Growing the Productivity of Government Services

Growing the Productivity of Government Services

Patrick Dunleavy and Leandro Carrera

Productivity is essentially the ratio of an organization’s outputs divided by its inputs. For many years it was treated as always being static in government agencies. In fact productivity in government services should be rising rapidly as a result of digital changes and new management approaches, and it has done so in some agencies. However, Dunleavy and Carrera show for the first time how complex are the factors affecting productivity growth in government organizations – especially management practices, use of IT, organizational culture, strategic mis-decisions and political and policy churn.

Chapter 4: Growing productivity gradually – tax services

Patrick Dunleavy and Leandro Carrera

Subjects: economics and finance, public finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Tax- raising departments and agencies fulfil a unique role in any national or federal government by generating the inflow of financial resources upon which the work of every other department and policy sector depends (Osborne, 2002). So, maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of tax- raising agencies has been a high priority for all liberal democratic governments for many decades. Yet taxation also essentially involves the state in directly requisitioning resources from firms, individuals and consumers, in what seems to most citizens and businesses to be an overtly coercive mode. Two key implications have followed for the operations of tax departments. On the one hand, requisitioning creates strong pressures for tax law to be absolutely clear- cut, and for its implementation to be comprehensive, strongly equitable (perhaps even rigid), and as exact (near flawless) in implementation as is achievable. On the other hand, there are also strong political and social limits upon exactly how vigorous or fine- grained the efforts made towards collecting tax can be, constraints that often shape tax departments’ ability to develop their own productivity.

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