Stefan Liebig, Steffen Mau
May 19, 2016
This article deals with attitudes towards a just tax system and people’s evaluation of their own tax burden. Starting from the thesis that the issue of justice is decisive for tax morality and tax compliance, the study asks, on the basis of mail survey data, what the criteria of justice are which people use to evaluate the income tax system. The survey consists of item questions and a Factorial Survey Design which allows the authors to demonstrate how people combine and weight different principles of justice. It is shown that, by and large, the features of the tax system are regarded as just. In a second step, the study tests two different explanations of what determines people’s evaluation of the justice of their own tax burden. Whereas the first type of explanation proposes an exchange model which relates the taxes paid to the benefits the state is providing, attempts to see the second frame tax payments as contributions to the collective good and highlights the role of people’s resources and the perception that others also pay their fair share. According to the latter explanation the higher income groups may also be willing to pay a higher share due to the greater resources they command. The results demonstrate that not the state provided benefits, but their own income situation and the perception that others also contribute their fair share matter in viewing their own taxes as just. This confirms the collective-good perspective that predicts that higher income groups may also be ready to shoulder a higher burden in financing state services. However, since the data are derived from a regional postal survey, they should be interpreted with caution, as only the first hints about existing attitudes towards the justice of the system of taxation.