Subnational and Property Tax

While policymakers and academics have increasingly given attention to national-level taxation in developing countries, local government taxation has remained relatively neglected. Yet local taxes have broad and direct impacts on citizens in low-income countries and are likely to have important implications for small business growth, local service delivery, equity, governance, and accountability. Property taxes are of particular interest, as they have significant revenue potential and are non-distortionary, progressive and easily linked to public services – but are nonetheless severely underused in almost all developing countries. Our research aims to build a more extensive body of empirical research on the potential reform of subnational and property taxes, with an emphasis on political economy challenges and cross-country comparison.

Publications:

September 2018
Does Fiscal Decentralization Enhance Citizens’ Access to Public Services and Reduce Poverty? Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire Municipalities in a Conflict Setting
by Tiangboho Sanogo

Fiscal decentralization has been implemented in many countries with an explicit objective of improving public service delivery and reduce poverty. However, its effectiveness in achieving these goals are much debated and the empirical literature has mostly focused on poverty reduction using cross-country analysis. This paper analyses whether, and how, the devolution of revenue raising responsibilities…

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Property owners’ knowledge and attitudes towards property taxation in Tanzania
by Merima Ali, Odd-Helge Fjeldstad & Lucas Katera

Property taxation (PT) is high on the political agenda in Tanzania and considered a cornerstone of the Government’s efforts to strengthen broad based direct taxation. Because it is visible to taxpayers, and in principle linked to improved local services, PT holds a unique potential to act as a foundation for bargaining between taxpayers and governments…

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True Values
by Nyah Zebong & Wilson Prichard

Where property markets are still developing, there is little sales data on which to base valuations. As a result, it is more difficult to assign accurate property valuations, there is greater scope for abuse, and these valuations are more likely to be contested.In peri-urban or rural areas where property markets are almost non-existent, a value…

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Practical Guidance Note: Training Manual for Implementing Property Tax Reform with a Points-Based Valuation
by Paul Fish

This paper shares the author’s on-going experience in supporting the implementation of property tax reform programmes in smaller urban centres and rural districts in Sub-Saharan Africa, covering more than 12 local governments over a period of more than 10 years. The paper presents a generic training manual, designed to offer practical guidance for property tax…

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Taxing Africa: Coercion, Reform and Development
by Mick Moore, Wilson Prichard & Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Taxing Africa is an accessible and comprehensive introduction to the crucial debates around taxation and development in Africa. Taxation has been seen as the domain of charisma-free accountants, lawyers and number crunchers – an unlikely place to encounter big societal questions about democracy, equity or good governance. Yet it is exactly these issues that pervade…

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March 2018
Subnational Value Added Tax in Ethiopia and Implications for States’ Fiscal Capacity
by Wollela Abehodie Yesegat & Richard Krever

In most federal systems, state governments are funded through a combination of direct fiscal transfers from the central government, and the revenue they collect directly from locally adopted taxes. Ethiopia is a federal polity, but follows a slightly different path in the case of its most important tax source – value added tax (VAT). As…

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Property Taxation in Kampala, Uganda: An Analytic Case Study on a Successful Reform
by Mihaly Kopanyi & Riël Franzsen

Kampala’s revenue reforms offer lessons that large and powerful cities should not wait for national actions, rather, they can do a lot “in-house” to improve tax administration, coverage, and collection. Against the rather poor performance of the property tax in Uganda, Kampala’s reforms have resulted in unprecedented increase of own-source revenues generally and the property…

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Subnational Value Added Tax in Ethiopia and Implications for States’ Fiscal Capacity
by Wollela Abehodie Yesegat & Richard Krever

Fiscal federalism comprises the distribution of functions and tax revenue sources between central and regional governments. Fiscal federalism issues in respect of value added tax (VAT) do not arise in unitary states; in federal states questions arise as to which level of government should levy the tax, and how revenue should be divided between central…

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February 2018
Policy implementation under stress: Central-local government relations in property tax collection in Tanzania
by Odd-Helge Fjeldstad, Merima Ali & Lucas Katera

Inter-organisational cooperation in revenue collection has received limited attention in the tax administration literature. Recent experiences from Tanzania offer a unique opportunity to examine opportunities and challenges facing such cooperation between central and local government agencies in a developing country context. The administration of property taxes (PT) in Tanzania has been oscillating between decentralised and…

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January 2018
Taxation, Property Rights and the Social Contract in Lagos
by Tom Goodfellow & Olly Owen

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…

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Blogs:

August 2018
by Kas Sempere

What does tax justice mean at the local level, and how can the experiences of informal market traders be linked with broader international campaigns? This blog draws out insights from ActionAid’s experience of incorporating the demands of market traders in Nigeria into its international tax justice campaign.

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July 2018
by Bukola Bolarinwa, Olly Owen & Tom Goodfellow

Since the turn of the millennium, the Lagos State government has made no secret of its ambitious plans to become an African ‘world class’ city, realizing its vision through borrowing as well as increased tax revenues. With 70% of the State being made up of water, land is a scarce and precious resource, so much…

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June 2018
by Nyah Zebong

The APTI in Madagascar Much attention has been paid recently to improving local government finances in Madagascar, and enhancing the participation of local governments in mobilising revenue. In October 2017 the Malagasy government invited the African Property Tax Initiative (APTI) to visit Antananarivo to explore ways in which APTI could support the authorities to reform…

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