UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Complying in the ‘right’ way: Competing fiscal rationales in highland Bolivia

06 October 2022, 4:30 pm–6:00 pm

A cactus in harsh conditions

The IGP welcomes Dr Miranda Sheild Johansson (Anthropology, UCL) for a Director's Seminar

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Institute for Global Prosperity – Institute for Global Prosperity


Room W3.01
Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
United Kingdom

Complying in the ‘right’ way: Competing fiscal rationales in highland Bolivia and the problem of ‘compliance’ in tax studies

The compliance/evasion dichotomy is a key organizing logic of tax studies, a logic that also involves the assumption that compliance is something desirable and a societal good. From this perspective, the term ‘compliance’ is not just about acquiescence, or paying what one ‘owes’, but also signals and builds consent for a social contract. This paper on fiscal expansion in Bolivia explores a government’s efforts to get people to pay their taxes for the ‘right’ reasons, and, in turn, a population’s response to these efforts and their own rationale regarding their acts of fiscal compliance and non-compliance. I trace how the divergent meanings and values of compliance was generated from two very different historical and philosophical trajectories, thereby illustrating how any employment of the concept ‘compliance’ is context-specific and political. I suggest that the use of compliance in tax scholarship hinders nuanced understandings of tax behaviour as well as the politics of tax systems.

The speaker
Miranda Sheild Johansson is a Social Anthropologist at UCL Anthropology, London. She is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and holds a PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics. Her current project, ‘The Sociality of Tax: A Multiperspective Study of Fiscal Relations’ investigates fiscal regimes in the UK, Sweden, and Bolivia in an anthropological fashion, exploring the types of social relations that paying and not paying taxes produce. Key areas of focus in Miranda’s work on the anthropology of tax include: indigenous perspectives on tax, decolonising tax, statecraft in Latin America, the relationship between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ money flows, fiscal exchange logics, and the social contract. She has worked as a Teaching Fellow in the Anthropology department at UCL and in 2016 she was awarded the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. Miranda is the author of the Tax entry in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology and co-editor of the volume ‘Anthropology of Tax: Ethnographies of Fiscal Relations’ (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

Part of the 2022 Autumn Series of Soundbites and Director's Seminars - Entrepreneurship and Prosperity in Extreme Contexts