Survey Shows Many Americans Fine with Lying to the IRS, or Their Insurer

By | March 15, 2016

Call it a “little green lie.”

A number of Americans apparently find it acceptable to lie when there’s money at stake.

A survey of 2,115 American adults from NerdWallet conducted in February shows a surprising number of people will fib to save themselves a few greenbacks, and that many would even lie when it could result in federal prosecution.

Insurance professionals who deal with automobile insurance should take note: one-in-five people surveyed said it is acceptable to lie about the number of miles driven each year to receive lower auto insurance rates.

The survey asked a half dozen questions centered on financial lies.

It shows that 16 percent of Americans believe it’s acceptable to lie about smoking marijuana to receive lower life insurance rates. Perhaps less surprising is that one-quarter of Millennials (age 18-34) were OK with lying to their insurer about pot use.

Fewer are alright with lying about tobacco smoking habits for lower life insurance rates. Eleven percent of respondents say it is acceptable, making it the least-popular lie among those tested, according to the poll.

It may, or may not, be a surprise, but 24 percent of people are OK with withholding information about extra income from the IRS despite the possibility of jail time for doing so.

NerdWallet_MoneyandLies“We were really surprised that one-in four-people were willing to lie about under-the-table income,” said NerdWallet’s Diamond Richardson, who helped construct the poll.

She surmised this may be due to more people earning extra cash in the gig economy and not wanting to part ways with any of that income or be placed in a higher tax bracket.

“I do think the fact that there are a growing number of people making money in non-traditional ways is contributing to that percentage,” Richardson said.

Lying to the IRS is the second most popular financial lie, according to the survey.

The No. 1 acceptable lie? Loaning out sign-in information for Netflix.

Call it a lie of omission, but 33 percent of respondents said using someone else’s account information for online movies, music or articles – Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pandora, – to avoid paying subscription costs is acceptable.

And here’s a finding that may not surprise some women: men lie more.

Men are more likely than women to say most of the financial lies listed in the survey are acceptable – sometimes at twice the rate of women.

Roughly 30 percent of men are fine with lying to the IRS compared with 18 percent of women, and 25 percent of men were willing to lie for lower auto insurance rates compared with 16 percent of women.

Twice as many men (16 percent vs. 8 percent) are fine with lying about their income on a credit card or loan application.

“Some of the differences were much larger than we thought,” Richardson said. “The only reason for this that we could think of is that some of it might be tied to women being more cautious.”

The survey also shows older people being more cautious, offering a bit of credence to the axiom that the older, the wiser.

Americans age 65 and up are less likely to find financial dishonesty acceptable.

The survey found that 11 percent of seniors are alright with using someone else’s paid account for online movies, music or articles to save on subscription costs compared with 39 percent of those age 18-64. Only 7 percent of those age 65 and older said it’s acceptable to lie about annual mileage for lower auto insurance rates compared with 23 percent of the age 18-64 group.

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