Dr. Jalia Kangave holds a PhD in Law from the University of British Columbia, and has previously served as the Principal of the East African School of Taxation, worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers Uganda as a tax consultant and lectured revenue law and taxation at the Kampala International University. She is now the Capacity Building Manager at ICTD and also leads our Gender and Tax research program. She has conducted research on Uganda’s tax treaties and on taxing High Net Worth Individuals in partnership with the Uganda Revenue Authority, which has received significant attention by leading to reform in policy and practice, bringing in a substantial amount of additional revenue. She also has two lovely little girls whom she spends a significant amount of time with – an experience she says brings her immeasurable joy.
Why are you interested in taxation as an issue?
For me, tax and governance go hand in hand. Though many students in my law class perceived taxation as boring or quite technical, especially as lawyers do not warm up so well to figures, I on the other hand, felt an instant connection and knew immediately that it is what I wanted to build my career in.
What do you find most interesting about your work with the ICTD?
I am working on a project that is researching the potential for taxing High Net Worth Individuals in Uganda. What has been most rewarding is the opportunity to work jointly with officials from the Uganda Revenue Authority. The collaborative approach has allowed me access to resources – both information and people – that would otherwise have been quite difficult, if not impossible, to access. Such an opportunity is quite rare because for many research projects, researchers operate from the outside. What is perhaps even more important is the fact this approach creates a strong foundation for ensuring that research findings move from paper to practice because the revenue authority has a direct stake in it.
Other than this current project, what are the other research areas of interest to which you are most dedicated?
I am interested in the relationship between taxation and governance, specifically the role of taxes in increasing conversations between the state and taxpayers. My previous research, for example, examines how various actors (including civil society organizations, the business community, politicians and masses) engage in tax bargains with the state. Elsewhere, I have also studied the role of international organizations and private investors in informing the tax landscape through the agreements that they sign with developing country governments.
Why are you particularly interested in these issues?
I have always believed that there is an intimate relationship between taxes and the development and protection of human rights. The growing body of literature on taxation and governance helps to demystify the notion that taxation is a technical subject that should be reserved for economists and tax experts. It is useful in the sense that it helps readers relate taxation to human rights in various ways, the most direct being the right to vote which invariably brings with it various social and economic rights.
In your opinion, what role does the ICTD research play in the development policies/discussions in Africa and other developing countries?
ICTD is doing a great job of working closely with revenue authorities and various regional organizations such as the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) through research and capacity building projects. It also works closely with civil society organizations, which are increasingly becoming central to demanding for accountability from government for tax monies. The ICTD working papers are a great resource, which if effectively disseminated, would go a long way not only in supporting domestic resource mobilisation, but also in influencing the manner in which the future generation will interact with taxation. What perhaps needs to be worked on a little more dedicatedly is the establishment of a more direct relationship between the ICTD and ministries or finance and members of parliament since these parties directly influence tax policy.
How can ICTD research be made more relevant and accessible to practitioners and policymakers?
I think it is already quite relevant and timely. As far as accessibility is concerned, the ICTD should engage these actors more in its annual meetings. Second, while ICTD working papers are quite clear and accessible to most readers, policy makers would be better engaged through much shorter write-ups in the form of newsletters. These would have an even greater impact if published during certain times of the year, such as when governments read their annual budgets or around election time.
Jalia speaking to journalists at our Gender and Tax in Africa workshop.
To what extent has doing research for the ICTD helped you grow as a researcher?
By allowing me to engage directly with revenue officials, I have been compelled to think more critically about the practicality of the recommendations that I make. When you work directly with those responsible for implementing the solutions that you propose, you are continuously compelled to test those solutions for their practicability.
What research findings have you come up with that are most surprising to policymakers?
There are findings that are refreshing and are important in defining policy shifts. Two specific ones come to mind. With the work on High Net Worth Individuals, it was refreshing to be reminded that individuals are willing to pay taxes as long as they can draw a connection between the taxes that they pay and the provision of services. This is not an entirely surprising finding. Neither is it new. What is refreshing about it is that it brings once again to the fore the importance of taxation as a tool of governance and the lower costs associated with quasi-voluntary compliance as opposed to recruiting coercive measures. I also conducted some research with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) where we found that citizens – especially women and the elderly in rural areas – would not mind the re-introduction of graduated tax as long as less coercive means were used to collect the money.
See the impact story on the Taxing HNWIs project in Uganda.
See Jalia’s full profile on the Institute of Development Studies website.