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Weak street-level enforcement of tax laws: the role of tax collectors’ persistent but broken public service expectations

Schmoll, Moritz (2020) Weak street-level enforcement of tax laws: the role of tax collectors’ persistent but broken public service expectations. Journal of Development Studies. ISSN 0022-0388

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00220388.2020.1779928

Abstract

What drives ineffective tax collection in developing countries? This widespread phenomenon has been explained by weak ‘state capacity’, rent-seeking bureaucrats, or the influence of political elites. More recently, scholars have also emphasised the role of ‘moral economies’, shared notions of what constitutes fair and legitimate taxation that prevent tax collectors from strictly enforcing the law. However, the literature has thus far missed the ways in which shared notions of what constitutes fair work and employment in the tax administration affect collection. Drawing on two years of fieldwork in Egypt, including ethnographic research among street-level tax collectors, the article finds that the simultaneous persistence and disappointment of historical expectations and feelings of entitlement to a white-collar, middle-class job renders tax collectors unwilling to carry out vital enforcement tasks, and further impedes the building of administrative capacity. Furthermore, the administrative leadership’s buying-into such narratives hollows out its capability to incentivise tax collectors to change their ways. These findings have important implications for our understanding of the micro-foundations of governance and state capacity, underscoring the role of normative-ideational factors not only in shaping the willingness of taxpayers to pay taxes, but also of tax collectors to collect them.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/fjds20/current
Additional Information: © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Divisions: International Development
Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 27 May 2020 13:48
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 06:03
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/104601

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