Working Paper 110

Non-filing refers to taxpayers who fail to submit a tax declaration, thus becoming ghosts in the eyes of tax authorities. It is a widespread phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa, and has a number of detrimental fiscal effects. Non-filing has been largely unexplored in the literature, which focusses more on active filers. The overall aim of this paper is to shed light on the determinants of non-filing, building on neoclassical and behavioural theories, as well as to contribute to the methodological discussion on how to measure tax compliance. Focusing on Eswatini, the analysis combines survey data from a thousand entrepreneurs with their tax returns and filing history 2013-2018. We show that economic deterrence, compliance costs and moral factors, such as intrinsic motivation and peer pressure, are strongly correlated with actual filing. We also study how our key factors change when controlling for the persistence of filing behaviour in past years, or using a self-reported measure of compliance. We argue that tax knowledge plays a major role in understanding the decision to file. In terms of policy, results show that the tax authority could improve filing rates by adopting both a deterrent and an assistance-related approach, and also by triggering the role of social norms.


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.

Edward Groening

Edward Groening is Director of the Research, Strategy and Statistics Department at the Eswatini Revenue Authority.

Winnie Mdluli

Winnie Mdluli is Registration Manager in the Domestic Tax Department at the Eswatini Revenue Authority. She is a former Executive Master’s Taxation (ATAF/GIZ) student.

Mbongeni Shongwe

Mbongeni Shongwe is an Economic Analyst in the Research, Strategy and Statistics Department at the Eswatini Revenue Authority.
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