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Journal of Money Laundering Control

Perception of tax evasion as a crime in Turkey


Serkan Benk, Tamer Budak, Serap Püren, Mete Erdem,
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Serkan Benk, Tamer Budak, Serap Püren, Mete Erdem, (2015) "Perception of tax evasion as a crime
in Turkey", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 18 Issue: 1, pp.99-111, https://doi.org/10.1108/
JMLC-04-2014-0012
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Perception of tax evasion as a Perception of


tax evasion
crime in Turkey
Serkan Benk
Department of Public Finance, Inonu University, Malatya, Turkey 99
Tamer Budak
Faculty of Law, Inonu University, Malatya, Turkey
Serap Püren
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Institution of Social Science, Bulent Ecevit University,


Zonguldak, Turkey, and
Mete Erdem
Faculty of Law, Inonu University, Malatya, Turkey

Abstract
Purpose – The aim of this study is to investigate Turkish taxpayers’ perception of the severity of tax
evasion relative to other crimes and violations.
Design/methodology/approach – A questionnaire survey was administrated to 475 Turkish
self-employed respondents. One sample t-test and one-way analysis of variance methods were used for
data analysis.
Findings – The results of the study illustrate that tax evasion ranked 10th among the 21 offences
surveyed. The results indicate that the average person views tax evasion as only somewhat serious.
When compared to similar white-collar crimes, it ranked less severe than accounting fraud, while it was
ranked higher than violation of minimum wage laws, welfare fraud and child labor laws. The results of
this paper are important as they emphasize the fact that general public do not perceive tax evasion as a
serious crime. This perception, allied to lack of enforcement efforts, has created an environment where
certain individuals may not be afraid of cheating on their tax return. The study also endeavors to
observe whether there is a correlation between the relative severity of a crime whether a victim is
involved or not.
Research limitations/implications – The main limitation arises from the sampling process used.
The sample was drawn from only one city of Zonguldak, Turkey. The second limitation is related to the
possibility of a participant misunderstanding the questions and terminology used in the survey. The
third limitation is that this study only measures perceptions of the seriousness of 21 selected offences;
hence, it may not be representative of the actual crimes.
Originality/value – This is an important study in relation to Turkey. This is the pioneer study of its
kind which investigates the relationship between tax evasion as a crime and other offences in Turkey.
Another important aspect of this study is the fact that our results indicate a close correlation with
similar studies carried out in the USA.
Keywords Perceptions, Crime, White-collar crime, Tax evasion
Journal of Money Laundering
Paper type Research paper Control
Vol. 18 No. 1, 2015
pp. 99-111
We would like to thank Professor Stewart Karlinsky for his constructive comments on an earlier © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1368-5201
version of this paper. However, we remain solely responsible for any errors and omissions. DOI 10.1108/JMLC-04-2014-0012
JMLC 1. Introduction
18,1 An effective system of taxation and revenue administration makes a significant
contribution to the improvement of national welfare. However, tax evasion is one
phenomenon that undesirably causes a serious loss of revenue and reduces the
effectiveness of the tax system in a great deal. Tax evasion is an illusive concept and can
be defined as a condition in which, intentionally and by illegal means, individuals either
100 partially pay the tax they are liable to pay or do not pay tax at all (Lewis, 1982, p. 123;
Webley et al., 1991, p. 2). In its occurrence, a multitude of factors play a role. There are
those of ethical and psychological factors shaping the taxpayer’s perception of the state
and tax morals. Others including economic and financial factors are by nature related to
the income level of individuals, the structure of the tax system and the rate of inflation.
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Another important factor affecting the occurrence of tax evasion is concerned with
how and to what extent the crime of tax evasion is perceived by the society at large.
Perception is a cognitive process that affects an individual’s behavior through ideas and
attitudes (Barli, 2007, pp. 121-123). If so, it may be justified to conclude that if the act of
tax evasion has been perceived as a crime of somewhat lower intensity by individuals,
then tax evasion behavior will be more likely to occur. Karlinsky and Bankman (2002) in
their study note that one of the reasons why small-scale enterprises attempt tax evasion
is that they do not view tax evasion as a serious offence. These writers observe that the
level of seriousness the society attributes to a crime also determines the occurrence rate
of that crime. As a result, the question of how individuals in a society perceive tax
evasion as a crime should be addressed in the process of forming an effective tax penal
system.
Based on that premise, the study attempts to evaluate how the Turkish self-employed
tax payers perceive tax evasion as a crime and the severity of this crime in comparison
to that of other crimes and violations. In doing so, specific objectives of this study are to
determine:
• how serious tax evasion is seen as a crime comparable to other crimes and
violations in Turkey;
• whether there are significant differences in the seriousness of tax evasion in terms
of crimes against particular victims and victimless crimes and violations;
• the extent to which demographic variables cause, if any, variations in the
perception of criminal severity of tax evasion; and
• whether there is a significant difference in seriousness between tax evasion crimes
and other white-collar crimes.

