Paying Taxes: Understanding Americans’ Tax Attitudes
MetadataShow full item record
CitationWilliamson, Vanessa. 2015. Paying Taxes: Understanding Americans’ Tax Attitudes. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines American attitudes about taxation. Surveys and interviews shed new light on how Americans think about four fundamental questions: Should one pay taxes, and if so, how much? Who pays their fair share of taxes in America, and who does not? Where should tax money go? How well do we decide how to spend tax money? In considering these four questions, my respondents talked about their feelings of fellowship with others in the political community; their doubts about the quality of their representation in government, and their beliefs about the extent to which work is fairly rewarded. But they could not always identify the tax policies that would enact their values and ideals. They suffered from certain systematic misperceptions that are reinforced both by media discourses and by the day-to-day experience of taxpaying. As a result, their policy preferences are an imperfect mirror of the interests they hold. Specifically, while they see taxpaying as a moral commitment to the community, they tend to underrate the tax contributions made by the poor—a mistake that is reinforced by the taxpaying process. At the same time, the respondents take income tax filing as an annual reminder that government operates beyond the comprehension of average Americans and for the benefit of the wealthy few. Finally, though most they believe the rich need to pay more in taxes, their experiences of the tax system leave them misinformed about the tax reforms that would achieve this end.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:17464404
- FAS Theses and Dissertations