Taxation, Property Rights and the Social Contract in Lagos

Authors: Tom Goodfellow & Olly Owen
Publisher: ICTD
Date: January 2018

Abstract:

ICTD Working Paper 73

Major taxation reforms over the past decade have been interpreted as facilitating the transformation of Lagos: once widely seen as a city in permanent crisis, it is now seen by some observers as a beacon of megacity development. Most academic attention has focused on personal income taxation, which comprises the lion’s share of government revenue in Lagos. Less attention has been devoted to another crucial innovation over the same period – the Land Use Charge – and other forms of tax related to property. In this paper we show how the story of property taxation in Lagos since the early 2000s is important, not only in terms of the enormous increase in collection, but because of the ways in which property-related taxes have helped to support personal income taxation and to solidify the fiscal contract between state and society more broadly. Moreover, we explore how the payment of the Land Use Charge is interpreted by taxpayers, and how it is used alongside a plethora of other documents and processes to try and shore up fragile claims to property. In a context of intensely insecure tenure, particularly but not exclusively at the lower ends of the socio-economic spectrum, both taxation and other kinds of formal and informal payments play a key role in efforts to incrementally build and solidify property rights.