Tax Administration and Compliance

Image credit: © Uganda Revenue Authority, Vanessa van den Boogaard

Many of the challenges low-income countries face in mobilising domestic resources are related to tax administration as much as tax policy. Our research on this theme encompasses all aspects of tax administration, from technology adoption, to data management and strategies for collecting revenue from different types of taxpayers. Tax compliance is a key focus, as low-income countries struggle with widespread evasion, corruption, and limited administrative capacity. Our research on compliance includes survey-based studies of taxpayers’ perceptions and attitudes, case studies, and large-scale field experiments.

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Publications:

November 2021
Glimpses of Fiscal States in sub-Saharan Africa
by Mick Moore

There is a widespread perception that taxing in sub-Saharan Africa has been and remains fraught with problems or government failure. This is not generally true. For more than a century, colonial administrations and independent states have steadily developed the capacity to routinely collect more substantial revenues than one might expect in a low-income region. The…

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October 2021
The Tax Side of the Pandemic: Compliance Shifts and Funding for Recovery in Rwanda
by Giulia Mascagni & Fabrizio Santoro

While much knowledge is being generated on the impact of the pandemic, we still know very little on its implications on taxation in low-income countries. Yet, tax is crucial to fund crisis response and recovery, in addition to broader development plans and expanded government expenditure. This paper starts addressing this gap using a unique dataset…

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October 2021
To file or not to file? Another dimension of tax compliance – the Eswatini Taxpayers’ survey
by Fabrizio Santoro

Non-filing, the failure to submit a tax declaration, is a widespread phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa and produces detrimental fiscal effects, from impaired revenue mobilisation to inequality. Non-filing has been largely unexplored in the public finance literature, which focusses mostly on active filers. This paper sheds light on the determinants of non-filing, building on neoclassical and behavioural theories,…

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Can Tax Agents Support Tax Compliance in Low-Income Countries? A Review of the Literature and some Preliminary Evidence from Uganda
by Giovanni Occhiali & Fredrick Kalyango

Over the last 40 years there has been an increased focus on the role that tax agents play in ensuring or deterring compliance with tax obligations. While the literature on their role is not extensive, a variety of different topics have been explored. Some consistent evidence has emerged indicating when agents improve (or decrease) compliance,…

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Perception of Taxpayers and Tax Administrators towards Value Added With holding Tax in Zimbabwe
by Simbarashe Hamudi

Value added tax (VAT) is a key tax for generating revenue in Zimbabwe and all African states, and for financing the budget in African countries. However, the revenue authorities are not collecting large amounts of VAT for various reasons, including ineffective administration and tax evasion. The value added withholding tax (VAWHT) system brings the merits…

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Can ICTs increase tax compliance? Evidence on taxpayer responses to technological innovation in Ethiopia
by Giulia Mascagni, Andualem T. Mengistu & Firew B. Woldeyes

The widespread introduction of ICTs and digitised data management systems is one of the most important developments amongst African tax administrations in recent years. However, very little evidence is available on their effectiveness to increase compliance and on how taxpayers respond to these changes. This paper starts filling this gap by reporting three sets of…

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Perception of Taxpayers and Tax Administrators Towards Value Added Withholding Tax in Zimbabwe
by Simbarashe Hamudi

This study attempts to evaluate the perception of taxpayers and tax administrators towards value added withholding tax (VAWHT) policy in Zimbabwe, and to identify ways of improving VAWHT administration to increase collection of revenue from value added tax.

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June 2021
The Role of Social Influence in Enforcing Tax Compliance: Experimental Evidence from Nigeria
by Adedeji Adeniran, Mma Amara Ekeruche & Chukwuka Onywkwena

Economic development is linked with increased state capacity including the ability to mobilise domestic tax resources. For many developing countries, high levels of informality are a major constraint in this regard. Yet, economic incentives like changing the tax rate or increasing the filling and audit rate can be ineffective in a highly informal economic structure….

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Taxing Agricultural Income in the Global South: Revisiting Uganda’s National Debate
by Graeme Stewart-Wilson & Ronald Waiswa

The issue of agricultural taxation has almost completely disappeared from scholarly and policy agendas in recent decades. And, yet, agriculture continues to be taxed very lightly in much of the Global South – even though it contributes substantially to GDP. In some cases, light taxation of agriculture may be an intentional policy goal. Evidence from…

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The Economic Impact of the Pandemic in Rwanda: An Analysis of Firm-level VAT Data
by Giulia Mascagni & Adrienne Lees

There are substantial differences in the spread of the pandemic and the policy response to it between high and low-income countries (LICs). In terms of case numbers, the pandemic has affected high and middle income countries (HICs and MICs) much more severely than LICs: deaths per million people have remained typically well below 1 in…

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Blogs:

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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August 2021
by Bassirou Sarr, Justine Knebelmann & Victor Pouliquen

