Ethiopian Tax Research Network (ETRN)

Image credit: © ICTD, Rhiannon McCluskey

Discover the new ETRN Library here:   

The ETRN is a new initiative of the ICTD funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and hosted at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute. The goal of the ETRN is to support the generation and exchange of tax knowledge in Ethiopia by:

1. Providing a platform for knowledge exchange and for evidence-based debate on tax issues, through seminars and conferences.
2. Facilitating coordination and complementarity between existing projects and actors active in the area of tax in Ethiopia.
3. Providing funding for high quality, policy-relevant research mainly or wholly led and undertaken by Ethiopian researchers.

ETRN stakeholders include tax practitioners and researchers from both Ethiopian and international organisations. It is concerned with all topics related to taxation, ranging from tax policy to tax administration, and from academic papers to practical studies.

The ETRN was officially launched on the 20th of September 2017 at the Capital Hotel in Addis Ababa, with over 100 attendees.The event began with introductory remarks by Mezgebu Amha, Director for Macroeconomy Policy and Management at the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, followed by a keynote by Professor Mick Moore, CEO of the International Centre for Tax and Development. The afternoon featured research and policy panels, with a variety of presentations of work done on taxation and development in Ethiopia. Find the launch programme here.

Governance: The ETRN is governed by a Management Committee, a consultative body with the responsibility to ensure the independence, relevance, and quality of the work undertaken by the Network. The Committee is composed of one representative from each of the following institutions: the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC), the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA), the Addis Ababa University (AAU), the Ethiopian Civil Service University (ECSU), and the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI), as well as the Executive Secretary and the Research Director of the ETRN.


In October 2017 the ETRN issued a call for research proposals. After reviewing the many proposals submitted, the Management Committee chose six research projects to fund, which can be found at the bottom of this page.

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News and Events:

January 2019
Call for Research Proposals: Ethiopian Tax Research Network

The ICTD is calling for research proposals in relation to the Ethiopian Tax Research Network (ETRN). The ETRN is an initiative of the ICTD funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and hosted at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute. The ETRN is a network of Ethiopian researchers and practitioners, with the main objective of supporting…

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Are There Any Reliable Data on Wages in Low-Income Countries? Observations and Lessons from Ethiopia
by Andualem Mengistu & Giulia Mascagni

Administrative data from tax returns have recently become available in many African countries thanks to the modernisation of revenue authorities and the digitisation of tax records. The availability of these data has opened new opportunities for policy-relevant analysis of real-life taxpaying behaviour. However, despite the increased availability of these data, a gap remains in many…

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Can ICTs Increase Tax? Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia
by Giulia Mascagni , Andualem T. Mengistu & Firew B. Woldeyes

This ICTD Research in Brief is a two-page summary of ICTD Working Paper 82 by Giulia Mascagni, Andualem T. Mengistu, and Firew B. Woldeyes. This series is aimed at policy makers, tax administrators, fellow researchers and anyone else who is big on interest and short on time. African tax administrations have experienced rapid modernisation in…

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July 2018
Can ICTs Increase Tax? Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia
by Giulia Mascagni, Andualem T. Mengistu & Firew B. Woldeyes

The widespread introduction of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and digitalised data management systems is one of the most important developments among African tax administrations in recent years. However, very little evidence is available on their effectiveness in practice, and how taxpayers respond to these changes. This paper starts filling this gap by reporting three…

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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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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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October 2017
Urban Fortunes and Skeleton Cityscapes: Real Estate and Late Urbanization in Kigali and Addis Ababa
by Tom Goodfellow

In many parts of Africa, societies that remain primarily rural are experiencing accelerated urban growth and highly visible booms in property development. In the absence of significant industrialization, investment is pouring directly into what Lefebvre and Harvey characterized as the ‘secondary circuit’ of capital. Debates about the drivers of investment in real estate are longstanding…

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March 2017
The Fiscal Effects of Aid in Ethiopia: Evidence from CVAR Applications
by Giulia Mascagni & Emilija Timmis

This article explores the fiscal effects of aid in Ethiopia using the Cointegrated Vector Auto-Regressive (CVAR) methodology to model complex long-run and short-run dynamics. We use national data for 1961–2010, including a measure of aid capturing flows through the budget as measured by the recipient. The data suggests three main conclusions on the long-run equilibrium….

