The Tax for Development webinar series features ongoing research and initiatives to strengthen domestic revenue mobilization in developing countries, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. 

During autumn 2021, the webinars will take place every third Tuesday at 3pm – 4 pm (Barcelona/Geneva/Paris/Oslo) on zoom. The webinars are open to everyone. Register using the links below each seminar to attend. 

The webinar series is jointly organized by Chr. Michelsen Institute and the TaxCapDev-network

Past events
30 November 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Tax expenditure reporting and domestic revenue mobilization in Africa with Christian von Haldenwang and Agustin Redonda

Summary: The use of tax expenditures (TEs) is an important fiscal practice that is often overlooked in public spending debates. The fiscal cost as well as the lack of effectiveness of TEs can be significant. This presentation describes the state of TE reporting across the world, focusing on Africa. It begins by explains what TEs are and what their role in government expenditure is, offers examples of the fiscal cost of these provisions, their (in)effectiveness, and the reasons why they are often hard to remove and the lack and inconsistency of TE reporting. The presentation will also provide the first results of the “Global Tax Expenditures Database” (GTED), an ongoing project aiming to increase transparency and boost research in the TE field. The GTED reveals that over half of African countries do not provide any information on their TEs, while most of the countries that do report on TEs leave out important information such as the policy objectives and beneficiaries of those provisions. The presentation is based on the book chapter “Tax Expenditure Reporting and Domestic Revenue Mobilization in Africa” published in 2021 in: Mosquera Valderrama I.J., Lesage D., Lips W. (eds) Taxation, International Cooperation and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. United Nations University Series on Regionalism, vol 19. Springer, Cham and on the GTED Flagship Report 2021.

Senior Researcher
German Development Institute

Christian von Haldenwang is senior researcher at the German Development Institute (DIE) in Bonn. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Tübingen. Christian’s research focuses on tax policy and reform, discal decentralization and legitimacy. Currently he works on research projects on “Mobilizing domestic revenue”, “Global Tax Expenditures Database (GTED)” and “Transformative urban coalitions”, and he is the DIE regional coordinator for Latin America.

Senior Fellow
Council of Economic Policies

Agustin Redonda is an economist and senior fellow at Council on Economic Policies (CEP) in Zürich. Agustin’s main research interests lie in the field of public economics - particularly fiscal policy and taxation - as well as international and development economics, with a strong focus on policy-oriented projects. Agustin leads the Fiscal Policy Programme at CEP and works on the “Global Tax Expenditures Database (GTED)”. 

9 November 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Tax Aversion and the Social Contract in Africa with James Robinson

Abstract: Despite the low levels of taxation and public good provision in Africa, I provide evidence that a large proportion of Africans prefer lower taxation and fewer public goods. This cannot be explained by standard arguments about problems of accountability, governance or state capacity. Instead I argue that it reflects deeply seated ideas about the nature of the state and its potential threats to the autonomy of society. I show the historic social contracts in Africa rarely featured taxation and kept the state to limited domains. These social contracts have in many ways reproduced themselves and influence the way Africa is governed today.

University of Chicago

James Robinson is the Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies and University Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy and in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Institute Director of The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts. Robinson’s main research interests are in comparative economic and political development with a focus on the long-run with a particular interest in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently conducting research in Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Haiti and in Colombia where he has taught for many years during the summer at the University of the Andes in Bogotá.

19 October 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
The non-democratic origins of fiscal states with Per Andersson

Abstract: The origins of fiscal capacity have traditionally been linked to warfare and democratization. However, non-democratic states also invest in fiscal capacity, even in times of peace. In fact, the majority of income taxes – a corner stone of government finance – were introduced by non-democratic states in peace time. This paper is concerned with the autocratic origins of fiscal capacity. Political institutions in non-democratic states help overcome a commitment problem related to investments in fiscal capacity. In order not to risk being deposed by his elite supporters, a ruler needs to guarantee that new fiscal tools will not be used opportunistically (e.g., for expropriation of the elite). If the elite supporters can effectively monitor the government, any transgressions will be detected and punishable. Institutions such as legislatures solve commitment problems related to investments in fiscal capacity by allowing oversight and monitoring over the executive branch. The empirical implications are straight-forward: in places with strong institutional oversight, which allows the elite to monitor the executive, we should observe higher fiscal capacity. The paper finds support for this notion by analyzing newly available datasets over tax revenues, tax introduction dates, and political institutions.

