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Taxpayer’s dilemma: how can ‘fiscal contracts’ work in developing countries?

Pamela Lenton (), Mike Masiye () and Paul Mosley ()
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Mike Masiye: Department of Economics, University of Sheffield
Paul Mosley: Department of Economics, University of Sheffield

No 2017004, Working Papers from The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics

Abstract: The theoretical literature around effective tax systems, which are a preconditionof an effective state and therefore of development, has coalesced around the idea of a‘fiscal social contract’, in which beneficial expenditures are delivered to taxpayers in returnfor their tax payments, rather than a coercive relationship existing between them and thegovernment. However, these ideas about governance have with few exceptions not beenincorporated into empirical analyses of tax yield and how to increase it. In this paper, weattempt to fill this gap. Our starting-point is the model of the (fundamentally) democratic social contract proposedby Rousseau 250 years ago, which suggests that increased democracy will be good for manystate-building functions including fiscal mobilisation. We develop this idea by means of aprisoner’s dilemma model, which shows that a ‘fiscal contract’ between taxpayers and thegovernment (in the sense of a top left-hand corner, ‘win-win’ solution of the prisoner’sdilemma) will be most likely to emerge not only as a result of greater democraticaccountability, but also if taxpayers feel that they are getting good value from, and are wellinformed about, government expenditures in exchange for their tax payments. This modelis then estimated empirically against a sample of 62 developing countries between 1980-2008 (with the share of human capital expenditures in public expenditure used as anindicator of the value which taxpayers derive from that expenditure), backed by two casestudies of Ghana and Zambia. Our results, both from econometric analysis and the casestudies, suggest that increasing levels of democratic accountability and the quality of publicexpenditure are correlated, and causally connected, with increasing tax/GDP ratios, and thatin countries where competitiveness is blunted by high levels of rent-seeking, the tax ratiowill be less buoyant. Also, the process by which fiscal contracts are constructed isimportant. The government needs to send the taxpayer an effective signal, or bona-fide,illustrating the benefits to be derived from paying their tax bills. Illustrations of effectivebona-fides are provided.

Keywords: fiscal policy; tax ratios; fiscal contracts; bona-fides; democracy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 D78 E62 O23 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-mac, nep-pbe and nep-pol
Date: 2017-01
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