02 SES 12 A, Educational Decisions and Pathways
Economic and financial crises, governmental debts and the risk of bankruptcies call for a sound economic education in order to develop an understanding of economic issues and to be able to take responsibility for one’s own financial affairs (Leumann, Heumann, Syed 2016). The importance of economic education is also reflected in the development of competency models and the growing amount of research in this field (Seeber, Retzmann, Remmele, & Jongebloed, 2012). Additionally, Baden-Württemberg, a federal state in Germany, recently introduced a new mandatory subject of economics and vocational orientation (Hergert, 2017). In Austria, a fundamental decree on an educational principle which targets towards integrating economic education into various subjects and schools was issued in 2015 (BMBF, 2015). Economic education, therefore, seems to become an important part of the education system.
Economic education according to Dubs (2013) can be further differentiated into “vocational education” and “general civic education”. Dubs (2013) points out that while vocational education is specific for vocational schools, “economic-civic education” is important for all upper secondary schools. Economic education should develop an understanding for economic and business-related contexts relevant for the consumer, the earner and the economic citizen (Dubs, 2013). Beck (1989) points out that economic education integrates economic knowledge and thinking, economic attitude and the ability to morally reflect economic topics. As this description indicates and various other authors in this fields confirm, economic education not only targets towards the development of cognitive factors, but also integrates non-cognitive factors such as attitudes and interests.
Based on this theoretical background, one specific content area of economic education, tax literacy, was chosen for this study. The roles of taxpayer, transfer recipient and voters are described as vital parts of the "economic citizen" as described by Seeber, Retzmann, Remmele, & Jongebloed (2012) in their competency model for economic education. Furthermore, tax avoidance and evasion is discussed frequently on a European level, since variety of regulations were introduced to decrease the amount of funds lost (European Commission, 2017). Regulations and fines are one way to curb tax evasion. Education is also an important instrument to support tax compliance as several studies confirm (Hofmann, Hoelzl, & Kirchler, 2008). Especially in vocational business education, where students are equipped with the knowledge to found a company, tax-related issues are of importance. Tax literacy, as conceptualized with this study, not only focus on knowledge concerning tax law and deductions in order to optimize the personal tax-issues. It also consists of knowledge on a societal or public finance level, in order to get an understanding of the macroeconomic relationships.
The target group of this study are students from a fourth-grade business college in Austria. Business colleges in Austria can be described as five year higher vocational schools which result into vocational degree and in a university entry certificate. The business colleges in Austria have a strong entrepreneurial focus (BMBF, 2014). Most students have already had work experience in internships or part-time jobs, most have bank accounts and pay capital gains tax, and all of them pay value added tax consumers.
The main goal of this paper is to give an overview of the tax literacy of students in vocational business education in Austria. The following research questions will be discussed:
- What tax literacy (cognitive and non-cognitive factors) do the students show?
- What relationships between the different factors constituting tax literacy can be found?
In order to study the factors constituting tax literacy, a questionnaire on tax knowledge, interest, attitude, behavioral intentions and social norms was developed. The section on tax knowledge is based on a an analysis of text books, a curriculum analysis, a qualitative study as well as existing instruments such as the "Wirtschaftskundlicher Bildungstest" (Beck & Krumm, 1998) and items developed by Steininger (2017). All items were adapted to fit the target group. Semi-structured problem-centered interviews (n=22) helped to explore students understanding of tax-related topics and to generate distractors for the multiple choice questions. The interest scale is based on items developed by Rumpold and Greimel-Fuhrmann (2017a) and Oberste (2012) for economic interest. The items were adapted to measure interest in tax-related issues. The attitude scales as well as the behavioral intentions scales and the social norms scales are based on the tax compliance inventory TAX-I by Kirchler and Wahl (2010). Kirchler and Wahl (2010) developed the questionnaire for self-employed entrepreneurs, since they have the most opportunity to evade taxes in Austria. The scales were adapted according to the guideline by Ajzen (2006) "constructing a theory of planned behavior questionnaire". The scale on perceived behavioral control was constructed by the author based on the previously mentioned guideline by Ajzen (2006). It targets to measure the students' self-perception on their ability to file a tax return. A cognitive pre-test as well as a standard pre-test and expert validation were used to improve the quality of the items. For the main test 688 students in three federal states in Austria were surveyed. The distribution of the gender in the sample shows that more women (59,0 %) than men (41,0 %) took part in the study. This, however, represents the actual gender ratio in business colleges in Austria. The age of the students ranges from 16 to 22. A large majority (97,7 %) of the students surveyed falls into the age group between 17 and 19 years. 85,2 % of the students reported that German is the main language they speak in their leisure time. 14,8 % of the students indicated that they mostly speak a language other than German in their leisure time.
