Looking forward: broader messages, policy lessons and directions for future research

Wilson Prichard
2015

Summary

Taxation, responsiveness and accountability provides the most complete treatment of the connections between taxation and accountability in developing countries. Drawing on cross-country econometric evidence and detailed case studies from Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia, the book shows that reliance on taxation has, in fact, increased responsiveness and accountability by expanding the political power wielded by taxpayers. In this, the final chapter of the book, the author draws on this empirical investigation to provide an account of the relation between taxation and political change in low-income countries, and attempts to translate this understanding into specific policy advice for national and international actors.

Over the past decade, the basic message on tax policy has been simple: Countries should seek to strengthen domestic tax collection, given the promise that greater reliance on tax collection may spur virtuous processes of tax bargaining. The research discussed in this chapter finds some support for this policy advice, but the chapter argues that it is overly simplistic. The chapter argues that it is vital to understand how to approach the expansion of taxation in a way that is most conducive to governance-enhancing tax bargaining. The chapter highlights five types of reforms that may contribute to fostering processes of governance-enhancing tax bargaining:

  • Expanding the political salience of taxation: the scope for direct and indirect tax bargaining is crucially dependent on public awareness and the broader political salience of taxation.
  • Increasing horizontal equity in the tax system: where business elites have been confronted by a uniform tax burden, they have been more likely to make collective demands for reciprocity and improved governance.
  • Directly encouraging bargaining and collective action: seeking to directly support civil society organizations, the media, business associations and parliamentarians to engage with tax issues.
  • Expanding transparency and engagement: the absence of trust can frequently be amongst the most fundamental barriers to tax bargaining, as taxpayers have little confidence in government promises and correspondingly prefer simple tax evasion to longer-term bargaining.
  • Creating institutionalized spaces for tax bargaining: The case studies in the book point clearly to the importance of political institutions in facilitating comparatively direct forms of tax bargaining.

The chapter concludes with some broader implications of the evidence on tax bargaining for aid donors, and suggestions for further research.

Source

Prichard, W. (2015). Looking forward: broader messages, policy lessons and directions for future research. In Taxation, responsiveness and accountability in Sub-Saharan Africa: The dynamics of tax bargaining. Cambridge University Press.