Tax Cheating: Illegal - But Is It Immoral?

( 1 )


An examination of the ethical issues surrounding tax cheating and implications for public policy.

From unreported gambling winnings and inflated claims of the value of clothing donated to charity to money hidden in Swiss bank accounts and high-profile tax schemes plotted by celebrities and business leaders, the range of tax cheating opportunities is wide and the boundaries and moral status can be hazy. Considering the behavior of individuals and small businesses as well as the ...

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Tax Cheating

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An examination of the ethical issues surrounding tax cheating and implications for public policy.

From unreported gambling winnings and inflated claims of the value of clothing donated to charity to money hidden in Swiss bank accounts and high-profile tax schemes plotted by celebrities and business leaders, the range of tax cheating opportunities is wide and the boundaries and moral status can be hazy. Considering the behavior of individuals and small businesses as well as the involvement of congress and the IRS, Donald Morris combines insights from law, psychology, sociology, criminology, accounting, economics, and philosophy to examine the ethical issues surrounding tax cheating and implications for tax policy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…a unique perspective on the federal tax system in the US … While many readers will disagree with [Morris’s] conclusion … the value of the book lies in the journey.” — CHOICE

“This is not a how-to guide for tax cheaters, nor is it a green light to cheat. The author defines tax cheating as paying less than the law says we owe, whether this is done deliberately or not. His point is that Congress has the obligation to revise the Tax Code to make it simple, transparent, and equitable, so that all taxpayers should know what constitutes their fair share. Morris draws on a large pool of tax cases, experts, and moral philosophers to make his case, and he is grounded in the experience of ten years as a small business owner and tax preparer.” — Richard P. Mullin, author of The Soul of Classical American Philosophy: The Ethical and Spiritual Insights of William James, Josiah Royce, and Charles Sanders Pierce

“Morris gives us a thorough collection of thoughts and quotations about a sensitive subject—how do morals and ethics affect the completion of a tax return? Who is more unethical, Congress in writing the current tax law or the taxpayer in paying ‘too little’ tax? What motivates a citizen to ‘volunteer’ to pay a tax bill? Does Congress really want to close the tax gap? Should a court apply only the letter of the law in a tax case, or should a higher moral principle also apply? By approaching the term ‘cheating’ in a morally neutral manner, Morris removes much of the baggage that restricts the usual talk about taxes—the book allows for a more fruitful review of the economics of the deal between the citizen and the government, that we call taxation. Intriguing, fresh, accessible, up to date.” — William A. Raabe, coauthor of Federal Tax Research, Ninth Edition

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781438442709
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2012
  • Series: Excelsior Editions
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,424,660
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Morris is Associate Professor of Accounting at the University of Illinois Springfield. He is a CPA, Certified Fraud Examiner, and a former tax practitioner with eighteen years of experience, including ten years as owner of his own firm in the Chicago area. He is the coauthor (with Lois Ruffner Plank, Bryan R. Plank, and Christie Plank Ciraulo) of Accounting Desk Book: The Accountant’s Everyday Instant Answer Book, 2011 Edition, and the author of Opportunity: Optimizing Life’s Chances and Dewey and the Behavioristic Context of Ethics.

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Table of Contents



1. Tax Cheating—The Problem

Tax Cheating
Tax Fairness
The Meaning of Cheating in Tax
Tax Fraud
Penalties and Deterrence
Cheating—Specific Characteristics

2. The Tax Gap, Tax Protestors, and Small Business

The Voluntary Tax System
The World of Tax Protestors
The Gaping Tax Gap
Small Business and the Tax Gap
The Broken Window of Opportunity

3. Tax Complexity

The Complexity Problem
Is Complexity to Blame?
The Moral Dilemma
Nonvoluntary Taxation
Complexity and Morals
Is There Ever a Time for Draconian Measures?

4. The Moral Duty to Obey the Law

Morality and Legality
Ethical Relativism and Absolutism
The Role of Morality in the Law
Moral Obedience to the Law
The Ethics of Tax Evasion
Justifying a Moral Duty

5. Cheating, Competition, and Fairness

Cheating and Competition
Hand-to-Hand Combat
Fairness and Equality
Getting What You Pay For
What If Everyone Cheated?
The Uneven Playing Field

6. Unintentional Cheating

A Fork in the Road
Fair Share Argument
Unintended Cheating
The Meaning of Cheating in Football
Blaming the Messenger

7. The Courts, Equity, and Taxes Due

Taxes and Equity
Rules and Principles
The Innocent Spouse Rules
The Courts and Equity
Equity, Subjectivity, and Negligence
The Bankrupt Taxpayer
Interpreting the Law—Transparency

8. Compliance, Complexity, Conscience, and Fairness

The Moral Dimension of Tax Compliance
The Matthew Effect
Our Vision of a Fair Share
The Moral Quality of Actions
Enlisting Conscience in Reducing Tax Cheating
Conscientious Objectors
Civil Disobedience

Selected Bibliography Excluding Public Documents

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Stefan Vucak for Readers Favorite "Tax Cheatin

    Reviewed by Stefan Vucak for Readers Favorite

    "Tax Cheating" is not a book one can take to bed and relax with. It questions and challenges the basis of the US Tax Code, and people’s reasons to avoid, cheat and defraud on their tax statements. The book explores the unwieldy complexity of the tax law designed to allow widespread noncompliance. It is shown to impact social morality. The book also shows the inherent lack of fairness in the tax law, and a court system that favors large corporations and wealthy individuals, while penalizing a small-time offender. It confirms that money and power are above the law. The book takes some digesting, and not everyone will find the meal satisfying.

    Donald Morris presents a thoroughly researched dissertation, demonstrating a complete mastery of the subject. In many respects, it reaffirms public preconceptions about the US tax system, and amusingly illustrates challenges to its legality. One minor problem is that Morris is often overly verbose and convoluted in his statements, over-explaining points that, instead of clarifying an argument, unnecessarily cloud the issue. This makes understanding the work in parts difficult and tends to deter the reader. However, it efficiently explores the impact the tax system has on the American social fabric, the unwillingness shown by Congress to make meaningful reforms, and people’s disdain of its innate unfairness. Morris presents an unequaled perspective that left me nodding with agreement.

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