First, an overview of existing tax knowledge and knowledge gaps is given. Thus, common misconceptions can be identified. For example, a large share of the students (70,1 %) belief that income tax is calculated in a way that would lead to a much higher tax burden than the actual calculation results into. Identifying these misconceptions can be valuable input for instructional settings. Second, selected results of the non-cognitive factors will be presented. The interest scale for example shows that, nearly two-thirds (65,2 %) of the students fully or mostly agree that tax-related issues are of importance for our life. However, nearly 40 % of the students do not inform themselves about tax related issues or new developments in this field. Third, inferential analysis shows for example a positive relationships between knowledge and interest and between knowledge and voluntary tax compliance.The findings are in line with existing studies as shown by a literature review conducted by Hofmann, Hoelzl and Kirchler (2008), who conclude that tax compliance is related to various internal variables. There are several limitations to this study and some areas for further research could be identified. At the moment only one target group has been surveyed, therefore, only intragroup comparisons are possible. Additionally, some questions are specific to the Austrian legal system, however, a version which fits the regulations in Germany is being developed at the moment. Third, the questionnaire is influenced by the prevalent economic system in Austria. Still, it would be interesting to adapt and apply the questionnaire among other countries (especially in other economic systems) and target groups as well.
Ajzen, I. (2006). Constructing a theory of planned behavior questionnaire. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235913732_Constructing_a_Theory_of_Planned_Behavior_Questionnaire Beck, K. (1989). "Ökonomische Bildung " - Zur Anatomie eines wirtschaftspädagogischen Begriffs. Zeitschrift für Berufs-und Wirtschaftspädagogik, 85(7), 579-596. Beck, K., & Krumm, V. (1998). Wirtschaftskundlicher Bildungs-Test (WBT). Göttingen: Hogrefe, Verlag für Psychologie. Bundesministerium für Bildung und Frauen (BMBF) (2014). Lehrplan der Handelsakademie. BGBl. II - Ausgegeben am 27. August 2014 - Nr. 209. Retrieved from https://www.hak.cc/files/syllabus/Lehrplan_HAK_2014.pdf Bundesministerium für Bildung und Frauen (BMBF) (2015). Grundsatzerlass zum Unterrichtsprinzip Wirtschafts- und Verbraucher/innen/bildung. Retrieved from https://www.bmbf.gv.at/ministerium/rs/2015_15_de.pdf?51qvsh. Dubs, R. (2013). Ökonomische Allgemeinbildung in der Sekundarstufe II. In T. Retzmann (Ed.), Ökonomische Allgemeinbildung in der Sekundarstufe II. Konzepte, Analysen und empirische Befunde (pp. 13-25). Schwalbach/Ts: Wochenschau Wissenschaft. European Commission (2017). Commission welcomes adoption of new rules to block tax avoidance [Press release]. Retrieved from http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1433_en.htm Hergert, S. (2017). Wirtschaft für die Wirklichkeit. Handelsblatt. Retrieved from http://www.handelsblatt.com/my/politik/deutschland/neues-schulfach-in-baden-wuerttemberg-wirtschaft-fuer-die-wirklichkeit/19263926.html?ticket=ST-21774-Z0sRfHU1hBLokabiBxPO-ap4 Hofmann, E., Hoelzl, E., & Kirchler, E. (2008). Preconditions of voluntary tax compliance: Knowledge and evaluation of taxation, norms, fairness, and motivation to cooperate. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 216(4), 209-217. Kirchler, E., & Wahl, I. (2010). Tax compliance inventory TAX-I: Designing an inventory for surveys of tax compliance. Journal of Economic Psychology, 31(3), 331–346. Leumann, S., Heumann, M., Syed, M., & Aprea, C. (2016). Towards a comprehensive financial literacy framework: voices from stakeholders in European vocational education and training. In E. Wuttke, J. Seifried, & S. Schumann (Eds.), Economic competence and financial literacy of young adults. Status and challenges (pp. 19-39). Opladen: Barbara Budrich. Oberste, M. (2012). Economic and Financial Literacy, Attitude & Behavior - The Case of German High School Students. (Dissertation), Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Münster. Rumpold, H., & Greimel-Fuhrmann, B. (2017). Wirtschaftswissen in der Sekundarstufe I. Entwicklung eines Erhebungsinstruments für die Zielgruppe von Schüler/inne/n der achten Schulstufe. Zeitschrift für ökonomische Bildung, 5(2017), 119-149. Seeber, G., Retzmann, T., Remmele, B., & Jongebloed, H.-C. (2012). Bildungsstandards der ökonomischen Allgemeinbildung. Kompetenzmodell-Aufgaben-Handlungsempfehlungen. Schwalbach/Ts: Wochenschau Verlag. Steininger, R. (2017). Tax Literacy : Interesse für, Wissen über und Einstellung zu Steuern : eine empirische Studie an der Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien. (Masterthesis), Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Wien.
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