English Intern
The Fiscal Citizenship Project

Images of Fiscal Citizenship

Conceptualizing Fiscal Citizenship

Charlotte Schmidt, Eva Matthaei, Hans-Joachim Lauth

Taxes are part of a social contract that is the foundation of any civil state. Basically, the contract is a reciprocal exchange between citizens and state: All citizens decide jointly to give away parts of their liberties and pay taxes to the state while the state assures security, protects rights, and provides public goods for the citizens. Taxes thus are a fundamental prerequisite of any modern civil state and deeply intertwined with the concept of citizenship: Without citizens, taxes are not only nonexistent but also needless. Despite the interconnection of taxes and citizenship, research that is taking both, the willingness to pay taxes and citizenship into account, is still largely lacking. The aim of this paper is to build a bridge between previous separate discussions of both concepts. Considering taxes and citizenship together sheds light on challenges within societies. Non-citizens being taxed without participating in the decision how taxes are spent through voting, or inter-group inequalities in the ratio between give and take are just two examples among many. Disequilibria like these may negatively affect the willingness to pay taxes and social cohesion. Using a conceptual tree, we synthesize the ideas of both, concepts of citizenship and of the willingness to pay taxes, into one overarching concept of Fiscal Citizenship. Vertically and horizontally structured into dimensions and sub-dimensions, the concept comprises behavioral, attitudinal and identificatory social relations between citizen and state, and between fellow citizens that arise through the payment of taxes and are based on the idea of reciprocity. The concept encourages new research questions and new perspectives on existing ones. It may serve as a tool to map and connect previous ideas and findings, derive innovate hypotheses and gain new insights. Furthermore, the framework delivers the starting point for future research to collect microanalytical data for the first comprehensive analysis of the interconnection between citizenship and taxes and its meaning for social cohesion.

Tax Cultures

Lotta Björklund Larsen

Tax authorities and finance ministries try in many ways to address that taxes are correctly reported and paid. They make estimates of unpaid taxes such as the tax gap. Why taxpayers pay tax and are made to pay tax is articulated using concepts such as tax morale and tax compliance (e.g. Kornhauser 2007). Research looks at taxpayers’ attitudes, social norms, values, willingness to pay etc. Tax systems are assessed in terms of fairness, equitability, and justice to understand why taxpayers pay – or do not pay.

In the search for explanations, the notion of tax culture is sometimes mentioned (Livingston 2020; Nerré 2001, 2008; OECD 2015). In this article, I aim to shed more light on the concept of culture in tax and argue that it is important for several reasons. First, unexplained, culture in tax research seems to be a collector for what cannot be explained by other concepts. “It is cultural” makes the concept a container for the unexplainable and irrational. Second, defining culture came out of an ambition to understand why people in the world were so different – not by looks but by beliefs, behaviour, family relationships and how they integrated these into their modes of survival. Culture has often been equalized with national cultures, in tax research often underscored that taxes are legally institutionalized within a nation. But the simplistic causality of culture = nation has some unfortunate implications when relating to existing tax scholarship.

This article lifts some of these implications and aims to articulate how a tax culture in contemporary society can be understood. I build on earlier attempts but also draw on anthropological concepts of culture to start to draft an outline of how we can understand tax culture and how to research it in the contemporary global and digital world.

Fiscal Belonging

Lotta Björklund Larsen & Lynne Oats

In this paper we explore how UK migrants articulate the relationships between paying tax, ideas about citizenship and a feeling of belonging respectively. A common definition of Fiscal Citizenship is the financial contribution of citizens to the state through paying taxes and the ensuing relationships: between citizen and state and between fellow citizens. The concept of fiscal citizenship derives largely from American scholarship, perhaps as the notion of citizenship is strongly correlated with the duty of submitting information about tax, indeed jurisdiction to tax is much more closely entwined with citizenship in the US than in other countries. Thinking beyond the US tax system and its peculiar requirements, fiscal citizenship might be more difficult to articulate for migrants that have arrived in a country for manifold reasons; for work, fleeing war, staying on after completing an education, for love etc. Migrants may even have contributed to their adopted society by paying taxes for a long, long time yet have not been classed as citizens. We see a need to expand our understanding of citizenship beyond the formal/legal domain to better conceptualise fiscal citizenship. To further this aim, drawing on the stories of migrants, we show how the notion of belonging is articulated in relation to tax and citizenship: Fiscal Belonging.

Linking Fiscal and Environmental Citizenship

Felix Wilson

It is becoming ever more apparent that society faces an increasing number of threatening environmental challenges. With a growing number of events linked to global warming, such as the increase in global temperatures and rising sea levels since the 19th century, it is possible to see the importance of making real progress toward decarbonisation. As a result of this, this research intends to explore the modes of best practice for implementing tax policy as environmental policy, focusing on previous success factors, potential new initiatives, and the role of politics. The primary objective of this research is to contribute to tax policy design and education. This research will use a mixed methodology focusing on secondary qualitative analysis of government documentation, public opinion surveys and, qualitative interviews with experts and the public. Until now, this research has been exploring the link between willingness to pay and the impact of ‘Environmental Citizenship’, focusing on factors which characterise an Environmental Citizen to identify if paying an environmental tax is indeed an obligation of these citizens and if they are more willing to contribute to an environmental tax than others.