A Study of the UK Tax Credits system: Transforming Citizens into Self-responsible individuals at the Frontline of Tax Administration

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

This chapter contributes to conceptual and empirical understandings of tax
administration in tax and public sector accounting research by analysing how
accounting technologies enact relational power during encounters between
tax authority (HMRC) workers and citizens. It examines the administration of
the UK tax credits system, which was designed to alleviate financial hardship
for low-income families and workers, reduce child poverty and stimulate labour
engagement. However, in practice its accounting technologies seem to be illequipped to engage with the lived reality of its target public and significantly
worsen financial hardship of some claimants. This chapter draws on the work
of Miller and Rose (2008) to view accounting as a technology of governance
and Bartels & Turnbull (2019) to understand the relational processes of frontline
encounters and their implications on individuals’ lives. It applies ethnographic
and grounded theory methods to explore the experiences and encounters
of tax credits claimants and HMRC workers to show how accounting influences the work practices of HMRC workers, through relational processes, ultimately (re)shaping claimants’ subjectivities and financial outcomes. Findings
suggest that some tax credits claimants are not financially better off and are
perversely held responsible and accountable for overpayment problems, facilitated through their encounters with accounting technologies. This chapter
finds that the accounting technologies of the tax credits system dehumanise
encounters between HMRC workers and claimants, transforming claimants into
self-responsible individuals. This chapter argues that the tax credits system, as
an accounting technology of governance, is not a welfare programme, but is
a governing system which shifts responsibility onto claimants, making them self-responsible for their success in life. These findings highlight how the tax
credits system underlies the targeting of tax credits claimants and sustains a
neo-liberal discourse of private responsibility for financial hardship through its
accounting technologies and everyday relational practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Issues in Taxation Research
EditorsAdrian Sawyer, Lynne Oats, David Massey
Place of PublicationBirmingham
PublisherFiscal Publications
Chapter6
Pages107-134
Number of pages27
Volume4
ISBN (Print)9781906201630
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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