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Civil society engagement in tax reform

Research reports

Written by Samuel Sharp, Stephanie Sweet, Alina Rocha Menocal

Hero image description: Tax education efforts, Uganda Image credit:Stephanie Sweet Image license:CC-BY-NC-ND

Over the past few years, the international development community has paid growing attention to domestic resource mobilisation (DRM) in developing countries in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and reduce their dependence on aid and foreign borrowing. As part of this, donors have also begun to think about the role that civil society organisations (CSOs) can play in domestic efforts to strengthen tax systems.

To date, this is an area of engagement that has remained considerably limited, with only 3% of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development donor funding for DRM allocated to local civil society. However, the literature on civil society engagement in tax reform remains limited, consisting primarily of isolated donor programme reports.

Furthermore, international support has rested on a number of assumptions – including that the key constraint to engagement and influence of CSOs in tax reform is weak technical capacity. This assumption, and others, need to be further tested.

This research project seeks to provide a more politically informed understanding of the role of civil society in domestic tax reform (as opposed to the better documented international tax justice movement), and to tease out implications for how international development actors can more effectively support CSOs engaged in this space.

Through a rapid survey of tax civil society in eight countries – Brazil, El Salvador, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Uganda, the United States and Zambia – the report addresses the following research questions:

  • Is there an the appetite for civil society engagement on tax issues, and why?
  • (If there is appetite), what is civil society’s capacity for engagement, and how great is its influence on tax issues?
  • What kind of support do international development actors provide to civil society with regard to tax issues?
  • What form might more effective support to civil society actors take? How could current mechanisms of support to civil society become more effective?
Tax education efforts, Uganda
Image credit:Stephanie Sweet ~ Image license:CC-BY-NC-ND
Samuel Sharp, Stephanie Sweet and Alina Rocha Menocal