This article investigates how Istrian business owners challenged the Croatian government's motivation for and enforcement of fiskalizacija, an automated VAT reform adopted in 2013 as Croatia prepared for EU membership. Fiskalizacija threatened local economic agency and sowed distrust in government. The analysis of this tax reform demonstrates how Istrians envisage their economic agency, rights, and responsibilities. I argue that it is not just the construction of fiscal systems, but how such a system is projected onto society that is fundamental to the development of state-society relations. The way in which a tax reform is put into effect, including the enforcement practices of state agents, shapes how citizens perceive the social contract to be constituted by fiscal regimes.