On September 24-25th, the World Bank held its second annual tax conference on the topic of taxing personal income and wealth in developing countries. The conference featured leading academics and practitioners from different regions and invited both to discuss innovative research ideas with high policy relevance.

A major theme of the conference was property taxation. Our CEO Dr Wilson Prichard presented the ICTD’s efforts in this field – through the African Property Tax Initiative – to research and support more effective approaches to property tax reform. These efforts are best illustrated by the case of Freetown, Sierra Leone, which implemented a new property tax system in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new system has the potential to increase revenue five-fold, while dramatically improving equity and prioritising simplicity, transparency and fairness in its implementation.

Another key focus of the conference was taxing the incomes of wealthy individuals, something Dr Prichard has argued should be prioritised as part of the response to the pandemic, as well as for building back better afterwards. Two of our close collaborators, Dr Jalia Kangave and Ronald Waiswa presented a case study of the Uganda Revenue Authority’s approach to taxing high net worth individuals. Jalia also recently investigated the tax compliance of wealthy individuals in Rwanda in partnership with the Rwanda Revenue Authority. See the 2-page research summary here.

The conference also featured a panel on how civil society can contribute to tax debates and shape tax policy, a growing theme of work at the ICTD. Civil society organisations have an important role to play in achieving fairer tax systems, particularly by building coalitions to overcome political barriers, as discussed in this joint piece with the International Budget Partnership. Given the growing inequities caused by the current crisis, understanding how civil society can help achieve more equitable and accountable tax systems is more important than ever, as our Research Fellow Vanessa van den Boogaard outlines in her blog.

Thank you to the World Bank and its partner organisers for the the chance to participate in this conference, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate on researching and engaging with these important issues in the future.