Research in Brief 59

Taxation is high on the international development agenda, largely due to growing evidence that it can not only provide sustainable development funding, but also contribute to expanded responsiveness and accountability in government. This is because: (i) when forced to pay taxes citizens are more likely to feel ownership of government revenues, and demand benefits in return, while (ii) governments needing tax revenues are more likely to make concessions to taxpayers to encourage quasi-voluntary tax compliance. Recent research shows that taxation can lead to expanded responsiveness and accountability, but this is not guaranteed. Improvements in accountability and responsiveness from taxation depend on the political and economic contexts, as well as the policies and strategies adopted by governments and civil society actors. Without consistent focus on creating an enabling environment for tax bargaining, taxation can be little more than forceful extraction from often low-income taxpayers. Existing evidence suggests three key factors that improve tax-accountability links: 1) improved public awareness, transparency, and taxpayer services; 2) a robust and engaged civil society; and 3) forums for taxpayer-government engagement. Yet, while these goals are increasingly accepted, there is less understanding of how to achieve them. This study asks, what specific interventions and strategies can governments, civil society, and development practitioners adopt to strengthen links between taxation, responsiveness and accountability? Relying on data from taxpayer surveys, focus group discussions, and interviews with key stakeholders in Ghana and Sierra Leone, we consider two types of initiatives. 1. Efforts to enhance transparency: under what circumstances are these most likely to be successful in informing, empowering and engaging taxpayers? 2. Attempts to spur popular engagement: what types of initiatives most effectively enable and motivate citizens to engage with and make demands on the state around taxation? This is a summary of ICTD Working Paper 114 by Vanessa van den Boogaard, Wilson Prichard, Rachel Beach, and Fariya Mohiuddin.

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Authors

Vanessa van den Boogaard

Vanessa 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.
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