Subnational and Property Tax

While policymakers and academics have increasingly given attention to national-level taxation in developing countries, local government taxation has remained relatively neglected. Yet local taxes have broad and direct impacts on citizens in low-income countries and are likely to have important implications for small business growth, local service delivery, equity, governance, and accountability. Property taxes are of particular interest, as they have significant revenue potential and are non-distortionary, progressive and easily linked to public services – but are nonetheless severely underused in almost all developing countries. Our research aims to build a more extensive body of empirical research on the potential reform of subnational and property taxes, with an emphasis on political economy challenges and cross-country comparison.

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Publications:

June 2022
Property Taxes and State Incapacity in Pakistan
by Muhammad Mujtaba Piracha

This book shows how Pakistan’s inability to collect taxes reflects a broader disconnection between the state and its citizens, which translates into growing fiscal deficits, poor service delivery, increasing socio economic inequalities and low democratic accountability. Through extensive primary fieldwork, which included original interviews with tax bureaucrats and policymakers, detailed archival work and analysis of…

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December 2021
Five Tenets for Consideration When Undertaking Property Tax Reform in Africa
by Astrid R.N. Haas, Justine Knebelmann & Colette Nyirakamana

The current COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic crisis have seen Africa fall into recession for the first time in over 25 years. This has strained already limited local government resources significantly. At the same time, the pandemic has highlighted the central role local governments play as frontline service providers and thus reignited the urgency of…

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The Impact of Intergovernmental Transfers on Fiscal Behaviour of Local Governments in Ethiopia
by Dejene Mamo Bekana

This paper examines the effect of intergovernmental fiscal transfers on the fiscal behaviour of local governments in Ethiopia for the period 2004-2018. The empirical findings suggest that central government grants bolster state-level employment and expenditure. However, grants from the central government to states do not crowd out state-level revenue collection. Hence, this paper argues that…

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Thick claims and thin rights: Taxation and the construction of analogue property rights in Lagos
by Tom Goodfellow & Olly Owen

The importance of tenure security for development and wellbeing is often reduced to questions about how titles can guarantee rights, overlooking the contested and layered nature of property rights themselves. We use the case of Lagos to analyse property rights as ‘analogue’ rather than ‘digital’ in nature – things that only exist by degree, where…

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January 2020
Modelling Improvements to Property Tax Collection: The Case of Addis Ababa
by Gabriella Y. Carolini, Fitsum Gelaye & Kadeem Khan

Efforts to reform property tax systems in African cities tend to focus more on how to value properties for purposes of tax assessment than on how to better collect taxes due. The same is true of the literature on property tax reform. There is however reason to believe that a greater initial focus on improving…

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November 2019
Simplifying Property Tax Administration in Africa: Piloting a Points-Based Valuation in Freetown, Sierra Leone
by Kevin Grieco, Abou Bakarr Kamara, Niccoló F. Meriggi, Julian Michel, Wilson Prichard & Graeme Stewart-Wilson

The current method of property valuation in Freetown, Sierra Leone is highly inaccurate and generally regressive, as it does not take subjective property characteristics that are major determinants of value into account. The newly elected Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr made revenue mobilisation a central pillar of her ‘Transform Freetown’ agenda. As a means of achieving this,…

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September 2019
Enhancing Property Rates Administration, Collection and Enforcement in Uganda: The Case of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and four other Municipalities
by David Bakibinga & Dan Ngabirano

Uganda embraced decentralisation as a system of governance in the early 1990’s. The success of decentralisation was pegged on the capacity of the local governments to mobilise their own revenues in order to fulfill their responsibilities. Before its suspension in 2005 and eventual abolition in 2008, graduated tax constituted a dominant source of local revenue….

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Enhancing Property Rates Administration, Collection and Enforcement in Uganda: The Case of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and four other Municipalities
by David Bakibinga & Dan Ngabirano

Uganda was among the first African countries to embrace a decentralised system of government in the 1990s. The objective of this policy was to bring services closer to the people while at the same time enhancing local participation and democracy. The success of decentralisation was, however, greatly dependent on the amount of funds and other…

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The Role of Information Technology to Enhance Property Tax Revenue in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia
by William McCluskey, Riël Franzsen, Mundia Kabinga & Chabala Kasese

Public finance theory suggests that property tax is an ideal local tax. But it’s also a ‘data-hungry’ tax, making it difficult and costly to administer properly— especially at the local government level where capacity, skills and resources are often lacking. Given its high data demands, property tax administration lends itself to the application of modern…

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Local Government Property Tax Administration and Collaboration with Central Government: Case Studies from Kenya
by Rose Wanjiru, Anne Wanyagathi Maina & Eldah Onsomu with Graeme Stewart-Wilson

Property taxes are an important revenue source for subnational governments. Across sub-Saharan Africa collection of property taxes is made up of several distinct processes, some situated at the national level, and some at the local level. Thus, inter-organisational cooperation and institution-based trust are essential for the successful implementation of property taxation. Because of the common…

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Blogs:

December 2021
by Peter Jongkind

Ghanaian local governments – metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies (MMDAs) – face several challenges preventing them from raising more revenue from property taxes. These challenges include limited access to information about properties such as location, ownership and accurate valuations. As part of its programmes, VNG International (the International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands…

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November 2021
by Grema Bukar, John Audu Aziganu, Mohammed Alkali & Mohammed Bashir Ali