Copenhagen University and Stockholm University

Per Andersson is a Postdoc at the Department of Political Science, Copenhagen University and at Stockholm University. His research focuses on the origins of state capacity, the impact of institutions, and taxation. Per’s work on state capacity concerns the constitutional origins of tax capacity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In a related effort he studies how state capacity is linked to regime change. He is also interested in how political institutions mediate the impact of ideology on tax policy, in particular under what conditions left-wing parties tax the poor. He also works on how the political representation of the poor is related to inequality, and how taxation affects cooperation in public goods games. Per’s work has been published in journals such as Comparative Politics, the Journal of Theoretical Politics, and Studies in Comparative International Development. He has also contributed to The Handbook on the Politics of Taxation (Edward Elgar, 2021) and Global Taxation (Oxford University Press, 2021).

28 September 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Informality, consumption taxes and redistribution with Lucie Gadenne

What is the redistributive capacity of taxes on consumption in developing countries? In this paper, the authors combine household expenditure data from 32 countries with theory to establish the optimal design of consumption taxes and their impact on income inequality. The study uses the type of store in which purchases occur to proxy for informal (untaxed) consumption. In all countries, the budget share spent in informal stores steeply declines with income. This makes consumption taxes strongly progressive as the effective tax rate rises with income. Contrary to consensus, our results show that consumption taxes are redistributive and reduce inequality. Moreover, once informality is considered, the widespread policy of rate differentiation across goods has limited redistributive impact. In particular, reduced rates on necessities cannot be justified on equity grounds in the poorest countries. The paper is joint work with Pierre Bachas (World Bank Research) and Anders Jensen (Harvard Kennedy School).

Associate Professor
University of Warwick

Lucie Gadenne is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and a Research Affiliate at the CEPR and the IGC. Gadenne's research focuses on public policy in developing countries and in particular on the optimal design of taxes and subsidies, the equity and efficiency effects of taxation in the presence of large informal sectors and the effects of tax capacity on government accountability.

7 September 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Where do developing countries stand in the debate on the new rules for taxing the digital economy? with Annet Wanyana Oguttu

About the webinar

The digital economy has revolutionised the way of doing business and at the same time imposed major challenges for effective taxation of companies. A major challenge is the risk of tax base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS). This has compelled the international community to consider new rules for taxing the digital economy. Due to the delays in reaching consensus on how to effectively tax the digital economy, countries have adopted unilateral measures to protect their tax bases. In her presentation, Prof. Oguttu discusses the impact of the unilateral measures on the international tax system. She also discusses the new tax rules proposed by OECD Inclusive Framework to tax the digital economy from a developing country's perspective.  The presentation draws on Prof. Oguttu’s recent book Base Erosion and Profit Shifting: A Blueprint for Africa’s Response.  

Annet Wanyana Oguttu
African Tax Institute, University of Pretoria

Annet Wanyana Oguttu is a professor of tax law in the Department of Taxation and in the African Tax Institute (Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences), University of Pretoria. She holds a Doctorate in international tax law and specializes in international taxation. Prof Oguttu is a member of the UN High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (FACTI Panel), and a member of the Davis Tax Committee (DTC) which was appointed by South Africa’s Minister of Finance to assess South Africa’s tax policy framework. She has served as a Commissioner of the South African Law Reform Commission. In 2021, Prof. Oguttu published the book  “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting: A Blueprint for Africa’s Response”. She is also the author of the seminal book "International Tax Law: Offshore Tax Avoidance in South Africa" published in 2015. She has contributed several book chapters and has published many articles on international tax. 

1 June 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
When ‘Pockets of effectiveness’ matter politically: Extractive industry regulation and taxation in Uganda and Tanzania with Anne Mette Kjær

Summary of the paper: It is a common view that states in the developing world with substantial extractive natural resource discoveries may not have the capacity to tax and regulate multinational companies in the sector. This study shows that ruling elites in recently resource-rich Tanzania, and in Uganda – expected to become resource-rich in the foreseeable future - have learned from the resource curse: they seek to construct ‘pockets of effectiveness’ (POEs) to regulate and tax natural resources. We explain the political incentives to create such pockets by combining insights from the POE and the Political Settlement literatures. We argue that POEs are likely to be established in emerging resource-rich countries with three characteristics: some degree of competitive elections; widespread voter expectations of future natural resource prosperity; and absence of powerful domestic firms in the sector who can resist taxation. The political benefits of such POEs are higher revenues that can boost government spending power and, hence, political legitimacy. These outweigh the political costs of establishing POEs, namely rents and patronage foregone. This insight is missed in much of the writings on the impact of natural resource wealth in African countries.  

