Gender and Tax Compliance: Firm Level Evidence from Ethiopia

Authors: Seid Yimam & Fissha Asmare
Publisher: ICTD
Date: December 2020

Abstract:

Research in Brief 64

Many Sub-Saharan African countries, characterised by government budget deficits, have been undergoing reforms and improvements to enhance tax revenue collection. However, such improvements often fall short of expectations and do not yield the expected revenue. These economies are highly vulnerable to tax avoidance and tax evasion, mainly due to the lack of a strong, modernised tax system and limited administrative and enforcement capacity, plus poor awareness of paying tax among the business community. The Ethiopian government has been implementing activities to boost its tax collection capacity and hence tax revenue. Nonetheless, although the Ethiopian economy has been growing fast, the tax revenue to GDP share has remained low: 13.3 per cent in 2015 and 11.2 per cent in 2019. This is lower than the target of an average of 15 per cent for 2010–2015 and 17.2 per cent for 2016–2020. An alternative strategy to increase tax compliance and revenue involves harnessing the civicmindedness of individuals, as well as social norms, reciprocity, and cultural values of trust. It is widely suggested that using social enforcement mechanisms to increase tax compliance is more effective than traditional tax enforcement tools like penalty. In Ethiopia, where there is a diversified business community characterised by unique cultural, moral and religious values, it is vital to exploit these social values to mobilise tax collection and improve compliance, presenting tax payment as a prosocial activity. Policymakers therefore need evidence on how social values, norms and individual behavioural differences can play a role in reducing tax evasion; however, no study has yet tried to evaluate the varying effects of such social values on the tax compliance of the business community in Ethiopia. This study investigates the correlation between the gender of business owners and the tax compliance behaviour of enterprises in Ethiopia, addressing the following questions:

  • Is there any difference in tax compliance between male and female-owned enterprises?
  • Does the gender composition of enterprise owners influence tax compliance?
  • Does the impact of the owners’ gender on tax compliance vary across firm size?