Did you ever wonder how many people do not actually pay their taxes under our “voluntary compliance” system here in the United States? Well, it turns out that the latest IRS estimates show about 15% of the total tax liability owed for 2006 was actually collected.
This rate is virtually unchanged from the 2001 compliance rate and amounts to $450 billion for 2006. This represents a $105 billion increase over the2001 estimated tax gap of $345 billion. Enforcement efforts and late payments reduce the net tax gap to $385 billion for 2006 which is still $95 billion greater than the $290 billion net tax gap in 2001. While these numbers are staggering, the growth in the tax gap somewhat mirrors the growth in total tax liabilities. Furthermore, the increased estimate may well result from better data and improved estimation methods.
This “tax gap” results from three different types of non-compliance: failure to file, underreporting taxable income, and underpayment of amount of tax due. Underreporting of income continues to be the largest contributing factor to the 2006 gross tax gap accounting for $376 billion of the $450 billion total. Tax non-filing and underpayment of tax accounts for $28 billion and $46 billion, respectively.
As you might imagine, non-compliance is lowest where there is third-party information reporting and/or withholding, such as wages and salaries. Conversely, amounts not subject to information reporting had a 56% net misreporting rate in 2006.
Just think how much progress we could make towards reducing our horrendous deficit if this gap were closed!