally, many respondents stressed the importance of financial education from an early age, so that people understand the purpose of tax. Our experts agreed that citizens need to comprehend where their tax money is going and what benefits it pays for.

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By Hugo Fair
13th Oct 2021 12:06

The main statistical takeaways?
* Most people think they're paying enough tax, but that wealthier people (and big companies) don't pay enough
* Not many people trust politicians, but more do so than trust social media sources
* Most individuals would like more free cash to help them recover from the impact of Covid-19

My main surprise is that it took an international survey to come to these conclusions.

But easily my biggest concern is that only 50% trusted tax lawyers - and only a few more trust tax accountants.
So nearly 1/2 the experts whom people pay to advise them aren't trusted? Now that's an issue!

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
Tornado
By Tornado
13th Oct 2021 12:29

'Trust' is a broad description of the perception that people have of others.

Climbing a mountain roped together with others requires a Trust that the others are competent and experienced enough not to be a danger to you but Trusting a convicted criminal with your life savings is a different kind of Trust that is based on a belief that his/her criminal ways are ended (or just plain stupidity)

I think in this survey, Trust relates to competence & believability, not dishonesty. I have dealt with a number of solicitors over the years and have yet to be able to recommend any of them to others. This is not because I think any of them were dishonest, but mainly because I thought there was a lack of competence. On two occasions I have had to correct IHT calculations prepared by Solicitors and on several other occasions the quality of form filling was very poor. This was probably because Solicitors allow juniors and secretaries to complete forms and then do not check what they have done.

So I can fully understand why lawyers have a low trust rating, and to be fair, there are probably similar practices by Accountants and other tax advisers that reduce the trust rating for them in a similar way.

On the other hand, my firm has clients who have been with us (through generations) for over 50 years and I think they have trust in us as being competent and honest, otherwise they would not still be clients.

So whilst a survey like this will have little scientific reliability, the results are interesting.

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By Paul Crowley
13th Oct 2021 16:45

The issue here is probably vague questions and unaimed respondants

If questions were to people who used accountants and asked "do you trust your accountant" figures should be close to 100% or the respondant is daft

Ask me about sellers of tax avoision schemes and my confidence and trust in those sellers is zero

Ask me about solicitors and I would be dismissive of many because they still do not have even the most basic of advice about CGT on residential property sales.
That could be just "do you have an accountant?" if yes then "tell him you are selling the house on or before completion date"

Ask my opinion of tax lawyers and I have none at all. Never used one
Sorry forgot
I despise one tax barrister in particular for a good reason. She made accusations before bothering to find out rules that all accountants know

This stuff is only meaningful if nation based, and aimed at the correct users

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