Widespread tax evasion reflected in persistent public resistance to pay is seen as part of the problem of raising local government revenues in Tanzania. Dealing with the policy problem of revenue enhancement and tax evasion requires some understanding of the factors underlying the individual's decision whether to pay or evade taxes. However, the views of taxpayers are to a large extent ignored in this policy debate. Based on data from a recently conducted citizen survey, this paper presents the perceptions of ordinary people on local government taxation. The study shows that citizens feel they get little in return for taxes paid. This impacts on their willingness to pay and contributes to eroding peoples' trust in the local government's capacity to provide the expected services. Hence, from a policy perspective it is a major challenge to provide better linkages between tax compliance and service delivery. Moreover, the study shows that the ways taxes are collected can affect citizens' attitudes toward taxation. Oppressive, uncompromising and non-transparent approaches to collecting taxes, fees and charges may actually foster tax resistance and disrespect for the laws. The study therefore concludes that it is imperative to establish mechanisms for improving relations between the local revenue administration and citizens. Relevant measures include improvements to the billing and accounting systems, establishing more accessible and efficient payment facilities, and strengthening the capacity to follow up cases of non-payment through fair and reasonable enforcement.

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance