Tax and Governance

There is mounting evidence that increased taxation can spur statebuilding and increase government accountability. This possibility is critical: without strong links between taxation, statebuilding and accountability, expanded taxation may fail to deliver improved outcomes for taxpayers. However, such links are far from guaranteed, and depend, among other things, on the types of taxes raised, the nature and equity of tax enforcement, the extent of transparency, the existence of forums for popular engagement and the role of civil society in supporting popular demand making. The current phase of our research on this theme focuses on identifying concrete strategies for strengthening the links between taxation and good governance at both the local and national levels.

Join our mailing list

Publications:

January 2022
Enabling Tax Bargaining: Supporting More Meaningful Tax Transparency and Taxpayer Engagement in Ghana and Sierra Leone
by Vanessa van den Boogaard, Wilson Prichard, Rachel Beach & Fariya Mohiuddin

While there is increasing evidence that taxation can contribute to greater government responsiveness and accountability, such positive outcomes are not guaranteed. If the environment does not enable tax bargaining, there is a risk that taxation will amount to little more than enforced extraction. We consider how such enabling environments may be fostered and identify specific…

Read more
December 2021
Informal Workers and the State: The Politics of Connection and Disconnection During a Global Pandemic
by Max Gallien & Vanessa van den Boogaard

In low- and middle-income countries, informal workers are particularly vulnerable to the health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and often neglected by policy responses. At the same time, the crisis is rapidly changing the ways that states engage with informal workers. We argue that the relationships between informal workers and states – and…

Read more
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…

Read more
November 2021
Beyond Greed: Why Armed Groups Tax
by Tanya Bandula-Irwin, Max Gallien, Ashley Jackson, Vanessa van den Boogaard & Florian Weigand

Armed groups tax. Journalistic accounts often include a tone of surprise about this fact, while policy reports tend to strike a tone of alarm, highlighting the link between armed group taxation and ongoing conflict. Policymakers often focus on targeting the mechanisms of armed group taxation as part of their conflict strategy, often described as ‘following…

Read more
November 2021
Assessing the Equity and Redistributive Effects of Taxation Reforms in Nigeria
by Henry C. Edeh

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of poverty and inequality reduction through redistribution have indeed become critical concerns in many low- and middle-income countries, including Nigeria. Although redistribution results from the effect of tax revenue collections, micro household-level empirical analyses of the distributional effect of personal income tax (PIT) and value added tax (VAT) reforms…

Read more
October 2021
There and Back Again: The Making of Uganda’s Mobile Money Tax
by Adrienne Lees & Doris Akol

Mobile money is widely seen as a powerful tool for enhancing financial inclusion and, potentially, improving the economic well-being of the poor. As the mobile money sector, and its turnover, have grown, certain governments have increasingly viewed mobile money transactions as a potentially convenient tax handle. The resulting tax measures are often controversial and draw…

Read more
Fuel subsidy reform and the social contract in Nigeria: A micro-economic analysis
by Neil McCulloch, Tom Moerenhout & Joonseok Yang

Fuel subsidies in Nigeria are enormous – around USD 3.9 billion – almost double the health budget. Such subsidies come at great cost: the opportunity costs of such spending on other development objectives are large; the distribution of resources to the state governments is reduced; the vast majority of the subsidy goes to better off Nigerians; and…

Read more
July 2021
There and Back Again: The Making of Uganda’s Mobile Money Tax
by Doris Akol & Adrienne Lees

This paper evaluates the appropriateness of the tax policymaking process that led to the introduction, and the later adaptation, of a tax on mobile money transactions in Uganda in 2018. We examine the unusual source of the proposal, how this particular tax diverged from the usual tax policymaking process, and whether certain key stakeholders were…

Read more
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…

Read more
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…

Read more

Blogs:

November 2021
by Martin Hearson

G20 leaders are celebrating a new agreement to strengthen the taxation of tech firms and create a global minimum tax, reached by 136 jurisdictions and brokered at the OECD. Numerous lower-income countries have expressed frustration that their influence was marginal and their demands rejected, but many have nonetheless signed up. Historical legacies These negotiations reflect…

