Dr Lotta Björklund Larsen
Dr Lotta Björklund Larsen is Research Fellow at University of Exeter Business School. She is Associate Professor, holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from Stockholm University and a BSc in Economics. Prior to her academic engagements, she worked for 14 years in the financial software industry as a manager and consultant. She has been at the international forefront of research into taxation from an anthropological perspective, focusing on people’s relation to state, market and their fellow citizens.
Lotta’s research encompasses most of the tax arena, engaging with all its various players. Among other engagements she conducted three years of ethnographic fieldwork within the Swedish tax administration, has engaged with both large corporations (exploring their cooperation with tax authorities) and small entrepreneurs (in the country of Georgia), as well as with Swedish citizens in their moral deliberations on their willingness to pay taxes. She is currently co-investigator on the ESRC-funded research project Fiscal Citizenship in Migrant Societies.
Lotta’s research on taxation is broadly based in economic, legal, and moral anthropology. Through her ethnographic research, she has examined the knowledge that shapes tax compliance; the making of a tax gap; cooperative compliance projects engaging MNEs and tax administrations; tax lotteries; the informal economy; and the digitization of taxation.
Recent books include: A Fair Share of Tax: A Fiscal Anthropology of Contemporary Sweden (2018, Palgrave macmillan open access) and Shaping Taxpayers. Values in action at the Swedish Tax Agency (2017, Berghahn Books). A discussion about the latter is available as a podcast in New Books Network. She has published many articles in, among others, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Journal of Cultural Economy, Big Data & Society, Focaal, Journal of legal Anthropology, JOTA and has recently co-authored an entry on Taxation in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology.
Lotta’s research covers different issues in the tax arena. The starting point is that taxation, like most other economic exchanges, creates relations. “Why we pay tax, why we avoid doing so and how we are made to pay tax” are overarching questions that bring to the fore people’s relationship to state, market and fellow citizens.
Lotta’s dissertation is based on ethnographic interviews addressing how purchases of informal work in Sweden can be justified. She then conducted unrelated and up-close fieldwork at the Swedish Tax Agency for three years, resulting in a vivid ethnographic account of a modern bureaucracy. The monograph Shaping Taxpayers. Values in action at the Swedish Tax Agency (2017 Berghahn Books) reveals how diverse knowledge claims compete, in order to shape the taxpayer: legal, economic, cultural. In so doing, the book seeks to understand the values Swedes hold on economic matters and how Swedes themselves, in turn, shape the Agency. Thus there are lessons to be learned for increasing tax compliance, as Swedes pay amongst the highest income taxes in the world, yet this Agency currently earns the high esteem of the nation’s governmental agencies. A discussion about the book is available as a podcast in New Books Network.
In addition to this, Lotta recently led the largest work package within the Horizon2020 funded project FairTax, where the contributors made a qualitative comparison of cooperative compliance projects between large corporations and tax administrations in the Nordic countries. She has also conducted fieldwork into a tax lottery in the republic of Georgia collaborating with local researchers in a multimethodological project.
Lotta takes a keen interest in methodologies and has, through her research, become convinced of the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to the tax field. The methodological assumptions for addressing taxation issues in different scientific disciplines, and how each shapes compliance, is thus of particular interest to her.
In the project Fiscal Citizenship in Migrant Societies, Lotta coordinates the qualitive data collection.
At Linköping University, she supervises Nimmo Osman Elmi, who will defend her dissertation, Digitalizing Tax, the Kenyan Way, September 24