New Study on Fiscal Citizenship

What are citizens’ attitudes towards the state? How does this influence their willingness to pay taxes? An interdisciplinary research team, funded with 1.5 million euros, is investigating these questions.


Welche Einstellungen zum Staat und zur Steuerkultur gibt es in migrantischen Gesellschaften? Das wird in einem neuen Projekt erforscht.

What are the attitudes towards the state and tax culture in migrant societies? This is being researched in a new project. (Image: DMEPhotography / iStockFoto.com)

How taxes are to be assessed is controversially discussed. One side sees tax payments as an indispensable contribution to a common cause and as the price for the smooth functioning of the welfare state. Tax money feeds the education system, from kindergartens to universities. It flows into social security, transport infrastructure and many other areas from which the whole of society benefits.

Other voices take a very different view. They see the state as a threat to their personal freedom or even as a parasite that finances a lot of nonsensical things with the tax money of the little people and charges ridiculously little tax to corporations and the rich. Wherever possible, they are careful not to give the state a cent in taxes.

Granted: Two extreme attitudes are described here that probably do not exist in their pure form. But how do people actually see themselves as citizens and taxpayers?

Three donors are funding the project

This is what an interdisciplinary research team wants to find out in the project “Fiscal Citizenship in Migrant Societies: An International Cross-Country Comparison”. The study looks at Germany, Great Britain and Canada as examples. It starts on 1 March 2021, runs for three years and is funded with 1.5 million euros (tax money). The funding sources are the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the British Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

From Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, the teams of Professors Dirk Kiesewetter (Business Taxation), Hans-Joachim Lauth (Political Science) and Ralf Schenke (Law) are participating. Among other things, the funding can be used to finance a doctoral position at each professorship. Dirk Kiesewetter is leading the project in a team of three with Professor Lynne Oats from the University of Exeter and Dr Kim-Lee Tuxhorn from the University of Calgary.

Migration and Fiscal Citizenship

The project will compare the three countries and describe the possible influence of migration on fiscal citizenship, i.e. on the way people see themselves as citizens and taxpayers.

Each country has its own tax culture. Immigrants bring their moral concepts, life experience and traditional self-image with them. However, familiar stereotypes and prejudices can quickly lead astray here. Italy, for example, is one of the European countries where corruption and the shadow economy are most widespread. Recent political science studies have shown, however, that the tax morale of Italians is higher than that of Swedes – at least in laboratory experiments.

Surveys start in autumn 2021

Scientists do not know very much about the connection between migration and fiscal citizenship. In recent decades, Germany, the UK and Canada have seen immigration from a wide variety of countries, each with its own culture of government and taxation. How are the attitudes brought with them lived, how do they change in the new environment, how do they influence the self-image of the native population in the new homeland?

In order to clarify this, interviews, surveys and laboratory experiments are also being conducted in the research project. What the design of the studies will be has not yet been decided. “For the time being, we are in the process of collecting existing findings and structuring the planned in-depth interviews, surveys and experiments,” says Dirk Kiesewetter.

Officially, the project will begin on 1 March 2021; the web-based surveys are expected to start in autumn 2021. First results could be available in winter 2023/24.

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