The study shows that nearly 20 percent of Germans have at one point employed someone unofficially, thus avoiding tax – and this although 65 percent told pollsters that such practices harm society.
“The study shows that what people think and what they do are two fundamentally different things,” said Erik Thomsen from the Minijob Centre in Essen which commissioned the study from polling firm Forsa.
He told Die Welt newspaper his organization’s estimates would support such figures, with around a quarter of a million domestic cleaners were registered, but that there were up to four million people doing such work in the country.
Nearly 40 percent of those asked in the survey said they would not condemn anyone who saved money using little tricks in, for example, their tax declaration.
Yet 99 percent of the 1,000 people asked, said that unofficial work and tax evasion was unacceptable for the rich and famous.
“Those who earn a lot of money and are in a privileged position are expected to adhere to higher moral standards than the normal citizen,” said Dominik Enste, professor for economic behaviour and ethics at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research.
Football manager Uli Hoeneß, currently under investigation for alleged tax evasion using a Swiss bank account, would be a good example, Die Welt suggested.
“Tax evasion by the rich via secret Swiss bank accounts is poison for the tax morale in a country,” said Enste.
In contrast, paying a cleaner “cash in hand”, or the handyman who does a small job with a bill, thus avoiding tax, is seen as a trifling matter.
The upper middle classes often take the attitude that they have worked for their money and are justified in not giving “too much” to the state in taxes, said Enste. “We have to get away from the thought that the honest people are the stupid ones,” he added.