This study is organized in three parts. After introducing the topic, the next section
surveys prior literature and some examples of the tax penalty regulations as a basis for
developing the theoretical framework. The survey design and data collection process
are outlined in Section 3. Section 4 covers the results of the surveys considered and
Section 5 makes conclusions and offers direction for further analysis.

2. Literature review and sum of tax penalty system in Turkey


2.1 Literature
When the international literature in the fields of psychology, sociology and criminology
are examined, it is seen that there are numerous studies aiming at determining
individuals’ ways of perception toward crimes and the levels of seriousness they Perception of
attribute to crimes (Adams and Dressler, 1988; Cullen et al., 1982; Evans and Scott, 1984; tax evasion
Vogel, 1988; Ball, 2001). However, quite a few of the aforementioned studies include tax
evasion as a crime in their scope of analysis. These studies are briefly summarized in
chronological order below.
The first study aiming at an assessment of the ways in which individuals perceive
the crime of tax evasion was performed by Song and Yarbrough in 1978. Their study 101
was conducted with 287 individuals and compared the seriousness level of tax evasion
crime with that of other offences such as kidnapping, drunken driving, hit and run,
mugging, arson, embezzlement, bribery and bicycle theft.
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According to this important study, the results of which are summarized in Table I, it
is seen that among both violent crimes and property-related crimes, tax evasion is
perceived as a low-ranking crime. The aforementioned study states that tax evasion is
considered only slightly more serious than bicycle theft (Song and Yarbrough, 1978,
p. 446).
Cullen et al. in their study conducted in 1982 compared tax evasion with economic
crimes. According to the results of the study, it was determined that particularly
economic crimes such as the production of counterfeit medicine and selling
contaminated food, which directly harm the society, are perceived as more serious than
the crime of tax evasion (Cullen et al., 1982).
In a study undertaken by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 1986, within the
framework of a scenario, individuals were asked questions involving 13 different
offences such as “stabbing to death”, “illegal acquisition of social security cheques
worth $1,000” and “tax evasion about $5,000”. The study found that stabbing to death of
a victim was perceived as about 27 times more serious than theft of a bicycle. Also
observed was that the crime of tax evasion was perceived as only six times more serious.
It is interesting to note that in the study, the individuals considered the offence of “illegal
acquisition of social security cheques worth $1,000” more serious than “tax evasion
about $5,000” (Wilson et al., 1986, p. 2).
In another study conducted by Rosenmerkel among 268 people in 2001, firstly, a
comparison between violent crimes and economic crimes revealed that economic crimes
were considered as a lower crime than violent crimes. Having compared a variety of
economic crimes, Rosenmerkel asserted that individuals view the offence of tax evasion
as having the least level of seriousness (Rosenmerkel, 2001).

