MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES CAN PLAY OFF MOST GOVERNMENTS TO MINIMISE THEIR TAX PAYMENTS IN THE ABSENCE OF INTERNATIONALLY COORDINATED FISCAL POLICIES. WITHOUT A SUPRANATIONAL ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, MOST TAX HARMONIZATION POLICIES ARE UNSTABLE BECAUSE ONE OR ANOTHER SIGNATORY ALWAYS HAS AN INCENTIVE TO BREAK RANKS.
Abstract Many Sub-Saharan African countries are unable to generate sufficient tax revenues for public purposes. While it is widely accepted that governments' ability to tax is shaped by politics, the precise mechanisms through which this relationship takes place in practice remain elusive. Based on a historical analysis of four major tax reforms in Ghana from the 1850s to the late 1990s, this article captures the various ways in which taxpayers negotiate with the state in an attempt to limit the extent of taxation, especially in cases where state reciprocity falls short of what people expect. Our evidence suggests that, far from being a recent development, effective taxation in Ghana has long depended on the ability of the state to convince taxpayers that tax revenues will be used for the public benefit. A history of misappropriation of tax revenues, overt corruption, and profligacy diminished taxpayers' support for governments' tax efforts. More generally, the article points to the importance of understanding how tax bargaining works in practice and people's perceptions of their governments over the long term to overcome resistance to tax reforms.
Studies of political budget cycles in developing countries have generally sought to inform understanding of short-term fiscal dynamics, but can also offer unique insight into broader political dynamics in developing countries. This article correspondingly employs markedly improved data in order to study the impact of elections on tax collection, and draw broader lessons. It shows that while electionsas a grouphave had no significant effect on tax collection, the subset ofcompetitive electionshas had a significant negative impact on pre-election tax collection; while this effect appears to be largest where incumbents are particularly unpopular. This provides powerful evidence that the impact of elections on political incentives in developing countries is conditioned by the existence of an electorally competitive opposition, while offering preliminary evidence that popular resistance to taxation by unpopular governments may be an important means by which taxpayers may generate pressure for improved governance.
Though traditionally thought of as the preserve of technical experts—lawyers, economists and accountants—the study of taxation has recently attracted growing attention, with mounting recognition that taxation is fundamentally political, and lies near the core of the relationship between states and citizens. The first, and most common, question about the politics of taxation is: what are the political barriers to more effective and equitable taxation, and how can these political barriers may be overcome? However, it is important that any discussion of the politics of taxation also consider a second question: How can the expansion of tax collection be linked to the construction of stronger fiscal contracts, thus ensuring responsiveness and accountability in the use of tax revenues? The expansion of taxation represents a transfer of wealth from private citizens to the state, but becomes publicly desirable only if it is then consistently translated in improvements in publicly provided goods and services, and broader improvements in the quality of governance. This makes it incumbent on those interested in taxation to consider not only how best to raise additional revenue, but how best to raise additional revenue in ways that increase the likelihood that new revenue will be translated into broader public benefits.It is now widely accepted that in many cases political resistance represents the most important barrier to more effective taxation in Africa—particularly with respect to the taxation of elite groups. This, in turn, reflects two broad political challenges: the expansion of taxation frequently confronts resistance from influential political and economic elites, while it has historically been very difficult to build popular coalitions in favor of taxation in contexts of limited transparency and significant distrust of taxation and the state. That said, recent research has shed growing light on the contexts in which reform is more likely, and the reform strategies that may contribute to overcoming political resistance. This has been accompanied by the growth of parallel research that has highlighted the contexts in which the expansion of taxation is most likely to spur public mobilization and demand-making—and thus the strategies that reformers might adopt in seeking to strengthen the links between revenue-raising and improvements in public services and accountability. Ultimately, it increasingly appears that the kinds of political strategies that can support more effective and equitable taxation are also likely to contribute to encouraging encourage expanded popular engagement and stronger links between taxation and public benefits. These include efforts to stress horizontal equity in tax collection, to expand transparency and popular engagement in tax debates and to more clearly link expanded revenue to specific public uses, in order to build popular support for reform. Such strategies have the potential to contribute to virtuous circles of reform in which new taxation is translated into valued public benefits; thus building popular support for the further expansion of more equitable taxation.
Does joint taxation disadvantage women? To answer that question, this paper begins by reviewing unitary and bargaining models of intrafamily allocation, and then discusses the determinants of bargaining power in a world without taxes. It argues that wage rates rather than earnings are determinants of bargaining power, and then argues that productivity in household production is also a source of bargaining power. In the absence of human capital effects, joint taxation does not appear to disadvantage women in either divorce threat or separate spheres bargaining. Hence, the claim that joint taxation disadvantages women, if it is correct, depends on effects that operate through the incentives to accumulate human capital. But a satisfactory analysis of the effects of taxation on human capital awaits the further development of dynamic models of family bargaining.