Professor of political science
University of Aarhus, Denmark

Anne Mette Kjær is Professor of political science at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. She has published extensively on issues of public policy, taxation and state capacity in Eastern Africa, with a particular focus on Uganda. Her latest publications include “Nomination violence in Uganda’s National Resistance Movement” (published in African Affairs, 2021); and the book chapter “The political economy of resource mobilization for social development in Uganda” (published in The Politics of Domestic Resource Mobilization for Social Development, edited by K. Hujo, 2020). Currently, Mette is leading the Danida-funded research programme “Political Settlements and Revenue Bargaining in Africa”, which has a focus on Tanzania and Uganda. Mette has over many years been actively engaged in the public debate on aid effectiveness, and has served as advisor for international organisations such as The Danish Development Policy Council, an advisory body for the Minister for Development, which she chairs, and the DanChurchAid as board member.

11 May 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Informal taxation and community-driven development: Evidence from south-central Somalia with Vanessa van den Boogaard and Fabrizio Santoro

Download CMI Presentation Informal Taxation Somalia

Community contributions are often required as part of community-driven development (CDD) programmes, incentivized through matching grants. However, little remains known about the impacts of matching grants or the implications of requiring community contributions in order to receive development funding. In this paper, we partner with an international and Somali NGO and undertake a randomized control trial of a CDD matching grant programme designed to incentivize informal contributions for local public goods in Gedo region in south-central Somalia. We rely on household survey data collected from 1297 respondents in 31 treatment and 31 control communities, as well as surveys of village leaders and data on informal contributions from the mobile money platform used by community leaders to collect revenues. Two key findings emerge. First, our research shows that working with communities and incentivizing informal revenue generation can be an effective way to deliver public goods and to support citizens and communities. Second, building on research exploring the potential for development interventions to spur virtuous or adverse cycles of governance, we show that development partners may work directly with community leaders and informal taxing institutions without necessarily undermining—and indeed perhaps strengthening—state legitimacy and related ongoing processes of statebuilding in the country. Indeed, despite playing no direct role in the matching grant programme, taxpayer perceptions of the legitimacy of the local government improved as a result of the programme. These findings deepen our understanding of how community contributions may be incentivized through matching grant programmes and how they may contribute to CDD and public goods provision in a context of weak institutional capacity.

Link to ICTD working paper

Research Fellow
International Centre for Tax and Development at the Institute of Development Studies

Vanessa holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the politics of taxation and informal institutions, the political economy of development, and conflict and state-building. Vanessa is a Research Fellow at the International Centre for Tax and Development, where she leads the research programmes on informality and taxation and civil society and tax. She is based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. Vanessa has extensive research experience in a number of African countries, including Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. In 2020, Vanessa was named one of the TaxCOOP’s 35 leaders of the future, which is a distinguished recognition program for the most promising young tax policy enthusiasts who passionately contribute to the advancement of taxation and tax justice. 

Postdoctoral Fellow
International Centre for Tax and Development

Fabrizio holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex, UK. Currently, he is Postdoctoral Fellow at IDS in Sussex, working with the International Centre for Tax and Development. Prior to joining IDS, Fabrizio worked as a Research Associate at Innovations for Poverty Action in Myanmar, as a Trainee at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, and with BRAC in Uganda. He also works as an external consultant for the University of Sussex and the Danish Refugee Council. Fabrizio has field experience from Somalia, Rwanda and Swaziland. His main area of research is taxation and public finance, with a strong focus on evaluation of public policy and data analysis.

13 April 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Informal elites as local bureaucrats: Why working as a tax collector increases the local accountability of city chiefs in Congo with Jonathan Weigel
This paper examines how working as a tax collector for the formal state affects the local accountability of informal elites (city chiefs) in D.R. Congo. The study exploits random variation in whether city chiefs were responsible for property tax collection (treatment), or whether agents of the tax ministry collected taxes within avenue chiefs’ jurisdictions instead (control). The study examines the accountability of chiefs by measuring how they choose to allocate scarce benefits from a government antipoverty program in their community. We find that chiefs who collected taxes are more likely to target the poor and make fewer errors of inclusion in distributing program benefits. There are no changes in corruption or nepotism. We exploit two cross-randomized citizen-side treatments as well as variation in whether chiefs’ taxed in all or only part of their jurisdictions to shed light on the mechanism. Collecting taxes appears to increase chiefs’ sense of duty and public spiritedness, while also equipping chiefs with better information about households’ need that enables them to make fewer inclusion errors. Rather than leading to cooptation and `decentralized despotism,’ the results suggest that delegating formal tax collection responsibilities to informal elites can in fact strengthen their accountability to their local constituents.
Assistant professor