Tax fraud in comparison with other violent Tax evasion in comparison with other property-
crimes related crimes

Which of the following is the most serious crime? Which of the following is the most serious crime?
Kidnapping 52.1% Setting property on fire 49.6%
Drunken driving 23.3% Embezzlement 31.5%
Hit and run 14.2% Bribery 11.9%
Mugging 11.1% Tax evasion 7.0% Table I.
Tax fraud 4.6% Stealing bicycles 4.4% The study conducted
by Song and
Source: Song and Yarbrough (1978) Yarbrough (1978)
JMLC Herzog and Rattner, in their study conducted in 2003 among 83 persons, compared
18,1 crimes of homicide, sexual assault, robbery, arson, corruption, theft, property crime,
blackmailing and tax evasion with regard to their levels of perception in society and
identified tax evasion as having the lowest level of seriousness (Herzog and Rattner,
2003).
In the study conducted by Karlinsky et al. among 364 persons in 2004, participants
102 were asked to rank 21 elements of crime, including tax evasion offence, according to
their seriousness levels in their perception. The results of the study show that tax
evasion crime ranked 11th among others. Besides, in this study, tax evasion was
compared with five economic crimes such as accounting fraud, violation of minimum
wage laws, insider trading, welfare fraud and violation of child labor laws (Karlinsky
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et al., 2004). The study observed that tax evasion was conceived as having the lowest
rank in the order of seriousness (Karlinsky et al., 2004).
Although the national literature in Turkey lack a comprehensive study directly
related to the subject, a study conducted by Saracoglu in 2008 among 494 people is
noteworthy. In that study, individuals were asked the question “Is tax evasion a less
minor crime than offences such as arson, embezzlement, and bribery?”, and the rate of
those who view tax evasion as a completely minor crime or a quite minor one was 22.6
per cent. In that group, 47.3 per cent considered tax evasions of small amounts
unimportant (Saracoglu, 2008, p. 69). Beyond it, overall assessment of other studies
reveals that individuals do not perceive tax evasion as a serious crime in Turkey.

2.2 Sum of tax penalty system in Turkey


The tax penalty system in Turkey is based on Tax Procedure Law (TPL), Misdemeanor
Law and Criminal Law. According to the TPL, tax offences and their penalties are
classified as:
• irregularity offences and fines applied;
• special irregularity offences and fines applied;
• the acts leading to tax loss and penalties applied (tax loss penalty); and
• the acts leading to freedom limiting and punishments applied.

Irregularity acts occur in cases of failure to follow the provisions of the laws stipulated
regarding format and procedure provided in the TPL. Tax laws require taxpayers with
some formal and substantive obligations. While failure to follow substantive
obligations would result in offences which lead to tax loss, failure to follow formal
obligations causes occurrence of irregularity offences. The irregularity offences may not
create any tax loss. However, when a taxpayer does not follow the provisions in relation
to format and procedure, this may create a convenient environment which inevitably
results in tax loss. Sanctions are applied to such individuals because they not only create
any threat of tax loss but also violate the public order (Baspinar, 2009, p. 53).
Special irregularity fines are issued against the people who refrain from giving
information and who do not comply with the provisions of the TPL concerning the tasks
of preservation and presentation of their legal documentations. People who do not
provide required information according to TPL and other tax codes, namely, presenting
books, records and other documents on request by competent authorities and officers,
face fines much higher that irregularity sanctions (Baspinar, 2009, p. 53).
TPL has defined tax loss as failure to assess tax in due time or under-assessment of Perception of
tax because the taxpayer or person liable for tax did not fulfill his tax-related obligations tax evasion
in time or fulfilled deficiently. Tax laws oblige taxpayers to keep legal books, to submit
tax returns in certain periods, to notify tax authorities about any changes related to tax
payer’s status, etc. Tax collection by tax administrations in time and in an efficient way
depends on the taxpayers’ proper fulfillment of his/her tax duties. When the taxpayers
do not fulfill their tax-related duties, they cause tax loss, in which case they face the 103
imposition of tax loss penalty. Under-assessment of tax or unjust tax return by false
claims related to personal, marital status, family information or causing the same
situation in any other ways will also be considered as tax loss. Tax loss is related to
the accrual phase of taxation process. Consequently, the important issue is the
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assessment of the tax timely and accurately. If the tax accrual has been realized in time
and accurately, the late collection will not be regarded as a matter of tax loss. Where a
person commits a tax offence, he/she shall be penalized with onefold of the tax amount
due, this penalty shall be applied as 50 per cent for the tax returns submitted after due
time, excluding those submitted after tax investigation has begun or the file has been
transferred to the tax assessment committee (Baspinar, 2009, pp. 58-59).
Tax evasion is an illegal act or practice of failing to pay taxes which are owed to the
state. Tax evasion may lead to a notable decrease in public revenues, and the
punishment provisions to be applied to the perpetrators of such offences are as follows:
• Failure to retain books or records required to be preserved and presented
according to tax laws would result in sanctions of imprisonment ranging between
one and three years.
• Destroying the books or records which have to be kept, preserved and presented
according to tax laws. The sanction stipulated by the law to be applied for these
acts is the imprisonment ranging between three and five years.
• People who, without having a prior agreement with the Ministry of Finance, print
documents that can only be printed with the permission of the Ministry of Finance
and use such documents intentionally, are sentenced to imprisonment ranging
between two and five years.

