Working Paper 130

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of poverty and inequality reduction through redistribution have indeed become critical concerns in many low- and middle-income countries, including Nigeria. Although redistribution results from the effect of tax revenue collections, micro household-level empirical analyses of the distributional effect of personal income tax (PIT) and value added tax (VAT) reforms in Nigeria have been scarcely carried out.

This study for the first time quantitatively assessed both the equity and redistributive effects of PIT and VAT across different reform scenarios in Nigeria. Data used in this study was mainly drawn from the most recent large scale nationally representative Nigeria Living Standard Survey, conducted in 2018/2019. The Kakwani Index was used to calculate and compare the progressivity of PIT and VAT reforms. A simple static micro-simulation model was employed in assessing the redistributive effect of PIT and VAT reforms in the country. After informality has been accounted for, the PIT was found to be progressive in the pre- 2011 tax scheme, but turned regressive in the post-2011 tax scheme. It was also discovered that the newly introduced lump sum relief allowance in the post-2011 PIT scheme accrues more to the high-income than to the low-income taxpayers – confirming the regressivity of the current PIT scheme.

However, the study further shows (through counterfactual simulations) that excluding the relatively high-income taxpayers from sharing in the variable part of the lump sum relief allowance makes PIT progressive in the post-2011 scheme. The VAT was uncovered to be regressive both in the pre-2020 scheme, and in the current VAT reform scheme. Further, after putting informality into consideration, the PIT was found to marginally reduce inequality but increase poverty in the pre-2011 scheme. The post-2011 PIT scheme reduced inequality and increased poverty, but by a smaller proportion – confirming a limited redistribution mainly resulting from the concentration of the lump sum relief allowance at the top of the distribution. However, if the variable part of the lump sum relief allowance is provided for ‘only’ the low-income taxpayers below a predefined income threshold, the post-2011 PIT scheme becomes largely redistributive.

VAT was uncovered to marginally increase inequality and poverty in the pre-2020 scheme. Though the current VAT scheme slightly increased inequality, it considerably increased poverty in the country. It is therefore suggested that a better tax reform, with well-regulated relief allowance and differentiated VAT rates, will help to enhance the equity and redistribution capacity of the Nigeria tax system.


Henry C. Edeh

Henry C. Edeh is a researcher in the field of economics from Nigeria. He holds a Masters in Economics from the University of Nigeria and is currently Research Director at Health, Care and Education Initiative.
Read the 2-page brief
Read the 2-page brief