Power Dynamics and Power Asymmetries in the Interaction Between Street-Level Inspectors and Inspectees

  • Nissim CohenEmail author
  • Sagi Gershgoren


How do power dynamics and power asymmetries in the interaction between street-level inspectors and inspectees influence the value of equality in society? To investigate this question, we analyze the interactions between self-employed individuals and tax officials. We point out the problems that arise when the street-level bureaucrats’ incentives clash with the interests of the public. Such structural conditions may encourage them to intimidate ordinary citizens during tax audits and use uncertainty and asymmetric information for their own benefit. We show that given the fact that most taxpayers dislike risk, the uncertainty regarding the outcome of the assessment process increases the tax officials’ power. Once the balance of power moves to their side, the outcomes suit the inspectors’ interests. We demonstrate that such practices lead to social injustice and an increase in the gaps between income groups. We then offer suggestions at the individual and organizational level for ameliorating these problems.


Street-level bureaucracy Tax assessment Power dynamics Information asymmetry Set of incentives 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Administration and PolicyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Division of Management and EconomicsOpen UniversityRa’ananaIsrael

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