However, if a person applies for “penitence provisions” and notifies the relevant
authorities in advance, no tax loss penalty shall be imposed.

3. Research design and methodology


This part of the study describes the sample, the survey and the analysis measures and
provides a summary of the demographic data.

3.1 Participants
Respondents were randomly selected from self-employed taxpayers from the city of
Zonguldak, Turkey. Researchers visited the taxpayers in person and conducted the
questionnaires. Participation in the study was voluntary and they were assured that
their answers would remain confidential. In total, 502 of the 650 questionnaire forms
distributed to the self-employed taxpayers were returned and the return rate was 77.23
per cent. During the analysis, 475 responses were retained and 27 questionnaire forms
were omitted. It is worth noting that this is a relatively high response rate compared to
prior studies.
JMLC Table II shows the demographics of the study participants. The majority of the
18,1 respondents (41.50 per cent) had high school education followed by 22.70 per cent who
had some primary school education. The highest level of completed education is an
MBA degree (achieved by 0.80 per cent of the respondents). The sample consisted of
35.40 per cent of respondents who are working in service sector, 26.20 per cent who are
working in different trades and 13.20 per cent who are employed in agriculture. The
104 sample included 24 per cent females and 76 per cent males. The sample was divided into
five age groups:
(1) under 19 (1.10 per cent);
(2) 20 to 30 (21.50 per cent);
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(3) 31 to 40 (32.00 per cent);

Respondent characteristics Sample size: 475 (%)

Education
Primary school 131 27.60
High school 197 41.50
Associate degree 35 7.40
Graduate degree 108 22.70
MBA 4 0.80
Gender
Male 361 76.00
Female 114 24.00
Age (years)
0-19 5 1.10
20-30 102 21.50
31-40 152 32.00
41-60 204 42.90
61 and over 12 2.50
Income
Less than TL10,000 121 25.50
TL10,000-TL20,000 213 44,80
TL21,000-TL30,000 65 13.70
TL31,000-TL40,000 24 5.10
TL41,000-TL50,000 15 3.20
TL51,000-TL60,000 14 2.90
TL61,000 and over 23 4.80
Home owner
Yes 284 59.80
No 191 40.20
Job classification
Agriculture 63 13.20
Trade 126 26.20
Constructions 56 11.70
Table II. Services 169 35.40
Demographics Other 63 13.20
(4) 41 to 60 (42.90 per cent); and Perception of
(5) 61 or older (2.50). tax evasion
The household income level of the respondents varied as well. Most (44.80 per cent)
respondents’ income ranged between TL10,000 and TL20,000 per annum. Twenty-five
per cent of the respondents had an income of less than TL10,000, 13.70 per cent earned
in the range of TL21,000-TL30,000 and 4.8 per cent earned more than TL61,000. The 105
respondents were mainly (42.90 per cent) in the 41- to 60-year-old age range with only 2.5
per cent over the age of 60 years. About 60 (59.80) per cent of the respondents were home
owners as compared to 40 per cent who were not. The job classification of the sample
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was purposefully varied. Of the total respondents, 13.20 per cent were employed in the
agricultural sector, 26.20 per cent were employed by the private trade sector, 11.60 per
cent worked in the construction industry, 35.40 per cent were employed by the service
sector and 13.20 per cent of the respondents were employed by other sectors.

