This paper investigates the extent to which institutional and political factors explain statutory tax rates in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In particular, it examines the effect of regulatory quality, political accountability, political fragmentation, the electoral cycle, and ideological orientation on corporate income tax (CIT) rates as well as top marginal personal income tax (PIT) rates during 1990-2017. Different from advanced economies, our results suggest that in SSA institutional (structural) factors are more important than political (conjunctural) ones. Better institutions (proxied by higher regulatory quality) are associated with lower tax rates, while weak political accountability (proxied by longer government tenures) and greater fragmentation (linked to polarization) lead to higher tax rates. The electoral cycle is weakly associated with higher CIT, and contrary to findings in advanced economies, the ideological orientation of the government does not appear to influence statutory tax rates in SSA.
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