News Europe The Spanish are less and less bothered by taxes: the evolution of...

The Spanish are less and less bothered by taxes: the evolution of tax perception, in graphs

The autonomous communities have been competing for several weeks to be the one that lowers taxes the most and best. The vocation of the latest announcements is different depending on the territory (the Valencian Community lowers personal income tax, while Andalusia eliminates the Wealth Tax), but, ultimately, they all imply a drop in public collection. Do citizens believe that many taxes are paid in Spain? The data from the Sociological Research Center (CIS) do not point in that direction.

According to the latest edition of the survey Public opinion and fiscal policy, published in July, less than half of Spaniards (41%) consider that many taxes are paid in Spain. This data is especially relevant when looking at the evolution of the response compared to previous years, which has fallen almost continuously since 2014 (68.9%). Then Spain was still suffering the consequences of the crisis that began in 2008. The zenith had been reached much earlier, in 1992 (in recession, under the socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez), when 76.8% (almost twice as much as now) He believed that in Spain many taxes were paid.

The year 2020 —in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, when the State assumed millions of private salaries through the ERTE and the public health system faced the virus— and the year 2022 have been the first of the entire historical series in which the answer “regular” exceeds “a lot” when asked: “Would you say that what we Spaniards pay in taxes is a lot, regular or little?”. 46.5% opted for this answer in the latest survey, made from some 2,500 interviews. Along the same lines, 2020 and 2022 recorded the highest number of respondents who believe that few taxes are paid in Spain, around 10%, compared to 3.2% a decade ago or 4.7% 30 years ago. years.

The idea that the tax pressure is not so high is also evident in other responses, such as those given by the interviewees when asked to make a comparison with other European countries. 35.9% believe that less taxes are paid in Spain than in surrounding countries, compared to 34.3% who believe the opposite. Historically, the difference was enormous in favor of those who thought that more taxes are disbursed in Spain, but in 2020 those who warn of greater fiscal pressure in the rest of Europe soar.

In another question, the CIS gives respondents the choice of which of these three sentences is closest to their opinion: taxes are a means of better redistributing wealth in society, they are something that the State forces us to pay without knowing very well good in exchange for what and are necessary for the State to provide public services. The second response, which expresses an unfavorable opinion regarding taxes, registered this year its third lowest historical figure (23.5%). It bottomed out in the worst year of the pandemic, 2020, with 18.7%. In 2013, in the midst of the economic crisis and with more cases of corruption in the headlines, it had reached its maximum, 38.7%. The response that has grown the most in recent years is that taxes are a way to better distribute wealth (it has gone from 9.3% in 2012 to 15.2% ten years later). The majority response throughout the series is that taxes are necessary to ensure public services (59.4% opt for this response, the second highest figure in the entire series).

Olga Canto, Professor of Fundamentals of Economic Analysis at the University of Alcala and one of the authors of the White paper on tax reform, believes that in recent years tolerance for taxes has grown in the Spanish population: “Between 2010 and 2020 there has been a shift towards the opinion that taxes are necessary and a means of redistributing wealth. It seems that there is a part of the citizenship that is changing”. He believes that this phenomenon has been accentuated by the coronavirus pandemic: “It is very likely that the crisis unleashed by the coronavirus has a lot to do with how the perception of taxes has improved since 2020. Citizens have clearly seen what the services are for. public″.

The effect of the pandemic on the perception of the importance of taxes is reflected in more questions in the CIS survey. For example, in 2013, 61% considered it very important not to evade taxes to consider someone a good citizen, a figure similar to that of 2019. However, the figure rose to 72.9% in 2020 and resists at 69.2 % in 2022. One of the data in which Canto appreciates a greater relationship between the pandemic and the improvement in the image of taxes is the willingness to pay more to improve public services. In 2022, 23.1% are radically in favor of this scenario, while in 2012 it was only 8.4%. By sectors, defense is the one from which most Spaniards would withdraw resources (27.8%), while scientific research (85.2%) is where they most think there is a lack of funding.

Canto believes that economic crises tend to worsen the public’s perception of taxes, an opinion consistent with the data from the CIS survey. “However”, she continues, “this has not happened during the covid-19 pandemic. It is possible that this time, through the ERTE and other measures, citizens have more clearly appreciated the importance of paying taxes, which has been responded to in a different way than previous crises. “Tax increases favor more people through public services than they harm, so the theory indicates that there should be a large mass that should vote in favor of more taxes. I think this does not happen because by nature we want to pay less and because there is an aspirational idea, of possible social advancement, for which many believe that taxes should not be too high for when they get rich. If it were for individual self-interest, there would normally be a greater general willingness to pay taxes,” he adds.

On the other hand, the CIS survey shows that the number of Spaniards who consider direct taxes (those that fall on people and companies and depend on income or wealth) has also grown in recent years as the best way to collect, in instead of the indirect ones (those that apply to consumption, such as VAT, and everyone pays equally). Those who bet on personal income tax had always been more numerous, but lately they have multiplied: the difference has gone from 30 percentage points in 2013 to 40 in 2022.

Likewise, the taxpayers who consider the distribution of taxes to be “fair” are in the minority. The vast majority (79.9%) do not believe that those who have more pay more. This line of thought has been maintained with little change since the CIS asked this question, with the historical maximum in 2014 (88.9%), at the height of the cuts to the Welfare State of the popular government of Mariano Rajoy.

Fiscal fraud

The impression that others are correct when paying taxes has also improved considerably in recent years. To the question “among the people you know, how many do you think actually declare all their income when filing their income tax return?” Between 2013 and 2019, between 33% and 29% of those surveyed answered “all or almost all”. Since 2020 that percentage has skyrocketed to almost 47%. The trend is similar when faced with the same question, but regarding those who declare VAT (mainly self-employed): between 19% and 22% thought that their acquaintances declared all or almost all VAT, and since 2020 that percentage has skyrocketed more than 10 points.

As expected from the two previous graphs, the perception of tax fraud committed in Spain has also fallen. Few respondents believe that there is little fraud (5.7%) or that it does not exist (0.9%), but those who believe that there is “a lot” of fraud have fallen sharply. They have gone from 63% in 2013 to 40.9% in 2022, while those who say that there is “enough” were 31.8% nine years ago and now they are 49.4%.

Other surveys also point to an improvement in recent years in the vision of Spanish tax compliance: according to the study Tax opinions and attitudes of Spaniards in 2020 Of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, 56% believe that compliance with the payment of taxes has worsened in the last decade, compared to 44% who believe that it has improved. It does not seem like a flattering figure, but it is the most optimistic since 2010. In 2015 the difference was much greater: 76% believed that it had worsened and 24% that it had improved.

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Source: EL PAIS

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