Special Issue: Fiscal Policy, State Building and Economic Development

Authors: Edited by: Tony Addison, Miguel Niño-Zarazúa, Jukka Pirttilä
Publisher: Journal of International Development
Date: March 2018


Volume 30 Issue 2

The latest issue of the Journal of International Development is a special issue on Fiscal Policy, State Building and Economic Development, which features work by ICTD researchers and partners. All the articles are open access.


Fiscal Policy, State Building and Economic Development 

Tony Addison, Miguel Niño-Zarazúa & Jukka Pirttilä

This article presents a synopsis of the contextual conditions, factors and challenges under which the recent evolution of tax systems has taken place, as an introduction to this United Nations University-World Institute for Development Economics Research Special Issue. The article, as the studies in this collection, gives especial emphasis to the role natural endowments, political economy, social structure and history, and the interplay between politics and tax revenues. These are relevant issues, considering that theMillennium Development Goals and now the Sustainable Development Goals have placed fiscal policy, and tax policy and revenue mobilisation in particular, at the centre of national and international development efforts. Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals will require a level of state revenue mobilisation capacity in many ways unprecedented in the history of development policy.

Special Issue Articles

Tax Structures and Economic Growth: New Evidence from the Government Revenue Dataset 

Kyle McNabb

This study uses the ICTD UNU-WIDER Government Revenue Dataset in order to challenge and extend existing findings on the relationship between tax structures and economic growth, in a panel of 100 countries. The results suggest that, broadly, revenue-neutral increases in income taxes are associated with lower long-run GDP growth and that revenue-neutral reductions in trade taxes have not always had positive effects. Crucially, many of the results presented differ according to income level, calling into question the validity of existing findings for developing countries and suggesting that policy advice on this issue in developing countries should be viewed through a more cautious lens.

Global Distribution of Revenue Loss from Corporate Tax Avoidance: Re-estimation and Country Results 

Alex Cobham & Petr Janský

International corporate tax is an important source of government revenue, especially in lower-income countries. An innovative study of the scale of this problem was carried out by International Monetary Fund researchers and published in 2016. We first re-estimate their model and then explore the effects of introducing higher-quality revenue data from the International Centre for Tax and Development–World Institute for Development Economics Research Government Revenue Database. Whereas IMF researchers report results for two country groups only, we present country-level results to make the most detailed estimates available. Our findings support a somewhat lower estimate of global revenue losses of around US$500 billion annually and indicate that the greatest intensity of losses occurs in low-income and lower middle-income countries and across sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and South Asia.

When Do Developing Countries Negotiate Away Their Corporate Tax Base? 

Martin Hearson

Developing countries have concluded thousands of bilateral tax treaties, which restrict their ‘taxing rights’ over international investment. Qualitative case studies of these negotiation outcomes emphasize power politics, knowledge asymmetries and negotiating capability in the eventual distribution of taxing rights between signatories, yet such insights are absent from cross-country quantitative work. This paper bridges the gap by replicating two quantitative studies, introducing new data on countries’ ability to mobilize tax revenue and the outcomes of tax treaty negotiations. It provides statistical support for the insights from qualitative research. The size of a government’s revenue base, and its reliance on corporate tax, might affect the salience of the revenue sacrifice in policy makers’ minds. These variables influence the likelihood of signing a tax treaty and the particular concessions made. Power asymmetries between signatories lead to more unequal distributions of taxing rights away from developing countries, in contrast to the findings of earlier studies. Developing countries also become better negotiators as they gain experience.

Taxation and Inequality in Developing Countries: Lessons from the Recent Experience of Latin America 

Bruno Martorano

This paper aims to advance understanding about the relationship between taxation and inequality in developing countries, focusing on the recent experience of Latin America. Tax changes promoted equality since the early 2000s. In particular, the increasing contribution of direct taxes with respect to indirect taxes promoted the progressivity of the tax system and contributed to the reduction of inequality. Yet the effectiveness of taxation in promoting equality in Latin America is still limited by several factors such as the low average tax revenue, the inability to tax top incomes and the low contribution of taxes on property.

Party System Institutionalization and Reliance on Personal Income Taxation in Developing Countries 

Armin von Schiller

This paper explores the effect of party system institutionalization on the relevance of personal income taxation in the tax composition. Based on a fiscal contractualism approach, I argue that institutionalized political party systems increase the capacity of political actors to commit credibly to fiscal contracts agreed with wealthy taxpayers. Consequently, especially where bureaucratic capacity is low, institutionalized political party systems should have a strong effect on the share of the tax burden that wealthy taxpayers are willing to accept. The analysis of panel data between 1990 and 2010 for a sample of over 90 countries supports this hypothesis. Party system institutionalization has a significant and strong positive effect on the relevance of the personal income taxation where bureaucratic capacity is low. At high levels of bureaucratic capacity, the effect disappears. The findings strongly support the claim that, particularly in developing countries, where bureaucratic capacity tends to be limited, taxation is best understood as a problem of credible commitment.

Political Competition and Tax Revenues in Developing Countries 

Urbain T. Yogo & Martine M. Ngo Njib

Building on the literature of the political economy of taxation, this article explores the relationship between political competition and tax revenues using a sample of 89 developing countries from 1988 to 2010. Owing to the inertia of tax variables, we estimate a dynamic panel data model using the Blundell and Bond two-step System-general method of moments. The analysis led to the following results: political competition positively and significantly affects total tax revenues. However, this general pattern slightly differs across the type of taxes; and the net effect of political competition on tax revenues is negative for countries that have adopted fiscal rules. 

Does the Political Resource Curse Affect Public Finance? The Vulnerability of Tax Revenue in Resource-Dependent Countries 

Christian von Haldenwang & Maksym Ivanyna

This paper explores the extent to which government revenue is affected by external shocks and whether these effects are different for resource-dependent (RD) as compared with non-RD countries. We are particularly interested in the fate of poorer countries, as we assume they will find it more difficult to implement the policies needed to offset the effect of shocks. Based on data from the International Centre for Taxation and Development Government Revenue Dataset for 1980–2010, we measure the elasticity of tax revenue with respect to terms-of-trade shocks. We find that revenue in RD countries is more vulnerable to such shocks. It is above all the richer countries that appear to be adversely affected, compared with their non-RD counterparts. In contrast, the difference between RD and non-RD countries is less pronounced in the group of poorer countries. We also find that resource-dependent countries became less vulnerable in the 2000s as compared with previous decades. At the same time, political regime type does not seem to matter for the vulnerability of government revenue in these countries.

Tax Revenue Mobilization in Conflict-affected Developing Countries 

Vanessa van den Boogaard, Wilson Prichard, Matthew S. Benson & Nikola Milicic

How does conflict affect tax revenue mobilization? This paper uses a newly updated dataset to explore longitudinal trends of tax revenue mobilization prior to, during and after conflict periods in a selection of conflict-affected states since 1980. This medium-N trend analysis provides greater insight into the relationship between tax revenue performance over time and the characteristics of the conflicts in question. Offering detailed snapshots of tax experiences prior to, during and after conflict, this paper provides an empirical counterpoint to theories about the role of taxation in war making and state building.