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.

Publications:

Small Business Owners and Corporate Tax Responsibility in Nigeria: An Exploratory Study
by Kenneth Amaeshi, Bongo Adi & Godson Ikiebey

This study explores how small business owners talk about their tax responsibility, especially in non-enabling institutional contexts. It identifies two main types of tax responsibility discourses amongst these business owners: (1) duty-based and (2) rights-based. The duty-based talks see taxation primarily as the citizens’ responsibility to governments, which should always be fulfilled unconditionally, while rights-based…

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Assessing the Performance of African Tax Administrations: A Malawian Puzzle
by Waziona Ligomeka

We lack good indicators of the quality of national tax administrations, especially for low-income countries. The situation is, however, improving. Through the relatively new TADAT process (Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool), an increasing number of national tax administrations are receiving scores from teams of peer reviewers on how well they perform in nine key functions….

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Perceptions of VAT Compliance in Ethiopia
by Worku Tamrie Atnafu, Gebregziabhere Gebretsadik Kalayou & Assefa Gezae Huluf with Colin Anderson

Tax is a major source of government revenue. Many countries prioritise mobilising domestic resources to finance government spending. However, many factors influence the revenue generated by taxation, including the population’s level of compliance with tax expectations. A country’s ability to raise funds from tax depends on the level of tax compliance. Tax compliance refers to…

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How Clean is our Taxpayer Register? Data Management in the Uganda Revenue Authority
by Jova Mayega, Robert Ssuuna, Muhammad Mubajje, Milly I. Nalukwago & Lawrence Muwonge

Revenue administrations collect large amounts of data on individuals and firms in the course of their work. Increasingly, this data is digitised. The use of digital technologies has the potential to greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of tax administration, by: Reducing the cost of routine operations for both taxpayer and tax collector; Reducing the…

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Nil-Filing in Eswatini: Should the Revenue Authority be Bothered?
by Fabrizio Santoro & Winnie Mdluli

For many reasons, the tax to GDP ratio in developing countries is still remarkably low. One of the key factors behind poor tax collection refers to low tax compliance. In this paper, we look at compliance with income tax in Eswatini. Eswatini shares the same tax performance of other sub-Saharan African countries: the tax to…

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Turnover-Based Presumptive Taxation and Taxpayers’ Perceptions in Ethiopia
by Abis Getachew

Why turnover-based presumptive taxation? The Ethiopian economy is cash-based and dominated by a large number of micro and small businesses. Hence, taxing this sector assists in raising government revenue and increasing the number of taxpaying firms. Turnover-based presumptive taxation provides a regime that simplifies the tax rules for small taxpayers and helps introduce them to…

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Perceptions of Value Added Tax Filing and Invoicing Compliance in Ethiopia: The Case of Three Federal Branch Offices in Addis Ababa
by Worku Tamrie Atnafu, Gebregziabhere Gebretsadik Kalayou & Assefa Gezae Huluf with Colin Anderson

African governments are increasingly seeking to improve tax compliance in the pursuit of domestic revenue sources. Despite this trend, there is limited understanding of value added tax (VAT) compliance in Africa. In Ethiopia, increased VAT compliance is essential for the government to meet its ambitious domestic revenue goals. Therefore, we surveyed 652 Ethiopian VAT-registered businesses…

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Practices, Challenges and Prospects for Public Sector Taxation in Ethiopia
by Ronald Waiswa, Sebsbie Fekade & Asnakech Lake

The tax compliance behaviour of the public sector has been largely neglected in the tax literature. Other than appearing in tax laws as taxpayers, in practice the compliance strategies employed by revenue authorities do not sufficiently cater to government agencies. Enforcement of tax payments on these agencies is generally perceived to be a difficult undertaking…

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Small Businesses and the Adoption of the Integrated Tax Administration System in Nigeria
by Uchenna Efobi, Ibukun Beecroft & Tanankem Belmondo with Amelia Katan

Transitioning to an electronic system for tax administration and collection is a welcome development in countries that have hitherto faced difficulty in raising tax revenue. Countries like those in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, account for about 16 percent of GDP from tax revenue, while Nigeria records 1.48 percent of its GDP from tax revenue (World…

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Intelligent Government: How Research Can Help Increase Tax Compliance
by Mick Moore

How can governments and tax authorities best encourage taxpayers to be compliant, i.e. to be more honest in declaring information about their tax obligations and paying what is due? Unfortunately, one common response, rather misleadingly termed ‘education’, is to preach at taxpayers: to tell them that it is their duty to pay taxes, and threaten…

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Blogs:

March 2019
by Neil McCulloch & Tom Moerenhout

Nigeria’s performance on collected taxes is poor. Non-oil revenue in the country is around 3-4 percent of GDP, far below countries such as South Africa and Brazil where non-oil revenues lie between 20 and 25 percent of their GDP – or other peers in sub-Saharan Africa who typically collect more than 10 percent of GDP…