Jonathan Weigel is an assistant professor in the Department of International Development at the LSE, an affiliate of CEPR and STICERD, a member of EGAP, and a research associate at the IFS.

9 March - 9 February 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Electronic Payment Technology and Tax Capacity: Evidence from Uruguay’s Financial Inclusion Reform with Anne Brockmeyer

The idea that the digitization of transactions in an economy might increase government tax capacity has been prominent in the economic literature and in policy debates. This paper studies the effect of financial incentives on the adoption of electronic payment technology by firms and consumers, and on tax compliance by firms. Exploiting administrative tax and transaction records and quasi-experimental variation generated by Uruguay’s Financial Inclusion Reform, we present three main findings. Consumer VAT rebates for credit/debit card transactions trigger an immediate 50% increase in the number of card transactions and a 20-30% increase the volume of card transactions. Firms are much less responsive, however, with adoption of point-of-sale terminals (POS) increasing only marginally and only on the intensive margin. Comparing retail firms to wholesale firms in a difference-in-difference design, we find no increase in tax compliance. Endogenous POS adoption and the fact that electronic sales constitute less than 30% of total reported sales among firms with a POS can rationalize this finding.

Research Director for Tax & Development
Institute for Fiscal Studies, UCL

Anne Brockmeyer is Research Director for Tax & Development at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Honorary Associate Professor at University College London, and a Senior Economist at the World Bank (on leave).

9 February 2021 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Tax compliance, culture and local institutions: The legacy of pre-colonial centralization in Uganda with Merima Ali
The paper examines the legacy of pre-colonial centralization on tax compliance norms of citizens in contemporary Uganda. By combining geo-referenced anthropological data on pre-colonial ethnic homelands with micro survey data from several rounds of the Afrobarometer Survey, pre-colonial centralization is found to be associated with a higher willingness to pay taxes. The results hold for the whole sample and in the regression discontinuity analysis on individuals that reside close to the borders of neighboring ethnic homelands with different levels of pre-colonial centralization. The higher tax compliance norm in pre-colonial centralized homelands seems to be due to the persistent culture to obey authority and not necessarily through the legacy of better-quality local institutions. We find that while respondents in pre-colonial centralized homelands command a significantly lower level of trust towards local leaders, they, on the other hand, have a stronger belief that they should obey rules coming from different authorities such as the tax authority, the court, and the government in power.
Senior Researcher
(CMI and Syracuse University)

Merima Ali is Senior Researcher at Chr. Michelsen Institute and affiliated with Department of Economics at Syracuse University.

15 December 2020 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Social norms, pressures and corruption in tax administration with David Jackson

Recent theorizing around social norms has enabled novel kinds of empirical research into corruption, assessing how shared perceptions about the frequency and acceptability of corrupt practices influence individuals’ willingness to engage in such acts. Studies across various disciplines have begun to analyse corruption through a social norms lens, catching up with other fields where social norms theory has been effectively applied. This chapter reviews recent empirical research on social norms of corruption and identifies the empirical, methodological and theoretical contributions of this literature. It also points to several knowledge gaps that appear especially fruitful for future research to investigate. 

Senior Advisor (U4)
U4 Anti Corruption Resource Centre, CMI

David is a Senior Adviser at U4 Anti Corruption Resource Centre and is heading the work on informal contexts of corruption. He is a political scientist specialising on governance and anticorruption, with a particular focus on the role of informal institutions. 

1 December 2020 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for revenue collection in poor African countries with Odd-Helge Fjeldstad and Ole Therkildsen

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the economies of poor countries hard, particularly in Africa. This study examines how and to what extent the pandemic affects domestic revenue mobilisation in selected African countries. It also assesses the potential of various tax instruments to raise additional future revenues. The study will provide inputs to the preparation of Denmark’s new aid strategy 2021 on how domestic revenue mobilisation may affect future Danish aid to countries in Africa. 

