Information campaign, Denmark
In November 2005, the Danish Ministry of Taxation (Skatteministeriet), in cooperation with the media, launched an information campaign directed at young people entitled ‘Imagine what would happen if everybody did undeclared work (Tænk hvis alle arbejdede sort)’. The information campaign primarily aims to create awareness among young people of why citizens have to pay taxes.
In November 2005, the Danish Ministry of Taxation (Skatteministeriet), in cooperation with the media, launched an information campaign directed at young people entitled ‘Imagine what would happen if everybody did undeclared work (Tænk hvis alle arbejdede sort)’. The underlying reason for the campaign is that, according to several studies, young people in particular are engaged in carrying out undeclared work and have a much higher acceptance of undeclared work and tax evasion.
The original initiative began in November 2005 and a new campaign with television (TV) advertisements was launched at the end of 2006. The campaign is still ongoing and mainly targets young people aged between 15 and 25 years.
The information campaign primarily aims to create awareness among young people of why citizens have to pay taxes.
The following description of the information campaign is taken from the homepage of the Danish Ministry of Taxation’s website.
The campaign shows a series of situations that might happen in society if nobody paid taxes – the advertisements were short and contained images without words. They showed, for instance, a football field with a broken crossbar and the pitch resembling merely a ploughed field, or a young injured skateboarder sitting in front of a closed accident and emergency unit; for further examples of the campaign, see the ministry’s website at www.skm.dk/presse/kampagner/fairplay/4888.html. The information campaign aims to communicate the message to young people under their own terms, by using examples of interest to them.
According to the Danish Ministry of Taxation, the purpose of the campaign is not to moralise but to make young people in particular think on why citizens are paying taxes. The information campaign was much inspired by a similar campaign of the Swedish tax authorities; the Danish Ministry of Taxation actually used the same commercials as in Sweden and showed them during commercial breaks on national TV.
In addition, the TV spots were supported by posters in the bigger cities, advertising in national newspapers and free post cards – the so-called ‘go-cards’ – in cafés.
The information campaign is also supported by a campaign aimed at young people in their final years of primary school (8th and 9th grade) – this campaign has been running for over 10 years.
Evaluation and outcome
The following evaluation is based on an article published in 2007 by the Danish Central Tax Administration (SKAT) on ‘Danes’ attitudes towards SKAT, the tax system and their tax moral’.
Achievement of objectives
SKAT carried out two surveys in 2004 and 2006, asking the same questions in each survey. Both surveys were carried out in November and December of each year.
One of the survey questions was ‘To what degree do you approve or disapprove of the following act? I will ask you to answer on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means total disapproval and 10 means total approval’. In both of SKAT’s surveys, this question was posed in relation to seven different options, such as ‘cheat on taxes if you had the possibility’, ‘carry out undeclared work’ or ‘receive social benefits without being entitled to’.
The question has also been asked several times by independent research institutes since the beginning of the 1980s. Against this background, an average value has been calculated from the respondents’ answers: the lower the average value, the higher the disapproval of tax evasion among respondents. The figure below illustrates the average values that have been obtained from the Danish surveys carried out since 1997.
Overall, the acceptance of tax evasion has declined among all age groups but most significantly among young people aged between 18 and 29 years. The figure also highlights that approval of tax evasion decreases with age, according to the survey results up to and including those of 2004. However, this tendency changed in the 2006 survey where hardly any difference emerged among the age groups in terms of approval of tax evasion.
Concerning a similar question regarding private people’s purchase of undeclared work, the same trend can be observed among young people: in earlier surveys, they accepted this activity much more than people in older age groups.
Obstacles and problems
No data are yet available to indicate whether the decline in young people’s acceptance of tax evasion and undeclared work actually means that they carry out less undeclared work.
Similar TV commercials have previously been used in Sweden. It is obvious that such information campaigns can also be used in other countries. Yet, it remains to be seen how it will be received.
Main organisation responsible: Danish Ministry of Taxation (Skatteministeriet)
Danish Ministry of Taxation’s homepage, www.skm.dk/presse/kampagner/fairplay/4888.html.
SKAT [Central Tax Administration], ‘Danskernes holdning til SKAT, skattesystemet og skattemoralen’ [Danes’ attitudes towards SKAT, the tax system and tax morale], 2007, available online at: www.skat.dk.