No taxation without informational foundation
On the role of legibility in tax state development
This article combines cross-national statistical analysis and in-depth historical case studies of Argentina and Chile to explore the relationship between two crucial dimensions of state capacity. We show that information capacity contributes to the development of fiscal capacity.
When states have accurate information about their subject populations, territories, and economies, they are more effective at mobilizing revenues. In developing this argument this article makes three broader contributions. First, while existing scholarship either treats distinct dimensions of state capacity as separate entities, or simply assumes that they complement each other, our findings urge scholars to treat state development as sequential and to further investigate how multiple dimensions of state capacity are interrelated.
Second, the study suggests a broader underlying set of mechanisms – economies of scope – which connect these dimensions, and explores them in the specific context of how information capacity facilitates fiscal capacity. Third, we join the scholarship on the importance of societal compliance in the creation of the fiscal state, but with a focus on elite cooperation with the state's information collection efforts, which we show to be crucial to tax state development.