What is taxation? Is taxation theft by the state, a moral action, or an expense citizens bear in order to make claims on the state?

The study of tax triggers a multitude of important question about society. For example: the relation between state and its citizens; money, work and ownership; societal justice; redistributive politics; the balance between public and individual responsibilities.

From a social and cultural perspective I am interested in why we pay tax, why we don’t pay, and how we are made to pay tax. My research aim is to contribute with a broader perspective on taxation – beyond the formalities of annual tax returns, economic models and legal adaptations.

To buy and sell, barter and share, credit and debit are all economic transactions that create relations between people. So do taxes. My research premise is that taxes create relations; not only between citizens and their state but also between citizens. We are more willing to comply and pay tax if we believe that everybody else pays up. In a highly taxed country like Sweden payment of taxes is one of the largest economic relations we engage in. The question that remains is what this says about our relation to the state. And to other taxpayers. And what demands are created by this relationship.

Focus of my research has been mainly on the work of the Swedish Tax Administration: how it applies the law to be seen as legitimate, the knowledge it applies, how it collaborates with various type of taxpayers – citizens, multinational corporations and small entrepreneurs – and how it enforces compliance. Yet, just as interesting a subject is why some citizens do not pay tax. My dissertation addressed Swedes’ justification of purchasing informal work – svart arbete.

Contemporary society is changing fast, very fast. Digitalization, climate change, the movement of people – all create new challenges for both private and public economy. How taxation should be adapted to continue to be seen as fair is a major challenge, both for citizens’ trust in governmental institutions and for tax compliance. These questions provide a background for past and future research projects.