Working Paper 106

Nil-filing refers to taxpayers who report zero on all fields of their tax declaration. It is a largely ignored phenomenon in the tax literature, despite being well known to tax administrators. There is almost no evidence on the characteristics of nil-filers and the reasons for their apparently puzzling behaviour. This paper sheds light on this issue in Rwanda, using a descriptive analysis of administrative data, a randomised controlled trial (RCT), and qualitative interviews with taxpayers and tax officials. We argue that evasion is part of the explanation for nil-filing, but it seems to play a relatively small role. Instead, a major reason for nil-filing lies at the interaction between aggressive recruitment campaigns by the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), and taxpayers’ response to a complex and often confusing tax system.

Authors

Giulia Mascagni

Giulia Mascagni is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and Executive Director of the ICTD. Her main area of work is taxation, but she also has research interest in public finance, evaluation of public policy, and aid effectiveness. She is an economist by training, holding a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex. Her main geographical interest lies in African countries, with a particular focus on Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Fabrizio Santoro

Fabrizio is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, and the Research Lead for the second component of the ICTD's DIGITAX Research Programme. His main research interests relate to governance, public finance, and taxation, with a strong focus on impact evaluation methodologies and statistical analysis. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex.

Denis Mukama

Denis Mukama is the Assistant Commissioner for Research, Planning and Statistics at the Rwandan Revenue Authority.

John Karangwa

Naphtal Hakizimana

Naphtal Hakizimana is a Research and Policy Analyst at the Rwanda Revenue Authority.
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