Borno State, in north-eastern Nigeria, has faced intractable security challenges in the last decade that has led to the destruction of businesses, livelihoods, property and public infrastructure. As a result, real estate in the capital of Maiduguri and other peaceful areas has seen an increase in demand. Normally, a real estate boom would lead to increased…

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October 2021
by Giulia Mascagni & Rhiannon McCluskey

The recent Pandora Papers leak has exposed yet again the scandal of how the world’s rich and powerful hide their wealth and avoid paying taxes. The revelations are particularly galling during a global pandemic, when tax revenue to invest in public services and social safety nets is more needed than ever. The pandemic has pushed…

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Research Projects:

Current Project
Can rural property taxation generate revenue? Measuring costs and potential revenue in Sierra Leone
Project Researchers: Kevin Grieco

This project seeks to measure village-level costs and potential revenue associated with property taxation in rural Sierra Leone (Kono District). The only variable cost associated with rural tax collection in this context is tax collector transportation costs. While travel costs can easily be obtained for any village, the most cost-effective way to measure potential revenue…

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Past Project
Compliance, Accountability and the Social Contract: Studying the Impacts of Property Tax Reform in Freetown, Sierra Leone
Project Researchers: Wilson Prichard, Niccolo Meriggi, IGC, Julian Michel, UCLA & Kevin Grieco, UCLA

This research programme seeks to address four overlapping questions through a combination of (a) randomized controlled interventions in the reform programme, (b) exploiting discontinuities in the implementation of reform to identify causal impacts, (c) systematic tracing of the impact of the reform programme on popular attitudes and behaviours, and (d) the mapping of compliance data…

Project Outputs

Blog
Policy Brief
Blog
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Past Project
The Collateral Effects of Evictions on Property Tax Morale: Class, Preferences and Signals from the State
Project Researchers: Lily Tsai, Leah Rosenzweig & Nicole Wilson

How do government actions toward the poor influence other citizens’ perceptions of the government? Does making citizens aware of forced evictions – used by the government in the name of development – reduce their willingness to invest in the capacity of the government by paying taxes? We seek to build upon our 2018 pilot survey…

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Current Project
Learning from Successful Reform in Sierra Leone
Project Researchers: Graeme Stewart-Wilson & Wilson Prichard

Graeme Stewart-Wilson will be working with researchers and tax authorities in Sierra Leone to document and derive lessons from ongoing and relatively successful reform efforts. He will be writing up at least two case studies – one related to reform efforts at the National Revenue Agency, led by long time ICTD partner Samuel Jibao, and…

Project Outputs

Policy Brief
Blog
Blog
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Past Project
Bringing Property Owners into the Tax Net in Senegal
Project Researchers: Justine Knebelmann, Paris School of Economics, Victor Pouliquen & Bassirou Sarr

The IMF and World Bank revenue statistics show that, between 2000 and 2012, property taxes represent on average of 0.1 to 0.2% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa (0.1% in Senegal). In OECD countries, the average range is between 2-3% of GDP. This poor performance suggests considerable scope for improvement. In Senegal, as in most developing…

Project Outputs

Blog
Blog
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Past Project
Direct and Network Effects of Tax Enforcement: Experimental Evidence from the D.R. Congo
Project Researchers: Dr. Augustin Bergeron, Harvard University

How do states in a low-tax, low-capacity equilibrium spur citizens to start paying taxes? This experiment would examine the direct and network effects of an increase in tax enforcement by the government on tax compliance. We partner with the Provincial Ministry of Taxation and randomly assign firms in the city of Kananga, DRC, to one…

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Current Project
Developing Points Based Valuation for Property Taxation in Senegal and Sierra Leone
Project Researchers: Nicolas Orgeira & Wilson Prichard

The African Property Tax Initiative (APTI) has increasingly been approached by governments in sub-Saharan Africa interested in exploring simplified approaches to property valuation for property taxation. This interest grows out of ICTD research which has demonstrated the efficacy of this approach and several secondary cities in Africa, and which has more generally argued for the merits…

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Past Project
Boosting the Enforcement and Collection of Property Rates: Learning from the Experiences of Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA)
Project Researchers: Prof D.J Bakibinga, Makerere University & Dan Ngabarino, Makerere University

This study will evaluate the experience of KCCA in the enforcement and collection of property rates with an objective of understanding some of the reasons why the Authority has been more successful than the rest of the urban authorities and local governments (four of these will be studied alongside KCCA). In particular the study will…

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Past Project
The Relationship Between Local and Central Governments in Property Tax Administration
Project Researchers: Rose Wanjiru, Centre for Economic Governance

The main objective of this research is to examine the collaborations between national and County Governments in property tax administration with the aim of elaborating the policy frameworks and practices; and to articulate the general challenges in Kenya and specifically in Kiambu and Laikipia Counties; and to provide policy recommendations based on the findings.

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Past Project
Property Tax in African Secondary Cities: Insights from the cases of Kisumu (Kenya) and M’Bour (Senegal)
Project Researchers: Liza Rose Cirolia , African Centre for Cities & James Christopher Mizes, UC Berkeley

This working paper adopts an urban lens on property tax. It focuses specifically on how property tax operates in two African secondary cities, Kisumu (Kenya) and M’Bour (Senegal). The paper identifies three factors shaping the low levels of property tax collection in the two case cities. These are the misalignment between the spatial scale of…

Project Outputs

Working Paper
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