Neopatrimonialism is a concept that has predominately been applied to describe governance in sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, however, it has also been used to describe governance in states from other world regions. However, scholars have rarely attempted systematically to compare neopatrimonial rule in different regional settings. This paper aims to narrow this gap by examining the effect of neopatrimonialism on the tax administration as a core state function in six countries from three different world regions: Argentina, Venezuela, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kenya and Zambia. We conclude that neopatrimonialism is a valuable concept for comparative area studies with the potential to foster dialogue on the ‘state in operation’ across the regional divide. Nevertheless, several indicators are more valid for some world regions than for others. We find that there is no systematic relationship between neopatrimonial trajectories and the strength of tax administration. Individual actor decisions influence the outcomes of neopatrimonialism substantially.