In June 2021, eight Senegalese tax agents based in the fiscal centre of Pikine, the country’s second largest city, generated over 500 detailed property tax information sheets in just four weeks. The information sheets contained GIS coordinates, cadastral identifiers, property characteristics, rental value, owner identification details and even pictures. These information sheets starkly contrast with…

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Research Projects:

Past Project
The Mobile Money Tax in Uganda: Study of the Policymaking Process
Project Researchers: Adrienne Lees, ICTD & Doris Akol, ICTD

Weaknesses in the tax policymaking process can undermine the quality of tax policy design and related revenue outcomes. Moreover, this can lead to measures that have unintended social and economic consequences. Considering these challenges, our researchers Adrienne Lees and Doris Akol aim to provide important insights for governments regarding how to best approach tax reform by providing an…

Project Outputs

Working Paper
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Past Project
Is Value Added Withholding Tax effective as a tool of enhancing VAT and total revenue generation?
Project Researchers: Simbarashe Hamudi

VAT is a key revenue generating tax in Zimbabwe and all African states. It is also a key source of financing of the African countries budget. VAT revenues have an essential role in budgetary policymaking, and vast sums of VAT are not being collected each year due to issues such as ineffective administration and tax…

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Past Project
How reliable are Taxpayers’ Tax Returns Data? Data Management in Uganda Revenue Authority
Project Researchers: Jova Mayega, URA, Jane Nabuyondo, URA, Milly Nalukwago, URA & Ronald Waiswa, URA

The overall objective of this project is to examine how clean the tax return data is in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). The team will examine the following research questions: What data gaps exist in URA tax return records? What are the sources of errors (if any) in the return filing process? What challenges do…

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Past Project
ICTD-RRA National Taxpayer Survey
Project Researchers: Giulia Mascagni & Fabrizio Santoro

In 2019 the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) commissioned a National Taxpayer Survey and related study on tax compliance to the International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD). This study is meant to serve as background to the new RRA Tax Compliance Strategy, which is scheduled to be launched in July 2020. Data was collected in…

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Past Project
The link between tax revenue allocation and tax morale in Nigeria
Project Researchers: Tom Moerenhout, IISD, Belinda Archibong & Evans Osabuohien

The proposed research will answer three research questions: (1) Do regions that have historically received more tax revenue have better tax morale? (2) What type of tax allocation in the form of public service provision increases tax morale? (3) Can oil producing regions turn the use of revenue from the 13% fund into higher tax…

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Past Project
The Role of Information About Peer Behaviour on Tax Compliance in Nigeria: An Experimental Study
Project Researchers: Adedeji Adeniran, Joseph Ishaku, Precious Akanonu & Chukwuka Onyekwena

Domestic revenue mobilization is a priority for many SSA countries. Yet, low tax compliance constitutes a major challenge to this drive. Improving tax compliance will require an understanding of the underlying factors influencing a taxpayer’s decision to either pay taxes or not. However, little is known about tax compliance behaviour in most SSA countries; insights…

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Past Project
Does Gender Matter in Tax Compliance? The Case of URA’s Individual Taxpayers
Project Researchers: Ronald Waiswa, Uganda Revenue Authority, Nathan Sebaggala & Jalia Kangave, ICTD

There is now an extensive body of literature looking into the factors that influence tax compliance. These studies, loosely known as tax morale studies, employ various tools to understand why some people pay taxes while others do not. In some cases, the studies are gender disaggregated, thereby enabling us to understand how men and women…

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Past Project
Improving State Taxation Capacity using Administrative Data
Project Researchers: Aprajit Mahajan, JPAL-South Asia, Shekhar Mittal & Ofir Reich

Improving the state’s ability to tax effectively is central to the development process. However, tax collections (as a percentage of GDP) are low in most developing countries — in India the ratio is about 15% — and non-compliance is widely seen as an important problem. A common strategy to evade taxes is to establish shell…

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Past Project
The Myth of Gender Tax Compliance in Ethiopian Enterprises
Project Researchers: Seid Yimam Mohamed & Fissha Asmare Marye

This study will examine tax compliance differential between female-owned and male-owned business enterprises in Ethiopia, particularly located in Addis Ababa. Collecting survey data on 400 medium and large size firms, we will estimate the log-odds-ratios from a fixed effect logit model to describe the probability of being tax compliant and apply a generalized Oaxaca–Blinder decomposition…

Project Outputs

Working Paper
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Past Project
Rethinking Tax Morale
Project Researchers: Wilson Prichard, University of Toronto

The past decade has witnessed a surge in international interest in the importance of ‘tax morale’ as a key component of strategies for strengthening tax compliance in developing countries. This focus has been long overdue, and there is now broad research evidence that strengthening tax morale can have important benefits in encouraging ‘quasi-voluntary’ tax compliance….

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