Tax Talk: An Exploration of Online Discussions among Taxpayers
Journal of Business Ethics
Copyright © The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creative commons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
We present an analysis of over 400 comments about complying with tax obligations extracted from online discussion forums for freelancers. While the topics investigated by much of the literature on taxpayer behaviour are theory driven, we aimed to explore the universe of online discussions about tax in order to extract those topics that are most relevant to taxpayers. The forum discussions were subjected to a qualitative thematic analysis, and we present a model of the ‘universe’ of tax as reflected in taxpayer discussions. The model comprises several main actors (tax laws, tax authority, tax practitioners, and the taxpayer’s social network) and describes the multiple ways in which they relate to taxpayers’ behaviour. We also conduct a more focused analysis to show that the majority of taxpayers seem unconcerned with many of the variables that have been the focus of tax behaviour research (e.g. audits, penalties, etc.), and that most people are motivated to be compliant and are more concerned with how to comply than whether to comply. Moreover, we discuss how these ‘real-world’ tax discussions question common assumptions in the study of tax behaviour and how they inform our understanding of business ethics more generally.
HM Revenue & Customs
First online: 19 February 2016