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Following the second roundtable held with African finance ministers and central bank governors, Sanjeev Gupta and Mark Plant explore tax concessions and the challenges of meeting the targets for domestic resource mobilization set under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
Are “sin taxes” regressive? This is a common criticism of proposals to increase taxes on “bads” such as tobacco, alcohol, and sugar. There are a number of reasons not to be too concerned by the answer to this question. But still, we were curious, so we took a look at the data.
Ahead of the Addis Tax Initiative conference in Berlin, we discuss the importance of considering equity in the discussions on improving domestic revenue mobilisation (DRM) and suggest recommendations for reform that would make tax systems more equitable.
At the Center for Global Development, we recently initiated a project to develop more effective and equitable strategies for domestic resource mobilization in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The impetus for the project is the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing development, which calls on developing countries to step up their efforts to collect more taxes domestically to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Matti Kohonen of Christian Aid holds out the enticing prospect that African countries could collect an additional 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in tax if only big multinationals would stop dodging. The problem is that this estimate is (still) based on wishful thinking. Multinational corporations should pay tax, but the scale of potential revenues depend on underlying levels of investment and profitability in a country.
The vexed question of whether country-by-country (CBC) reports on multinational companies’ tax affairs should be put into the public domain has been a sticking point in debates on responsible tax practice for years.
It is time that donors and technical assistance providers turn their attention to tax concessions provided by developing countries struggling to raise more taxes from domestic sources. The granting of tax concessions is not only mostly opaque and prone to corruption, but these concessions are further constricting the already narrow tax base of countries, thereby undermining the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to promote domestic resource mobilization. There is a risk that additional revenues collected through tax reforms may be lost through tax concessions.
“Illicit financial flows” means dirty money crossing borders. It is an umbrella term which covers diverse actors including organised crime groups, business people making bribes, political leaders engaging in grand corruption, and major tax evaders hiding undeclared wealth. What they all have in common is that what they are doing is illegal (although they may be getting away with it), and they often use opaque international networks of legal entities, bank accounts, and property holdings to facilitate and store ill-gotten gains. There is a clear development case for rich countries to act to prevent their financial systems being used as havens for illicit financial flows that harm developing countries.