Read more
November 2021
by Max Gallien, Mike Rogan & Vanessa van den Boogaard

Many low and middle-income countries face a myriad of challenges. But policies that can address them are few and far between. The challenges include high and rising inequality, budget crises and the ongoing pandemic. In a set of recent outputs, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) presented an approach that they argue can tackle all three…

Read more
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…

Read more

Research Projects:

Current Project
Taliban Taxation System in Afghanistan
Project Researchers: Rahmatullah Amiri & Ashley Jackson

This project is an exploratory and interpretative piece of research looking at patterns of Taliban taxation to piece together an explanation of their practices. This research is guided by two main, inter-related questions: 1. How and why do the Taliban collect taxes, and how does this vary across areas under Taliban influence? 2. What does…

Read more
Current Project
Fiscal Decentralization and Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations in sub-Saharan Africa: A critical literature survey and perspective for future research
Project Researchers: Ndamsa Dickson Thomas & Mark Wiykiynyuy Tangwa

What is the agenda for future research in the areas of fiscal decentralization and intergovernmental fiscal relations in Cameroon? The specific objectives of this project are as follows: • To conduct a critical literature survey on fiscal decentralization and intergovernmental fiscal relations in sub-Saharan Africa, with a special focus on Cameroon, • To identify knowledge…

Read more
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
Read more
Past Project
Revenue shortfalls from domestic and trade taxes in the wake of COVID: evidence from Eswatini, Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone and South Africa
Project Researchers: Giulia Mascagni, Giovanni Occhiali, Adrienne Lees & Fabrizio Santoro

Since having been declared a global pandemic in March 2020, Covid-19 has altered the daily life of the vast majority of the world population, with major impacts on its health and livelihood. While Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) was not amongst the first regions to be hit, cases have been reported in all of its countries since…

Read more
Past Project
The impact of intergovernmental transfers on fiscal behaviors of local governments in Ethiopia
Project Researchers: Dejene Mamo Bekana

This inquiry aims to examine the effect of intergovernmental fiscal transfers on fiscal behaviours of local governments in Ethiopia for the period 1992–2018. The empirical analysis shall follow the systems general methods of moments regression technique. The motivation for using this estimation technique is to provide special focus to the issue of endogeneity by estimating…

Read more
Past Project
Tax Collection and Bureaucrat Accountability: Experimental Evidence from the DRC
Project Researchers: Laura Paler, Augustin Bergeron, Gabriel Tourek & Jonathan L Wiegel

Taxation is thought to stimulate participation and accountable governance. This project examines how tax collection affects local bureaucrat performance in the DRC. We exploit random variation in whether local bureaucrats known as avenue chiefs were responsible for property tax collection (treatment), or whether agents of the tax ministry collected taxes within chief jurisdictions instead (control)….

Read more
Past Project
Mining Taxation – Fondation pour les Etudes et Recherches sur le Développement International (FERDI)
Project Researchers: Celine De Quatrebarbes, FERDI

The Ferdi will update the legal and tax database country by country. It estimates that the average time needed to update a country is four days. However, it goes without saying that countries that have made major tax reforms will require more time than countries whose laws have not changed. For example, Burkina Faso, which…

Read more
Past Project
Energy-related Tax Expenditures in Africa
Project Researchers: Dr. Neil McCulloch & Dr. Roel Dom

This project will explore the scope and size of energy-related tax expenditures in Africa. Tax expenditures (including rate reductions, exemptions and other forms of foregone revenue) can significantly reduce the overall revenue received by African governments. The literature on energy subsidies suggests that energy-related tax expenditures are often among the largest forms of revenue loss….

Project Outputs

Policy Brief
Read more
Past Project
Economic and Political Consequences of Revenue Composition across States in Nigeria
Project Researchers: Oyebola M. Okunogbe

The recent crash in oil prices and subsequent economic crisis has highlighted the grave consequences that are associated with Nigeria’s heavy dependence on oil revenue and its low tax base. While this pattern is well known for the country, there is limited evidence on the state-by-state variation in oil dependence and economic outcomes. This study…

Read more