Tax Chat! Video on The Anthropology of Tax is Now Live!

29 November 2020

Hello all!

In case you missed our last Tax Chat!, you can now watch or listen to it on the Center for Taxpayer Rights’ YouTube channel.

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Our guests for this Tax Chat! were Lotta Bjorklund Larsen, Johanna Mugler, and Nimmo Elmi.  I’ve collaborated with all three of them over the years to better understand the relationships between tax administrators and taxpayers.  This Tax Chat! was a fascinating discussion on topics relating to the application of anthropological methods – fieldwork, participant observation – to gain entry to the Swedish tax administration, OECD, and the Kenya tax authority.  We discussed how anthropologists go to places as “outsiders”, where they may be unwelcome, but through field work that can span months or years and observation without intrusion, they gain their subjects’ trust and thus obtain access.  With respect to observations, no one particular moment is important; they are looking for patterns.  We also talked about the need for anthropological researchers to practice reflexivity, checking oneself all the time – so that you are not following or imposing your own passions on your research but instead letting the observations, interviews, documents, and data guide.

This is just a small part of the excellent conversation we had with Nimmo, Johanna, and Lotta.  Each spoke about their respective recent research projects.  Nimmo discussed the development of ITax by the Kenyan Tax Authority and that product’s acceptance (or lack thereof) by Kenyan taxpayers, especially small business entrepreneurs.  More generally, her work explores tax administration in post-colonial countries.  Johanna described her observations of OECD negotiations relating to the international tax framework and her interest in who sets international norms and standards and how they are implemented, especially across borders among very diverse cultures.  And Lotta discussed her work within the Swedish Tax Agency, where she followed a risk analysis project from start to finish and was included in and had access to all emails, discussions, presentations, and data.

Have I piqued your interest enough to watch this video?  I hope so.  And I also hope you will subscribe to our YouTube channel and to the Taxpayer Rights Digest so you won’t miss announcements of future Tax Chats! 

In case you are interested in learning more about our guests’ work and tax anthropology in general, our guests provided some good links and references.  You can access the list here.

What is up next on Tax Chat?  Save the date for Thursday, December 10, 2020, at noon EST/17:00 GMT/18:00 CET for our Tax Chat! with Erich Kirchler on the Economic Psychology of Tax.  We’ll separately announce when registration opens this week.

As always, thank you for your interest.

And … please help support the work of the Center for Taxpayer Rights by donating today.

All the best, and stay safe!

Nina Olson
Executive Directo