3.2 Measured variables


In this study, the questionnaire used was adapted from the study by Karlinsky et al.
used in the USA (Karlinsky et al., 2004). Some modifications were necessary due to the
fact that the legal system in the USA is somewhat different from that in Turkey. Levels
of comprehension of the questions in the questionnaire form were tested on 50 people
with different educational backgrounds by conducting a pilot survey. It was noted that
these questions were easy to understand. To minimize recency or any order effect, there
were four randomized versions of the survey used. Tests showed that there was no order
effect in the results. A covering letter explaining the purpose of the study was attached
to the questionnaire form. The survey was two pages in length, and a number of
respondents commented that they enjoyed participating in the survey because it was
simple and understandable.
The survey consisted of two parts:
(1) Part 1, dealt with the perception of Turkish self-employed tax-payers in relation
to the seriousness of 21 different offences including some serious crimes.
(2) Part 2, looked at demographics, that is, educational background, income levels,
age, gender, home ownership and job classification.

Respondents were asked to indicate their opinion on the seriousness of 21 offences on


a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from “not serious” to “extremely serious”,
where 1 represented “not serious” and 5 represented “extremely serious”. Finally,
respondents were requested to answer some questions designed to determine their
demographics.
One-sample t-test and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) methods were used for
the data analysis. Before carrying out any analysis, data for all variables were tested for
reliability of the analysis. Reliability was assessed using Cronbach’s alpha method. The
scale scores 0.87, which exceeds the minimum acceptable level of 0.70 as recommended
by Carmines and Zeller (1979). In addition, it was observed that none of the variables has
a negative relationship with the total correlation. Thus, these findings indicate that
internal consistency of the data is considerably of high level.
JMLC 4. Results
18,1 4.1 Overall results
Table III shows the overall rating of all 21 offences. The rating is the average of all
responses in the survey. The most serious offences rated by the respondents in the
sample were not surprisingly, child molestation, rape and murder. In this survey, ticket
scalping, jaywalking and illegal parking were rated as the least serious offences.
106 However, the average rating for tax evasion was 3.91, which was the tenth most serious
or rated as the least serious offence in the survey.
It is of paramount importance to point out that regardless of any differences in the
legal systems of Turkey and the USA, taxpayers in both countries hold similar
perceptions about the top four crimes and more importantly, the perception of the
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respondents in Turkey (ranking it as the 10th most serious offence) in relation to the
seriousness of tax evasion was very similar to that of the American survey (ranked 11th
in the USA). Because of the similarities in the result of the surveys in Turkey and the
USA, the authors of the present article believe that due to the gap in the present
literature, new studies concentrating on comparative analysis of legal, economic and
sociological aspects of different countries would be very desirable.

4.2 Tax evasion and violent crimes


At this stage, it should be pointed out that the average rating for tax evasion (3.91)
compared to the three violent crimes in the survey, child molestation (4.88), rape (4.84)
and murder (4.82), based on a t-test, the difference between the rating for tax evasion and