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March 2019
by Fred Andema, Nyah Zebong & Robert Raikes Mugangaizi

Local governments (LGs) across Uganda have recently been looking for ways to improve yields from their property tax systems. The main reasons for this growing interest are the rapid urbanisation taking place in the country, and the increased pressure from city dwellers for public services. Some property tax reforms have shown success in identification, valuation…

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February 2019
by Anne Brockmeyer, Marco Hernandez, Spencer Smith & Stewart Kettle

Many firms around the world fail to file their tax declarations, even if they are formally registered. This problem is particularly prevalent in low- and middle-income countries. In many such countries, over half of tax-registered firms do not file their tax declaration, and the maximum non-filing rates reaches over 90% in some countries (Figure 1)….

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Research Projects:

Current Project
Capacity building program with Uganda and Rwanda revenue authorities
Project Researchers: Jalia Kangave

On February 8th, the International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD) announced a new capacity-building program with the Ugandan and Rwandan Revenue Authorities. This project will be a year-long pilot of workshops and collaborative research between researchers from the ICTD and staff from the revenue authorities in Rwanda and Uganda. The course is mostly about…

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Current Project
Tax compliance in Eswatini – a nudging experiment
Project Researchers: Fabrizio Santoro

Tax to GDP ratio in developing countries is still remarkably low. One of the key factors behind poor tax collection is low tax compliance. This study aims to test, using a randomized controlled trial, the effect of a multi-faceted nudging strategy from the Eswatini Revenue Authority (SRA), targeting the whole population of income taxpayers in…

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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
Taxation of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) in Rwanda
Project Researchers: Jalia Kangave

In a bid to promote equity in the taxation of individuals and boost revenue collections, the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) would like to establish whether wealthy individuals in Rwanda are paying their fair share in taxes. This project will undertake research aimed at understanding the drivers of wealth in Rwanda’s economy, establishing the policy and…

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Past Project
Subsidy Perceptions in Nigeria
Project Researchers: Neil McCulloch

This project aims to understand what Nigerians think about fuel subsidies and their attitudes towards their reform, reduction or removal. It will draw on a new nationally representative survey of perceptions about taxes and subsidies in Nigeria. The analysis will show the characteristics associated with support for and opposition to subsidy reform. It will then…

Project Outputs

Blog
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Past Project
Focus Group Discussion on the VAT system in Rwanda
Project Researchers: Mads Knudsen, Yves Nsengiyumva & Fabrizio Santoro

The central question we try to answer is why would taxpayer report inconsistent information of their VAT transactions to the authority? The question is relevant since we documented in a forthcoming ICTD working paper that the extent of depth of VAT discrepancies in Rwanda is alarming and it is still not clear what is causing…

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Past Project
Where the Gap Lay: Presumptive Income Tax Assessment for Micro and Small Enterprises, A Case for Addis Ababa City Administration
Project Researchers: Amanuel Mekonnen, Addis Ababa University & Endalkachew Mulugeta, Addis Ababa University

The study focuses on assessment of presumptive taxation of small and micro enterprise in Addis Ababa City Administration. It will evaluate the standard assessment processes and procedures, the criteria used for assessment, and the equity of taxes imposed by the tax authority. Data will be collected through surveys and interviews.

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Past Project
Perceptions of Value Added Tax Compliance in Ethiopia: Filing and Invoicing
Project Researchers: Gebregziabher G. Tsadik, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA), Assefa Gezae, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) & Worku Tamire, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA)

VAT, as a consumption tax, can contribute huge amount of tax revenue. But it does not play this role in generating tax revenue in Ethiopia because of low VAT compliance. This can be due to inadequate commitment and capability of tax officials, weak enforcement, low awareness of tax payers, limited application of laws and complex…

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Past Project
Practices, challenges and prospects of public sector taxation in Ethiopia
Project Researchers: Sebsbie Fekade , Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA), Asnakech Lake , Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) & Ronald Waiswa, Uganda Revenue Authority

Ethiopia’s revenue collection performance remains low at 12.5% of GDP compared to the average for sub-Saharan Africa (17%). This is partly attributable to the failure of government entities to support tax administration. The public sector is vital in terms of withholding VAT payments and income taxes. However, these institutions experience little pressure from the tax administration…

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Past Project
An Assessment of ERCA’s Taxpayer Education Programs and How They Can be Improved
Project Researchers: Azime A. Hassen, Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA)

This study aims to evaluate the taxpayer education programs used to aware and educate on the tax knowledge. It may be difficult to shift tax culture without education at an early age or without citizens voluntarily embracing tax payment. So we would like to examine the content and design of mass media in the TV,…

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