Knock, Knock:The Taxman’s at Your Door! Practice Sense, Empathy Games, and Dilemmas in Tax Enforcement


Tax administrators are empowered by the state to secure compliance with tax obligations. Enforcing compliance on the ground is complex, and street-level administrators often engage in the “art of the possible,” leading to dilemmas in the field. This paper examines tax administrators’ practices with regard to Jamaican property tax defaulters with outstanding tax liabilities in excess of 3 years. Drawing on interviews with tax administrators and other key agents, we find that tax administrators reposition themselves from objective enforcers to empathizing officials engaging in schemes of action, doing what they can do rather than what they should do. This is a practical-sense approach to securing compliance. We identify two forms of empathy, assimilated and cynical, and conclude that administrators’ empathetic identification with defaulters does not necessarily arise solely from concern for social cohesion, or inter-subjective compassion, but also sometimes from self-interest.

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Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Accounting
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dilemmas,Empathy games,Practical sense,Tax administration practices,Business and International Management,Business, Management and Accounting(all),Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous),Economics and Econometrics,Law
Publication ISSN: 1573-0697
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2024 07:15
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2019 15:12
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Related URLs: https://link.sp ... 551-019-04300-x (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-03
Published Online Date: 2019-10-12
Accepted Date: 2019-10-07
Authors: Wynter, Carlene (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-5299-599X)
Oats, Lynne



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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