Tax, Welfare and Inequality

Image credit: © Johnny Miller, Goya Bauwens

Tax policy and tax administration can have a big impact on who does or does not pay their fair share, on economic incentives, and thus on levels of poverty and the distribution of income and welfare. Research under this theme focuses on developing a better understanding, in specific contexts, of the complex economic and political linkages between how governments tax, how their national economies perform, and how well their citizens live. Some of our specific concerns are: the taxation of high net worth individuals; efficient business taxation; and the taxation of socially-harmful activities like smoking tobacco.

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Publications:

August 2022
The VAT in practice: equity, enforcement, and complexity
by Giulia Mascagni, Roel Dom, Fabrizio Santoro & Denis Mukama

The value-added tax (VAT) is meant to be an efficient and self-enforcing tax on consumption. Yet, being a rather sophisticated tax, the VAT can also be complex and costly to administer. By examining the case of Rwanda, this paper assesses the extent to which the VAT’s potential materialises in the context of a lower-income countries….

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No smoking gun: tobacco taxation and smuggling in Sierra Leone
by Giovanni Occhiali & Max Gallien

Objective To evaluate the common industry claim that higher tobacco taxation leads to higher levels of smuggling, particularly in a limited state capacity setting. Design This paper evaluates the effects of a tobacco tax increase in Sierra Leone on smuggling by using gap analyses. Its models are based on multiple rounds of the Demographic and…

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June 2022
Small Nets for Big Fish? Tax Enforcement on the Richest – Evidence from Uganda
by Fabrizio Santoro & Ronald Waiswa

Appropriately taxing the richest is a priority for every government, even more so in Africa, where higher revenue mobilisation is needed to fund growth. In Uganda, the revenue authority launched a specific unit to monitor the tax affairs of the richest individuals. Thanks to a close collaboration with the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), we evaluate…

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The Likely Fiscal and Public Health Effects of an Excise Tax on Sugar sweetened Beverages in Kenya
by Corné van Walbeek & Senzo Mthembu

Historically, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have typically been associated with tobacco and alcohol use. However, in recent decades increased levels of overweightness and obesity, mostly caused by poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle, have increased diabetes, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases. There is a general agreement that sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) are bad for one’s health….

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April 2022
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 Covid-19 pandemic and policy responses to it between high- and low-income countries. While evidence on the former is growing, there remain more unanswered questions on the latter. This paper addresses this gap by providing insights on the impact of the pandemic in Rwanda, based on firm-level…

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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…

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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…

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More on the Positive Fiscal and Health Effects of Increasing Tobacco Taxes in Nigeria
by Corné van Walbeek, Adedeji Adeniran & Iraoya Augustine

Nigeria is faced with substantial economic and health burdens caused by tobacco smoking. The economic burden of smoking accounts for approximately 1.3 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP. In terms of its health impact, 4.9 per cent of all deaths in 2019 were attributed to smoking related diseases. The thousands of Nigerians that die annually from…

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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…

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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:

September 2022
by Max Gallien, Mike Rogan, Nana Akua Anyidoho & Vanessa van den Boogaard

Ghana’s introduction of a a 1.5% tax on mobile money transactions in May 2022 has been watched closely by policymakers across Africa. The proponents of the electronic transaction levy (e-levy) argue that taxes on mobile money — commonly referred to in Ghana as MoMo — present an opportunity for cash-strapped governments to raise funds in the complex…

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August 2022
by Awa Diouf, Fabrizio Santoro & Mary Abounabhan

Introduced in May 2022, Ghana’s e-levy is a 1.5 per cent tax on the transfer amount of electronic transactions. The objective is to improve tax revenues by tapping into fast-growing digital financial services (DFS). However, many exemptions are applied to the tax design. A daily and cumulative exemption is fixed at 100 Ghanaian cedis for…

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June 2022
by Philipa Birago Akuoko & Rhiannon McCluskey

The Electronic Transaction Levy (E-levy), a 1.5% tax on all electronic transactions, went into effect on the 1st of May amongst considerable uncertainty and controversy. One of the prime justifications for the levy was to capture the informal sector. The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, defended the levy as an important measure to expand the…

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Research Projects:

Past Project
Tobacco tax reform in West Africa
Project Researchers: Prof Corné van Walbeek, REEP, Dr Hana Ross, REEP, Prof Abdoulaye Diagne, CRES, Dr Pape Yona Mané, CRES & Kisten van der Zee, REEP

See the project’s factsheets on tobacco taxation in West Africa Read the blog summarising key research findings so far. Purpose Africa is vulnerable to the tobacco industry. It has a large and young population, rapid economic growth, a desire to attract foreign investment, and weak tobacco control policies. Although smoking prevalence in many African countries…

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Past Project
The fiscal and public health impact of a change in tobacco excise taxes in Ghana
Project Researchers: Ama Fenny, University of Ghana, Felix Asante, Aba Crentsil & Christian Osei

This study will provide evidence-based analysis of tobacco taxation in Ghana. The main research theme addressed will be to assess best practices in tobacco taxation centering on the impact of tobacco tax increases on the retail price of tobacco products, tobacco consumption and government tax revenue. We hypothesize that this will provide the evidence needed…

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Past Project
Estimating the Impact of Tax or Price Measures on Tobacco Smoking Onset and Cessation
Project Researchers: Precious Akanonu

This study seeks to contribute to the scant literature on the impact of prices on smoking onset and cessation in LMICs by investigating the following research questions, with a focus on Nigeria: What is the impact of cigarette prices on smoking onset? What is the impact of cigarette prices on smoking cessation? The study is…

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