The Journal of Development Studies Volume 57, 2021 - Issue 2

An important part of every country’s development process is the building of a social contract in which citizens pay tax and, in turn, receive public goods and services. Evidence suggests that this is associated with the establishment of a norm of tax payment and a belief that non-payment is wrong. We exploit a new, nationally representative, dataset to explore which factors are associated with higher tax morale in Nigeria. We find that a perception of higher penalties and greater difficulty avoiding taxes are both associated with higher tax morale. Tax morale is also higher the more people believe that other Nigerians pay taxes, the less frequently they have to pay bribes and the greater the trust they have in tax officials. However, we also find that Nigerians who believe that tax officials discriminate in their treatment of different ethnic, religious and gender groups have higher, not lower, tax morale. And we find no relationship between service delivery and measures of tax morale based on the respondent’s own behaviour, in contrast to the positive association found in the literature using broader measures of tax morale. This suggests that building a social contract based on taxation may be harder than previously thought.

Find the survey, questionnaire, and full dataset here.


Neil McCulloch

Dr. Neil McCulloch is a development economist with expertise in political economy analysis and the design and implementation of politically smart aid programmes. He has led the Globalisation Research Team in the Institute of Development Studies in the UK and was a Senior Economist for the World Bank in Indonesia.

Tom Moerenhout

Dr. Tom Moerenhout (Columbia University) leads research on the political economy and international economic law of policy interventions in the area of sustainable development. He is also senior associate at the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

Joonseok Yang