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:

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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The VAT in Practice: Equity, Enforcement and Complexity
by Giulia Mascagni, Roel Dom & Fabrizio Santoro

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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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 the scholarly and policy agendas in recent decades. And yet, agriculture is taxed very lightly despite contributing substantially to GDP across many Global South countries today. In some cases, light-touch taxation may be necessary to encourage investment in the sector and to protect small and…

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Taxation and Customs Reforms in Fragile States: Between Bargaining and Enforcement
by Thomas Cantens & Gael Raballand

This paper explores why taxation reforms are so different in fragile states, the conditions in which they occur, and what can be done to make these reforms more successful – including contributing, whenever possible, to state-building. Based on extensive engagement and fieldwork in the Sahel and other regions in sub-Saharan Africa (including Central and West…

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How Clean Are Our Taxpayer Returns? Data Management in Uganda Revenue Authority
by Jova Mayega, Ronald Waiswa, Jane Nabuyondo & Milly Nalukwago Isingoma

The paper assesses the cleanliness of taxpayer returns at the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) in terms of: (a) completeness – the extent to which taxpayers submit all the required information as specified in the return forms; (b) accuracy – the extent to which the submitted information is correct; (c) consistency – the extent to which…

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March 2021
Trade Tax Evasion and the Tax Rate: Evidence from Transaction-level Trade Data
by Andualem T Mengistu, Kiflu G Molla & Giulia Mascagni

This paper explores the relationship between tax rates and tax evasion in a low-income country context: Ethiopia. By using transaction-level administrative trade data, the authors are able to provide an analysis that is largely comparable with the rest of the literature while also introducing two important innovations. First, they compare the elasticity of evasion to…

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Are Women More Tax Compliant than Men? How Would We Know?
by Jalia Kangave, Ronald Waiswa & Nathan Sebaggala

Most research on tax compliance, including research on gender differences in compliance, is based on one of two problematic sources of data. One is surveys enquiring about attitudes and beliefs about taxpaying, or actual taxpaying behaviour. The other is experiments in which people who may or may not have experience of paying different types of…

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Using administrative data to assess the impact of the pandemic in low-income countries: An application with VAT data in Rwanda
by Giulia Mascagni & Adrienne Lees

This paper uses administrative data from Value Added Tax (VAT) returns to provide insights on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda. We show that the lockdown in Rwanda had a severe impact on the domestic economy, despite relatively low case numbers. However, the economy quickly rebounded after restrictions were lifted, with overall sales…

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January 2021
Tax Compliance in Rwanda: Evidence from a Message Field Experiment
by Giulia Mascagni & Christopher Nell

In early 2016 the Rwanda Revenue Authority sent messages to 9,000 taxpayers, aimed to encourage compliance. Each taxpayer was randomly allocated to a treatment group, or to a control group that received no message. Treatment messages varied in terms of content (deterrence, fiscal exchange, reminder) and delivery method (letter, email, SMS). Our RCT evaluates the…

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Blogs:

June 2021
by Giovanni Occhiali, Max Gallien & Soukayna Remmal

In recent years, the legalisation of cannabis – initially for medical use, and increasingly for recreational use – has become a common policy talking point. But can legalised cannabis production become a new revenue source for low and middle-income countries? Canada and a range of states in the US have made headlines from legalisation initiatives…

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April 2021
by Abimbola AbdurRahman Lekki

In 2016, Nigeria’s Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council recognised that Nigeria should not be left behind in the emerging digitisation of tax processes in Africa. Working closely with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the council introduced six key electronic solutions. The solutions included e-registration of new taxpayers, e-payment of federal taxes and stamp duties, e-filing…

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January 2021
by Giulia Mascagni, Mick Moore & Wilson Prichard

What is the connection between taxation and more open societies that the British aid programme aims to support? In long-term historical perspective, it is very close. The societies that enjoy the most open, democratic and accountable government are also those that tax the most – and spend the most on making life better for their…

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Research Projects:

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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Current 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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Past Project
What shapes tax morale in Ethiopia?
Project Researchers: Gebrelibanos Hadush Amare, Raya University, Nega Afera Reda & Gebremeskel Hailu Tesfay

Citizens’ tax morale can enhance actual compliance behavior and provide governments with the necessary revenue. This study aims to identify the various factors that shape citizens’ attitudes towards taxation and suggest ways to improve compliance through positive motivations. The 2013 5th round Afrobarometer survey conducted in Ethiopia is our main source of data. A sub…

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