High-income earners should pay more tax and those less well off are paying too much, a survey shows.

The tax survey, by think-tank Per Capita, also found that more people want government spending on services to increase, instead of any further tax cuts, and that taxpayers overestimate the amount of federal and state governments already spend on big ticket items.

The survey showed that 95 per cent of respondents believed low and middle income earners paid too much tax, while 53 per cent said high-income earners don’t pay enough tax.

Per Capita executive director David Hetherington said the number of respondents who felt they paid too much tax was “extraordinarily high”.

“We didn’t expect that number and for it to be quite that strong,” he told AAP.

“What we thought was striking was that even high-income earners thought the tax system was unfairly weighted towards high income earners.”

While more than 50 per cent of respondents who earn more than $150,000 a year believe they paid too much tax, that category also contained the biggest proportion (about seven per cent) who felt they didn’t pay enough tax.

The report, released earlier this week, showed 79 per cent of the 1008 people surveyed wanted federal and state governments to spend more on public services such as health and transport, while around 40 per cent said they wanted more tax cuts.

Mr Hetherington said the findings marked a significant shift in public opinion over the past 23 years.

He compared the findings to a 1987 Australian Election Study that showed 65 per cent of respondents wanted tax cuts, while just 15 per cent wanted more spending.

“In percentage terms, taxes were higher in the 1980s. One of the things that’s happened is that taxes have been cut – almost an annual series of tax cuts over the past decade.

“What’s been going along with that is services aren’t up to scratch, transport isn’t up to scratch, people feel health is creaking.

“People feel we’d rather have more spending on public services than more tax cuts. This is a really distinct trend that’s been going since the mid-1980s and has almost flipped, almost been reversed now.’

The report found most Australians hugely overestimated the amount of tax dollars state and federal government’s spent on major policy areas like health and defence.

Most respondents said 29 per cent of government spending went on health, 25 per cent on education and 22 per cent on defence.

But in reality, 20 per cent was spent on health, 12 per cent on education and five per cent on defence.

The average respondent said the government spent nine per cent of its tax revenue on foreign aid, when in the actual number is less than one per cent.

Mr Hetherington said the federal government should print its expenditure on the bottom of tax returns to better educate the public about its spending.

“The information is available if you want to do a lot of work and hunt it down and analyse it and compile it, which is what we did,” he said.

“But even on a tax return notice of assessment, it wouldn’t be too difficult to publish a table saying over the past 12 months (that) this is where federal and state government’s have used their tax revenues.

“That’s something that doesn’t occur at the moment.”