Prosocial Perceptions of Taxation Predict Support for Taxes

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Undergraduate student
Final version published as: 

Thornton EM, Aknin LB, Branscombe NR, Helliwell JF (2019) Prosocial perceptions of taxation predict support for taxes. PLoS ONE 14(11): e0225730. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225730.

Date created: 
2019-11-26
Abstract: 

Many people report disliking taxes despite the fact that tax funds are used to provide essential services for the taxpayer and fellow citizens. In light of past research demonstrating that people are more likely to engage in prosocial action when they recognize how their assistance positively impacts the recipient, we examine whether recognition of how one’s tax contributions help other citizens–perceived prosocial taxation–predicts more supportive views of taxation and greater engagement. We conducted three correlational studies using North American samples (N = 902, including a nationally representative sample of over 500 US residents) in which we find that perceived prosocial taxation is associated with greater enjoyment paying taxes, willingness to continue paying taxes, and larger financial contributions in a tax-like payment. Findings hold when controlling for several demographic variables, participants’ general prosocial orientation, and the perception that tax dollars are being put to good use. In addition, we examined data from six waves of the World Values Survey (N > 474,000 across 107 countries). We find that people expressing trust in their government and civil service–thereby indicating some confidence that their taxes will be used in prosocial ways–are significantly more likely to state that it is never justifiable to cheat on taxes. Together, these studies offer a new and optimistic perspective on taxation; people may hold more positive views and be more willing to contribute if they believe their contribution benefits others.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
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