Crimes Overall rating Turkey Ranking Turkey Overall rating US Ranking US

Child molestation 4.88 1 4.8 3


Rape 4.84 2 4.9 2
Murder 4.82 3 5.0 1
Robbery 4.54 4 4.0 4
Carjacking 4.19 5 3.8 6
Smoking marijuana 4.13 6 2.3 17
Shoplifting 4.03 7 2.8 13
Accounting fraud 3.95 8 3.7 8
Prostitution 3.91 9 2.8 14
Tax evasion 3.91 10 3.3 11
Driving while intoxicated 3.90 11 3.9 5
Insider trading 3.84 12 3.3 9
Welfare fraud 3.80 13 3.3 10
Child labor 3.38 14 3.8 7
Minimum wage 3.29 15 3.3 12
Speeding 3.22 16 2.1 18
Running a red light 3.19 17 2.6 15
Bike theft 2.76 18 2.3 16
Ticket scalping 2.73 19 1.8 19
Table III. Jaywalking 2.13 20 1.3 21
Rating of crimes Illegal parking 2.10 21 1.5 20
surveyed compared
to the US study Source: Karlinsky et al. (2004)
violent crimes was significant at a 0.05 level (Table IV). These results support the Perception of
findings of both Karlinsky et al. (2004) and Rosenmerkel (2001) that tax evasion as a tax evasion
white-collar offence was rated as less serious than violent offences.

4.3 Tax evasion and white-collar crimes


See the following specific studies conducted on tax evasion which considered it as a 107
“White-Collar Crime”: Wentworth and Rickel (1985) and Jackson and Milliron (1986).
White-collar crime has been defined as non-violent crimes committed by corporations or
individuals such as office workers or sales personnel of their business activities
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(Bergman, 2009). White-collar crimes include embezzlement, false advertising, bribery,


unfair competition, tax evasion and unfair labor. It could be considered that tax evasion
by self-employed individuals is not a white-collar crime. However, according to Marcelo
Bergman, tax evasion is a white-collar crime because “[…] the victim in this case is the
state” (Bergman, 2009).
To analyze tax evasion amongst the white-collar crimes, tax evasion (3.91) was
compared to other five white-collar offences (accounting fraud, violation of child labor
laws, insider trading, welfare fraud and violation of minimum wage laws) in the survey.
The differences between the mean ratings for tax evasion and violation of child labor
laws, violation of minimum wage laws and welfare fraud were significant at a 0.05 level.
However, there was no difference between tax evasion, accounting fraud and insider
trading (Table V).
Of the six white-collar offences, accounting fraud and tax evasion were rated as the
most serious. However, the rankings of all six white-collar offences fall together in the
list of 21 offences, ranking from the sixth most serious offences to the eighth most
serious offence in our survey.

Violent crimes Mean Tax evasion mean Mean difference t-test p value

Child molestation 4.88 3.91 0.976 48.870 0.000*


Rape 4.84 3.91 0.934 36.137 0.000*
Murder 4.82 3.91 0.911 34.859 0.000* Table IV.
Robbery 4.54 3.91 0.637 18.084 0.000* Comparison of tax
evasion to violent
Note: * p ⬍ 0.05 crimes

White-collar crimes Mean Tax evasion mean Mean difference t-test p value

Accounting fraud 3.95 3.91 0.457 0.893 0.372


Insider trading 3.84 3.91 ⫺0.700 ⫺1.409 0.160
Welfare fraud 3.80 3.91 ⫺0.110 ⫺2.076 0.038*
Child labor 3.38 3.91 ⫺0.520 ⫺8.907 0.000* Table V.
Minimum wage 3.29 3.91 ⫺0.611 ⫺10.254 0.000* Comparison of tax
evasion to white-
Note: * p ⬍ 0.05 collar crimes
JMLC 4.4 Victim/victimless offence analysis
18,1 We used the current study to investigate people’s perceptions of the severity of victim vs
victimless crimes and violations by including at least three offences in each of the four
standard categories: crime/victim, crime/victimless, violation/victim and violation/
victimless. Victimless crimes such as tax evasion are perceived by the wider public as less
severe crimes than those involving a victim such as rape, murder and child molestation. As
108 Table VI clearly illustrates, the results of previous literature have been reiterated.
As can be seen from Table VI, with exceptions of shoplifting, accounting fraud and
bike theft, crimes involving victims were perceived as more severe than crimes without
victims. When one compares perceived severity of violations, it seems that the
respondents can easily distinguish violations of victim and victimless offences.
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4.5 Demographics analysis


Our survey attempted to determine if there was a correlation between respondents’
demographic characteristics and their perceptions of tax evasion. Based on our tests
(ANOVAs), there was no significant difference in the average scores for the seriousness
of tax evasion between genders, educational backgrounds, income levels, age, home
ownerships and job classification.

