The „Suisse Secrets“ show it just like the „Paradise“ and the „Panama Papers“: dishonest tax payment is increasingly perceived as a problem in the public consciousness and is scandalised. Because taxes could help to distribute the costs of the current Covid, Ukraine and climate crises fairly across society and prevent a further widening of the social gap - if everyone paid their taxes, if tax morals were not so bad. But what is tax morality?

In the project, tax morality is understood as the norms of tax paying that have the goal of preventing deviant behaviour by individuals and that have to be renegotiated again and again. Accordingly, the project examines the discourses around honest tax paying between the Second World War and the 1980s, in the three sample countries of West Germany, Spain and the USA. Who spoke out on the issue and how, and what interests did those involved pursue? How were the norms of taxpaying, i.e. tax morality, renegotiated again and again? What narratives of taxpaying developed under very different economic, political and cultural conditions? On what did it depend whether a narrative that explained tax evasion or avoidance as the citizen's self-defence against completely excessive state demands could prevail in the public discussion - or one that portrayed tax evaders as criminals who endangered the common good?

Answers to the historian's questions can be found in a wide variety of sources, from newspaper articles to television discussion panels, from the statement of a church representative to a party programme, from an economic model to a lecture by a lobbyist, from teaching material on tax education to a tax guidebook. How did the norms of taxation develop in public discourse in the early Federal Republic, in Spain under Franco and after the Transición to democracy, in the USA during the Cold War? The historical understanding of the development is indispensable for the analysis of current challenges in the field of tax morality.


The project is funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) as part of the Heisenberg Programme from 2018-2024.