Collecting taxes, policing and administering justice are among the most basic functions of government. Historically, states were in large part formed around interactions between government agencies and subjects/citizens over these issues (Levi 1988; Tilly 1990). It is around the same issues that public officials have the greatest licence to exercise coercion against citizens. There are powerful sensitivities about the character of the agencies that perform these functions, and strong reactions against any hint of commercialism in their governing principles. ‘Tax-farmer’, like ‘mercenary’, has long been a term of disparagement (Stella 1993). It is then no surprise that suspicion has attended the rapid spread of (semi-) autonomous revenue agencies (ARAs) in Latin America and in Anglophone Africa over the past two decades. The task of collecting taxes has been taken from ministries of finance and given to revenue agencies that have some autonomy from central executive power and from rules governing public service recruitment, remuneration and procedures. In consequence, tax collectors, who are anyway often perceived as corrupt and privileged, generally have achieved very substantial increases in their formal salaries. Popular reaction has sometimes been adverse. President Museveni was probably speaking for many Ugandans when, in 2000, he described the Uganda Revenue Authority as a ‘den of thieves’ (Therkildsen 2004, p. 82).