National Survey Finds Cheating on Taxes is not Acceptable to Majority of Americans, While Only Half Would Report Cheaters

Legal repercussions, fraudulent returns and meeting deadlines are top-of-mind according to Lawyers.comSM survey

New York, NY, (March 27, 2008) - Press Release - A national survey of more than 1,000 Americans sponsored by LexisNexis and conducted for Lawyers.com, the most comprehensive and trustworthy online legal destination, revealed that the majority of Americans (87 percent) agree that cheating on their taxes is not acceptable, although some (11 percent) believe that minor conscious discrepancies are fair. When it comes to reporting on a cheater, however, the decision is split. Exactly half of Americans would feel compelled to report someone who cheated on their taxes to the authorities, with men leading the whistleblower pact (54 percent of men vs. 46 percent of women).

The national survey also revealed that legal repercussions such as an audit do not worry the majority of Americans. In fact, 95 percent of Americans are confident that if they were audited, they would not encounter legal trouble. However, 87 percent understand that filing a fraudulent tax return is something that goes on one's permanent criminal record if he or she is convicted.

"As the majority of Americans work diligently to file their taxes in an accurate manner and before the deadline, questions and uncertainties around new tax deductions and benefits may arise," said Alan Kopit, legal editor of Lawyers.com. "Enrolling a tax or legal professional who can evaluate and explain all of your options is just one way to ease confusions and hesitations with filing taxes."

Understanding the Punishment
About seven in ten (68 percent) understand that filing a fraudulent federal tax return is a crime punishable by prison time; however, fewer than half (47 percent) of Americans know that filing a fraudulent federal tax return can also result in civil fraud penalties. Civil penalties for a fraudulent tax return currently equal 75 percent of the unreported tax. Interest accrues on the penalty amount, as well as on the underreported tax.

Pushing the limit
As tax day approaches, 60 percent of Americans report filing taxes well ahead of the deadline. One in three Americans just meet the deadline, 26 percent file "very close" to the deadline and less than five percent file at the last possible moment. Although, few Americans report typically filing for an extension as a result of missing the deadline, a shocking one in ten of Americans admit never filing a tax return.

Additional Survey Findings
  • One in five Americans believe that a copy of the tax return should be kept forever; while half feel that holding onto a tax return copy for seven years is sufficient
  • Six in ten Americans think that filing a fraudulent tax return is punishable by a fine
  • More than one in ten Americans think that it's acceptable to cheat on their taxes

    About the Survey
    On behalf of LexisNexis and its Lawyers.com site, Opinion Research Corporation conducted an online omnibus survey to uncover American's knowledge and attitudes about filing their taxes. The survey was conducted online in February 2008 among 1,087 Americans aged 18+ across the United States.

    About Martindale-Hubbell® Lawyers.com
    Lawyers.com (www.lawyers.com>), from LexisNexis®, is the leading legal destination on the Web, providing consumers and small businesses access to a free database of more than one million attorneys and law firms nationwide. The Lawyers.com service helps site visitors make a fast, informed decision when choosing a lawyer. More than one million searches per month are conducted at Lawyers.com by consumers and business people in search of the right lawyer for their needs.

    About LexisNexis
    LexisNexis® (www.lexisnexis.com) is a leading global provider of business information solutions to a wide range of professionals in the legal, risk management, corporate, government, law enforcement, accounting and academic markets. LexisNexis originally pioneered online information with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. A member of Reed Elsevier [NYSE: ENL; NYSE: RUK] (www.reedelsevier.com), LexisNexis serves customers in more than 100 countries with 13,000 employees worldwide.

    Media Contacts:

    Marc Osborn
    LexisNexis
    425-460-2159
    marc.osborne@lexisnexis.com

    Milly Navarro
    Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
    972-335-8948
    milly.navarro@ogilvypr.com