5. Conclusions
It is important to understand the reasons for tax evasion or even compliance with tax
regulations. Prior research indicates that one reason may be that they do not perceive tax
evasion to be a serious crime (Burton et al., 2005). This study surveyed 475 self-employed
taxpayers to see how seriously they perceived tax evasion as a violation of law. Of the 21
offences evaluated, tax evasion was ranked 10th and rated as only somewhat serious.
When considering tax evasion compared to the three most violent crimes (child
molestation, rape and murder), it is the finding of the study that violent crimes are
perceived as more severe than tax evasion.
Of the six white-collar offences considered, tax evasion was rated as more serious
than welfare fraud, child labor and violation of minimum wage laws. The accounting

Crime/victim Mean Crime/victimless Mean

Child molestation 4.88 Smoking marijuana 4.13


Rape 4.84 Prostitution 3.91
Murder 4.82 Tax evasion 3.91
Robbery 4.54 DWI 3.90
Carjacking 4.19 Welfare fraud 3.80
Shoplifting 4.03
Accounting fraud 3.95
Bike theft 2.76

Violation/victim Mean Violation/victimless Mean

Insider trading 3.84 Speeding 3.22


Child labor law 3.38 Running a red light 3.19
Table VI. Minimum wage 3.29 Ticket scalping 2.73
Severity of victim/ Jaywalking 2.13
victimless offences Illegal parking 2.10
fraud was rated as almost the same as tax evasion due to the fact that according to TPL, Perception of
accounting fraud and tax evasion are similar offences. This study also tested various tax evasion
demographic characteristics and found that there was no significant difference in the
average scores for the seriousness of tax evasion between genders, education
backgrounds, income levels, age, home ownerships and job classification.
These results are consistent with the findings of Karlinsky and Bankman, that tax
evasion is not viewed as a serious crime and this finding should be of great concern to 109
lawmakers and tax administration officials as they consider ways to minimize the
“shadow economy” and the budget deficit (Karlinsky and Bankman, 2002).
Overall, our study finds striking similarities between the ways how tax evasion is
perceived by the respective societies in both the USA and Turkey despite cognizable
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limitations and discrepancies in the parameters of the surveys. It follows that there
appears an urgent need for new studies with a particular focus on reasons for such a
communality of the perceptions of tax evasion as a crime in both societies, which are
sociologically and demographically dissimilar and whose tax systems impose penalties
of various severity. As such, further attention should be devoted to the question, why the
demographic characteristics, education backgrounds, income levels, home ownerships,
job classification and citizenship play a relatively less significant role in affecting the
perceived (un)seriousness of tax evasion as a crime.

6. Limitations
This study has several limitations. The main limitation arises from the sampling
process used. The sample was drawn from only one city of Zonguldak, Turkey. The
random selection of participants alleviates this concern to a significant degree but does
not completely remedy that shortcoming.
The second limitation is related to the possibility of participant misunderstanding
the questions and terminology used in the survey. To address this concern, the
questionnaire used in the current study was based on that used in the USA by Karlinsky
et al. (2004). However, some modifications had to be made to the survey because of the
difference between the US and Turkey’s legal systems.
The third limitation is that this study only measures perceptions of the
seriousness of 21 selected offences; hence, it may not be representative of the actual
crimes. Moreover, this study measures only perception of one item of tax evasion
behavior. Future studies could be extended to include more specific tax evasion
behaviors. Moreover, failure to pay assessed taxes within the due date, preparing or
maintaining or maintenance of false books of accounts or other false records could
be among the variables involved.

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Further reading
Birch, A., Peters, T. and Sawyer, A.J. (2003), “‘New Zealanders’ attitudes towards tax evasion: a
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Corresponding author
Serkan Benk can be contacted at: serkanbenk@inonu.edu.tr
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