Fiscal Citizenship in Migrant Societies: An International Cross Country Comparison

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Finance and Accounting


Taxation is necessary to the proper functioning of the modern welfare state and payment of taxes can be thought of as a unifying act that brings us together to further our collective goals. Taxes touch our lives in many ways and our willingness to contribute through paying taxes, understood in our project as "fiscal citizenship", is complicated. All countries have a tax culture i.e. social norms around paying taxes and 'tax morale' or how citizens feel about paying taxes. Our comparative project will address this important issue in a study that includes the impact of demographic change in the form of migration, on established taxpaying norms.

In the face of economic instability coupled with increasing migration, securing funds to support the welfare state is a pressing issue. However, our study is not only important for developing policies that support and encourage fiscal citizenship but will also shed light on the broader question of how political and institutional context shapes citizens' preferences and societal integration. Attitudes towards paying taxes also provide a window into wider aspects of modern society such as social norms, respect for authority, trust and cultural traditions.

It is surprising that we currently know little about the relationships between citizenship, migration and fiscal citizenship, which means that tax systems and collection policies may not be designed in the most efficient way. Over the last 3 - 4 decades, Canada, Germany and the UK have experienced a large influx of migrants from a wide range of other countries, each with their own tax culture. These changes in the make-up of our societies inevitably impact on fiscal citizenship. Newcomers bring with them experiences of their home countries and may not readily adapt to the new tax culture. This has implications not only for tax authorities trying to collect tax as best they can, but also for existing citizens who may experience a change in their own willingness to pay taxes.

The research team consists of a unique combination of researchers trained in accounting, anthropology, law and political science from Canada, Germany and the UK. Combining strong cultural, political and fiscal knowledge provides a unique vantage point for exploring the challenges of fostering fiscal citizenship among both citizens and migrants, touching as it does on both the social and technical aspects of contributing to society through payment of taxes. The research draws on several methodological traditions specifically experiments, legal and institutional analysis, surveys, and qualitative interviews in four interrelated studies organised across three work packages: analysis, investigation and integration.

We will seek the views of a wide range of participants through surveys and interviews in the our three countries to find out more about national fiscal citizenship to develop policy prescriptions to pave the way for improved fiscal citizenship. Raising public awareness of fiscal citizenship will help to make it more robust, for the benefit of wider society.


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