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Author:Ida Hughes Tidlund (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
In Åland, tax rules are one of three pillars in the autonomy’s constitutional foundation. The customs border determines trade, purchases, finances and employment. But pragmatic approaches to the rules are common, and breaches committed out of necessity rather than disobedience.
Paper long abstract:
“If you follow the rules strictly, there’s a limit. But… let me tell you, people stuff their cars so full. They declare nothing.” This slightly revised quote was said by an interview participant living in the Åland islands, regarded as a third territory with respect to indirect taxation in the European Union. For Ålanders, tax rules immerse daily activities. In an ongoing PhD project about bordering processes around the Åland islands, the customs border plays a crucial role as it influences so many societal levels; to a large degree, it finances the region’s vibrant economy, it is a repeated topic in discussions between the state and the autonomy, and it requires alert and active navigations by individuals shopping online or anywhere outside the islands. The many breakings of the tax rules are not due to defiance or spite, but that the system is so intricate that even the board of one of Åland’s largest business has been charged for tax fraud. In the presentation, I aim to illuminate how these hurdles of the tax border have come to create a parallel system in which individuals and authorities give one another more leeway in tacit consent, and the many navigations performed by people when trying to figure out whether a specific item falls under the legal, or the unwritten local order.
Tax matters: are rules made to be broken?