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TAX KNOWLEDGE, TAX ATTITUDE, AND PERCEPTION OF TAX FAIRNESS AS PREDICTORS OF TAX COMPLIANCE AMONG INCOME EARNERS

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CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

There is a popular saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin that goes thus: “the only things inevitable are death and taxes”. The inevitability of taxes is tainted by the fact that people can choose to either comply or evade tax. To this end, the concept of tax compliance has been constructed and studied with a view to understand tax payers behaviour towards tax payment. The psychology behind taxation is a relatively new field of inquiry under the domain of economic psychology and by extension industrial/organisational psychology. This research is an inquiry into determinants of tax compliance in Lagos state with tax attitude, perception of tax fairness, and tax knowledge serving as explanatory variables.  

Kirchler (2007) defined tax compliance as the willingness of tax payers to pay their taxes. According to Alm (1991), tax compliance is the accurate reporting of income and claiming of expenses in accordance with the stipulated tax laws. Franzoni (1999) defined it as a true reporting of the tax base, correct computation of the liability, timely filing of the return; and timely payment of amounts due. Tax compliance refers to the willingness of people to comply with tax authorities by paying their taxes (Peter & Dijke, 2007). According to Brown and Mazur (2003), tax compliance is multi-faceted measure and it can be defined by considering three distinct types of compliance such as payment compliance, filing compliance, and reporting compliance. Failure to report or pay tax is referred to as tax noncompliance. Tax compliance is a complex set of behaviour which has been researched from two major perspectives: economic and psychological. Psychological research into tax compliance considers the impact of several factors. The underlying reason is that any behaviour has more than one explanation, tax compliance appears to be an important construct with more than one dimension.

The relevance of tax attitude to the study of tax compliance is underlined by Kirchler et al. (2008) who proposed that taxpayer who has favourable attitude towards tax evasion is expected to be less compliant and equally taxpayer with unfavourable attitude is likely to be more compliant. Perception of tax fairness plays a fundamental role in tax compliance because people who feel a tax law is unfair are more likely to evade tax than those who feel the tax law is fair. Perception of tax fairness is often viewed from a social comparison standpoint. Individuals compare their situations with other groups and select information from those that are similar to theirs. Gcabo & Robinson (2007) distinguished between internalization, identification and compliance, and specified how these determine tax evasion behaviours namely: the individual exchange relationship with the government, social orientation, and opportunities for tax evasion. These factors have both direct and indirect effects on tax attitudes.

Knowledge of tax enables taxpayers to know how their taxes are computed and how to report taxes. It has been observed that some people do not know how to file tax reports that’s why they do not comply with taxes. The complexity of tax systems in many countries have been criticized, most laws are usually too complex to be understood and studies show that knowledge about taxes is generally limited among the general populace. This influences compliance because the individual may not know exactly how much to pay, how to go about payment, when payment is due etc. 

1.1 Background of Study

The extent to which the tax payers perceive a tax system to be fair influences their attitude to pay their taxes (Coskun, 2009). Alabede et al. (2011) postulated that, a tax payer whose motive is to demonstrate his beliefs in a system will evaluate the fairness of the systems with objectivity whereas the taxpayer whose attitude is motivated by what benefit to derive from the system may label the tax system fair only if he is benefiting from it. Also, Richardson (2006) indicated that perceived fairness of tax system is significantly related to tax non-compliance. Roth et al. (1989) and Jackson and Milliron (1986) found that tax payers concern about fairness have links with attitudes and behavioural intentions about tax compliance. Therefore, to understand a particular individual tax payer’s behaviour, it is important to identify the determining variable of behavioural intentions (Hanno and Violette, 1996).

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