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad is Research Professor and coordinator of the tax and public finance research group at Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI). He has more than 30 years of experience from research and policy analysis in East and Southern Africa. He has published widely on tax and development. His research has appeared in international academic journals, such as The Economic Journal, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, World Development, Journal of Development Studies, and Journal of Modern African Studies, and in books by Cambridge University Press, ZED/University of Chicago Press, Edward Elgar and Routledge 

Emeritus Researcher
Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

Ole Therkildsen is Emeritus Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). He does research on taxation, democratization, corruption, and public service delivery in poor countries – especially East and Southern Africa. He is specifically interested in how their political economies shape relations of the state, bureaucracy, civil society, and the private sector. 

17 November 2020 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Do tax administrative interventions targeted at small businesses improve tax compliance and revenue collection? Evidence from Ugandan tax data with Maria Jouste

This paper evaluates the effects of two tax administrative interventions, which expanded taxpayer register and changed the electronic filing system of presumptive tax, on the number of small business taxpayers and presumptive tax revenues in Uganda. Using a difference-in-differences approach and administrative tax data covering both presumptive taxpayers and comparable small corporate income tax (CIT) payers, we find that the number of small business taxpayers filing tax returns and presumptive tax revenues increased substantially after interventions. We argue that interventions complement each other because both interventions were established around same years and the TREP not only focused on registering but also educating taxpayers. We analyse the cost-effectiveness of TREP and find that benefits outweigh costs.

Research Associate
UNU-WIDER in Helsinki

Maria Jouste is a Research Associate at UNU-WIDER in Helsinki, where she works on topics related to taxation and tax-benefit microsimulation models. She is pursuing her PhD in Economics at University of Turku. Her research focuses on taxation and social protection in developing countries. Her recent research has included the evaluation of tax and administrative reforms using administrative tax data from Uganda. 

3 November 2020 15:00 - 16:00 CET
The TaxCapDev-network with Morten Bøås , Odd-Helge Fjeldstad and Sigrid K. Jacobsen

Questions related to domestic resource mobilisation, taxation, illegal capital flight and the utilisation of natural resources are some of the most important in the contemporary development debate. The TaxCapDev-network focuses on dissemination and sharing of research results, as well as bringing researchers, decision makers and activists together to discuss research findings and improve policy development in this important field. The network also contributes to increased collaboration between researchers from the Global North and South, and helps to promote South-South cooperation within this field of research. The network is coordinated by NUPI and CMI, in partnership with Tax Justice Network-Norway, and funded by the Research Council of Norway. At this webinar current work and future plans of the network will be presented and discussed. 

TaxCapDev slides

Research Professor
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)

Morten is Research Professor at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and works predominantly on issues concerning peace and conflict in Africa, including issues such as land rights and citizenship, conflicts, youths, ex-combatants and the new landscape of insurgencies and geopolitics. Morten manages the TaxCapDev-network jointly with Odd-Helge Fjeldstad. 

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad is Research Professor and coordinator of the tax and public finance research group at Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI). He has more than 30 years of experience from research and policy analysis in East and Southern Africa. He has published widely on tax and development. His research has appeared in international academic journals, such as The Economic Journal, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, World Development, Journal of Development Studies, and Journal of Modern African Studies, and in books by Cambridge University Press, ZED/University of Chicago Press, Edward Elgar and Routledge 

Executive Director
Tax Justice Network Norway

Sigrid is Executive Director of Tax Justice Network Norway. She has two decades of experience on changing tax and transparency policies on national, regional and global levels. She has frequent public appearances in media and as a speaker. She has co-authored a number of books and reports on the topic.

20 October 2020 15:00 - 16:00 CET
Tax collection, informal practises and power dynamics: A case study from Burundi with Guillaume Nicaise

Corruption in Burundi is systemic. Yet programmes aiming to support integrity and good governance are undermined by local-level relationships and informal practices by public agents. Here, a five-month investigation of tax collectors in Burundi reveals the rationale behind corrupt behaviours at street level. Anti-corruption reforms that take account of social and political pressures could point a way forward.

Read more about the research here: U4 blogpost and paper.

Senior Adviser

Guillaume is a Senior Adviser at U4 Anti Corruption Resource Centre and leads the work on good governance and corruption risk management. He also works on public outsourcing and anti-corruption certification processes. Guillaume is an anthropologist, specialised on norms transfer and norms implementation, with a focus on good governance mechanisms (transparency, accountability and civil participation).