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Steven Sampson

Steven Sampson

Professor emeritus

Steven Sampson

Civic duty, Stasi society or Petty revenge: citizen reporting on tax cheating neighbors in Sweden and Denmark


  • Steven Sampson

Summary, in English

Both Sweden and Denmark have experienced an increase in the number of people informing the social and tax authorities that their neighbors are cheating on social benefits or earning illegal incomes through ‘black work’ (‘angiveri’ om social bedrageri eller sort arbejde). At the same time, many municipalities and the social and tax authorities have established hot lines or web portals where citizens can report cheating activity by their neighbors and even upload photos, also anonymously. Danish and Swedish media have commented on this tendency toward increased neighbor surveillance with headlines such as ‘Turn in Your Neighbor’ (‘Ange din granna!’) or ‘We Inform on Each Other like Never Before’ (‘Vi angiver hinanden som aldrig før!’). Indeed, the number of complaints in Denmark has increased by 30% in just one year, while the Swedish social authorities received 10,000 complaints. This paper presents an overview of this ‘informer’ tendency: who informs on whom about what? How much of these complaints are legitimate, and how many ill-founded? It also discusses the media debate which interprets this tendency as a step toward a surveillance society (Stasi-society), while the public authorities are now asking the citizens to help catch cheaters. This new practice, where citizens are all policing each other challenges the Nordic model of social solidarity (sammenhængskraft) and trust in authorities. Is informing on your cheating neighbour a civic duty, or just petty revenge in a time of crisis?


  • Social Anthropology

Publishing year






Document type

Conference paper


  • Social Anthropology


  • social anthropology
  • tax cheating
  • benefit fraud
  • welfare
  • Nordic model
  • social ethics
  • tax compliance
  • fiscal anthropology
  • fiscal sociology

Conference name

Conference on Fiscal Sociology and the State

Conference date