Surveillance and Self-Assessment: Foucault and Latour in the Australian Taxation System

J Deem, K van Doore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Building on previous research, this article explores possible avenues for reform by approaching the Australian Taxation Office’s powers through Foucault and Latour’s respective theories of surveillance and disciplinary power. It discusses the problem of making the taxpayer ‘visible’, which was recently
placed under scrutiny by the Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue’s inquiry. First, it considers the body of the taxpayer, and how the micro-physics of power in taxation administration creates an identity in the person obliged to pay tax. Second, it turns to Foucault’s idea of panopticism, and Latour’s alternate oligopticism, discussing the ways in which the ATO’s auditing powers can be understood as systems of surveillance and explaining how the self-assessment system of tax administration is not only possible, but goes beyond what Foucault himself would have ever imagined. Finally, having demonstrated the links between the ATO’s functioning and surveillance theories, this article explores how this new understanding can be used to guide substantive reform, primarily suggesting that compliance can be increased by helping taxpayers re-see the tower of the Panopticon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-151
Number of pages26
JournalCurtin Law and Taxation Review
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Surveillance and Self-Assessment: Foucault and Latour in the Australian Taxation System'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this