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December 2016
Linking taxation and social protection: Evidence on redistribution and poverty reduction in Ethiopia
by Kalle Hirvonen, Giulia Mascagni & Keetie Roelen

The reduction of poverty, and more recently inequality, are pressing concerns in many low- and middle-income countries, not in the least as a result of the Sustainable Development Goals committing countries to significant improvements by 2030. Redistribution is important for reaching these goals, and is shaped by countries’ tax and welfare systems. Despite redistribution resulting…

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The Corporate Tax Burden in Ethiopia: Evidence from Anonymised Tax Returns
by Giulia Mascagni & Andualem Mengistu

This ICTD Research in Brief is a two-page summary of ICTD Working Paper 48 by Giulia Mascagni and Andualem Mengistu. This series is aimed at policy makers, tax administrators, fellow researchers and anyone else who is big on interest and short on time. This paper looks at the challenge faced by many low income countries of increasing tax revenue dramatically while minimising distortions…

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Aid and Taxation in Ethiopia
by Giulia Mascagni

The relation between aid and taxation is largely contested in the literature. On the one hand, aid may act as a substitute for tax revenue and thus have a crowding-out effect. It can also have a detrimental effect on domestic tax institutions. On the other hand, it can promote and support tax mobilisation through policy…

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July 2016
by Rhiannon McCluskey

Last week, the Institute of Development Studies hosted its 50th anniversary conference titled “States, Markets and Society“.  As part of the conference, the ICTD hosted a panel on the theme of taxation and fiscal contracts in Africa. The panellists were ICTD’s research directors Wilson Prichard and Giulia Mascagni, our Capacity Building Manager Jalia Kangave, and…

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Research Projects:

Current Project
Where the Gap Lay: Presumptive Income Tax Assessment for Micro and Small Enterprises, A Case for Addis Ababa City Administration
Project Researchers: Amanuel Mekonnen, Addis Ababa University & Endalkachew Mulugeta, Addis Ababa University

The study focuses on assessment of presumptive taxation of small and micro enterprise in Addis Ababa City Administration. It will evaluate the standard assessment processes and procedures, the criteria used for assessment, and the equity of taxes imposed by the tax authority. Data will be collected through surveys and interviews.

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Current Project
Perceptions of Value Added Tax Compliance in Ethiopia: Filing and Invoicing
Project Researchers: Gebregziabher G. Tsadik, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA), Assefa Gezae, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) & Worku Tamire, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA)

VAT, as a consumption tax, can contribute huge amount of tax revenue. But it does not play this role in generating tax revenue in Ethiopia because of low VAT compliance. This can be due to inadequate commitment and capability of tax officials, weak enforcement, low awareness of tax payers, limited application of laws and complex procedures. Therefore, the researchers will use primary and secondary data to assess issues and challenges that affect VAT compliance in three federal tax branches. They will use descriptive method of analysis and based on the findings they will recommend mitigation strategy to enhance VAT compliance.

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Current Project
Practices, challenges and prospects of public sector taxation in Ethiopia
Project Researchers: Sebsbie Fekade , Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA), Asnakech Lake , Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) & Ronald Waiswa, Uganda Revenue Authority

Ethiopia’s revenue collection performance remains low at 12.5% of GDP compared to the average for sub-Saharan Africa (17%). This is partly attributable to the failure of government entities to support tax administration. The public sector is vital in terms of withholding VAT payments and income taxes. However, these institutions experience little pressure from the tax administration to meet their tax obligations. This research will investigate public sector taxation in Ethiopia, employing data matching, comparative studies, textual analysis and interviews.

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Current Project
An Assessment of ERCA’s Taxpayer Education Programs and How They Can be Improved
Project Researchers: Azime A. Hassen, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA)

This study aims to evaluate the taxpayer education programs used to aware and educate on the tax knowledge. It may be difficult to shift tax culture without education at an early age or without citizens voluntarily embracing tax payment. So we would like to examine the content and design of mass media in the TV, Radio, national newspapers and training used by the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) to increase awareness, tax filing, and, ultimately, tax compliance. Currently, it consists of education programs using Gebi Lelimat Radio program, Gebi Lelimat TV program, Training and newspaper. The unit of analysis is SMEs which is Category C taxpayers located in the Addis Ababa. The type of data will be the primary and secondary data obtained through a survey. Samples may obtain from a population sample that will be with a multistage method and with random sampling technique.

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Current Project
The Implementation of Presumptive Tax in Ethiopia
Project Researchers: Abis Getachew, Ethiopian Development Research Institute

This study is highly motivated by the recently adjusted rate of the daily presumed income on businesses is the cause of the dispute between the business community and the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA). The main goal of introducing the presumptive tax system is to provide tax payers with equitable, efficient, quality services and bringing more firms to the tax net by promoting tax payers to voluntarily discharge their tax obligations.However, when the daily presumed income is estimated the question of fairness and just arisen that led the authority and the business to dispute. The authority claims that the turnover declared by the category “C” businesses is “understated” while the businesses argue that the presumed daily income by the authority is “overstated”. Hence, the researcher is highly interested to study the implementation process of the estimation of the daily income that caused the dispute. In studying the implementation process the case of other African countries will also be reviewed so that Ethiopia can learn from these countries in the region.

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Current Project
Ethiopia’s Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties: A Quest for Policy Guide
Project Researchers: Tesafay Assefa

Ethiopia has undertaken various economic and foreign relations policy reforms especially after the country’s economic shift towards free market economic system since 1991. As part of such multidimensional reforms, the country has undertaken serious of tax reforms especially since 2002. This project aims at examining the policy back up of double taxation treaties in Ethiopia. In dealing with the main issue of the work, data will be collected from the main tax governing organs in Ethiopia, via data collection techniques like interviews, questionnaires, observations and document reviews.

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