Development Policy Review Volume 40, Issue 1

While there is increasing evidence that taxation can contribute to greater government responsiveness and accountability, such positive outcomes are not guaranteed. If the environment does not enable tax bargaining, there is a risk that taxation will amount to little more than enforced extraction. We consider how such enabling environments may be fostered and identify specific strategies that governments, civil society actors, and donors can adopt to strengthen the links between taxation, responsiveness, and accountability.

We undertake two case studies of tax transparency and taxpayer engagement in Ghana and Sierra Leone, making use of data from taxpayer surveys, focus group discussions (FGDs), and interviews with key stakeholders in government, civil society, and donor agencies. We highlight two key findings. First, meaningful transparency requires that information is comprehensive, relates to taxpayers’ priorities, and serve as a basis for dialogue between taxpayers and governments. Second, there is a need to proactively encourage taxpayer engagement by supporting forums for engagement that taxpayers perceive as safe, secure and sincere.

This has been most successful where governments have visibly demonstrated responsiveness to citizens’ concerns, even on a small scale, while partnering with civil society to foster trust and dialogue. Our findings point to the need for taxpayer education and engagement programmes that make information more accessible and more directly relevant to taxpayers’ everyday experiences. In particular, policymakers and development partners need to expand existing efforts to facilitate engagement and dialogue regarding what revenues are collected and how they are spent.

We highlight the valuable role that civil society can play as translators of tax information, enablers of public forums, and trainers to support greater tax literacy and sustained taxpayer engagement.

Read the related ICTD brief in English here.

Read the related ICTD brief in French here.

Read the related ICTD brief in Krio here.


Vanessa van den Boogaard

Vanessa van den Boogaard is a Research Fellow at the ICTD and a Senior Research Associate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD thesis on informal revenue generation and statebuilding in Sierra Leone, and has ongoing research on the topic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Vanessa leads the ICTD’s new programme on civil society engagement in tax reform and co-leads the research programme on informal taxation.

Wilson Prichard

Wilson Prichard is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, and Chief Executive Officer of the International Centre for Tax and Development. His research focuses on the relationship between taxation and citizen demands for improved governance in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rachel Beach

Regional Programme Specialist for the Arab States for UNDP Tax for SDGs and TIWB (Tax Inspectors Without Borders)

Fariya Mohiuddin

Fariya Mohiuddin is the Senior Program Officer, Tax Equity at the International Budget Partnership. Prior to joining IBP, Fariya was the Strategic Programs Researcher at the Tax Justice Network working on developing a human rights, feminist, and gender equality focused network of tax activists and researchers. She has also worked with the International Centre for Tax and Development, the World Bank Group, the Ford Foundation, and Open Society Foundation on research projects on political accountability, citizen engagement and transparency in West Africa.
Read the full paper
Read the 2-page brief