We run workshops and short courses on tax and development issues and research methods.
Tax and Development Short Course
This is a four-day short course that we designed and have run in the UK (2015), in Ethiopia (2016) and in Tanzania (2017) in partnership with the African Tax Administration Forum. The course provides participants with an understanding of the main issues in taxation in developing countries. It is designed for a broad, non-technical audience of practitioners and policymakers interested in or working on tax revenue mobilisation.
The course is structured around four full-day sessions that combine knowledge-sharing from tax experts with open discussions amongst participants. The typical day will include a taught session outlining the main issues and conceptual framework for the topic of the day to bring all participants up to speed and set the stage for the discussion. A minimum of two trainers will be available each day to ensure that participants are offered more than just one point of view. The course is highly interactive and participants are asked to take an active role by sharing their experiences. Group discussions will focus on what these experiences mean in the broader context of taxation and development, which helps to consolidate theoretical learning with practical experience. The four sessions cover the following issues:
The role of taxation in development
• Tax revenue bargaining, state building, government accountability, and the social contract between governments and citizens.
• Tax mix in developing countries, global trends in revenue mobilisation, main drivers and constraints to increasing revenues in developing countries.
• Interactions of taxation with international trade and industrial development, and other economic policies.
• Taxation of multinational corporations in developing countries: transfer pricing, base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), tax havens, fiscal incentives.
• Taxation in the extractive industries in natural resource-rich countries
• Current international tax processes led by the OECD: automatic exchange of information, inclusive framework, multilateral instruments, and the BEPS agenda. Participation of developing countries in the international tax landscape and global standard setting.
• Local government financing: intergovernmental transfers, sharing formulas, and local taxation.
• What are the main political and economic constraints to local tax generation? Property taxation: country experiences, potential for local revenue generation, and main challenges.
• Experiences on successful (or not) local revenue generation from developing countries.
The experience of African tax administrations
• Key challenges faced by tax administrations in developing countries: capacity gaps, staff retention, adoption of IT systems, enforcement and compliance, decentralisation.
• Recent experiences in establishing and modernising revenue authorities
• Research to support policy in revenue administrations: how can researchers and practitioners work together to improve tax policy and administration in developing countries?
Research Methods and Dissemination Workshop
This is a workshop aimed at early and mid-career African researchers who would like to strengthen their methodological approach to researching issues on taxation. Applicants need not have a strong research background, with participants including individuals from revenue authorities, ministries of finance, academia and civil society. However, participants are usually required to submit evidence of research in progress, via either a draft paper or detailed research proposal. The workshop covers three main areas:
- Qualitative research designs and methods including interviews, participant observation and archival research
- Strengths and limitations of qualitative research methods
- Research ethics
- Designing surveys and experiments
- Deciding on sample size and stratification
- Analysing data
Publication and Dissemination
- Factors to take into account when preparing for publishing in academic journals or submitting working papers
- Dealing with reviewers’ comments and rejections
- Articulating the significance of the research
- Disseminating research to a wider audience through policy briefs and blogs
All sessions are interactive with opportunities to reflect on the papers submitted by the participants. The ultimate goal of the workshop is to provide practical feedback that can be acted upon by the participants to turn their papers into publishable work.
Tax and Transparency Short Course
This course focuses on the major dimensions of transparency in taxation and raises questions about the meanings and implications of transparency. The course targets a broad, interdisciplinary group of participants involved in tax issues. The issues covered are:
Introduction to taxation and transparency
- What are the existing debates on taxation and transparency?
- What does transparency mean in practice?
- What kind of information is most useful for transparency?
Understanding base erosion and profit shifting as a consequence of lack of transparency
- An examination of how governments and multinational corporations have tacitly cooperated in making BEPS structures possible and examination of the pressures of tax competition that have led to this phenomenon
- How the lack of visibility has contributed to the growth of BEPS transactions over the decades
- The role of country-by-country reporting including its historic development, controversies and criticisms
- The OECD standard on country-by-country reporting in relation to the wider debate
- The emerging public database on country-by-country reporting and the tools being developed to help various users to take advantage of the new transparency
- Whether OECD’s proposals (particularly with respect to the measurement of BEPS in the future) might succeed in mitigating the lack of transparency
- Consideration of whether alternative models of corporate taxation, like the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax, might affect the nexus between tax transparency and policy-making
Transparency and natural resource extraction
- The role of transparency in the negotiation and administration of fiscal deals between developing countries and extractive companies
- A review of some of the efforts by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to promote greater transparency in dealings between governments and extractive companies
- Other initiatives that promise to increase transparency for future progress
Transparency and tax treaties
- The use of tax treaties as the building blocks of the international tax regime
- The processes of treaty negotiation and ratification
- Analyzing mutual agreement procedures and tax treaty arbitration
- Exchange of information provisions of tax treaties (versus other international agreements)
Country practices relating to the coding and analysis of tax return data
- An analysis of how revenue authorities collect and maintain their taxpayer databases
- Difficulties experienced by revenue authorities in monitoring and managing data
- Measures that might be effective in remedying current difficulties
- The usefulness of tools such as the Tax Administration Diagnostic and Assessment Tool (TADAT)
Critically analysing the burden of taxation
- An analysis of corporate tax rates in Ethiopia and their impact on small, medium and large firms
- Underpayment of taxes by wealthy individuals: Case study of Uganda
- The burden of taxes on poor people: Case studies of Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo
We also deliver tailored training to our partners, either over the course of joint research projects or upon request. For example, through our collaboration with the Rwanda Revenue Authority, our team delivered workshops on proposal writing, experimental design, and the use of statistical software (STATA). We have also delivered a “learning journey” on fiscal decentralisation for the Swiss Development Cooperation and a six-day training programme to the staff of African ActionAid offices.