Norms, Power and the Socially Embedded Realities of Market Taxation in Northern Ghana

ICTD Working Paper 30

33 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2015

See all articles by Wilson Prichard

Wilson Prichard

University of Toronto - Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Vanessa van den Boogaard

University of Toronoto, Students

Date Written: January 1, 2015

Abstract

The advance of decentralisation efforts in Africa has brought with it expanded discussion of local government taxation, and the potential for tax reform to spur broader state building and governance gains. However, while this literature has acknowledged the importance of local politics and context, it has remained largely grounded in a formal understanding of local tax systems, rather than an understanding of the often informal day-to-day realities of sub-national taxation. This paper correspondingly provides a ground level view of market and small business taxation in two local government areas in Ghana’s disadvantaged northern region. Doing so reveals a system shaped by ingrained informal practices that are grounded in existing social relationships and collective norms. These informal practices sometimes foster greater equity and responsiveness than formal rules, but in other cases serve to reinforce existing inequalities. We conclude by arguing that existing approaches to reform are likely to be undermined by a failure to appreciate the socially embedded realities of local government taxation, and we propose possible reform strategies that ‘work with the grain’ of existing practices.

Keywords: local government taxation; informality; Ghana

Suggested Citation

Prichard, Wilson and van den Boogaard, Vanessa, Norms, Power and the Socially Embedded Realities of Market Taxation in Northern Ghana (January 1, 2015). ICTD Working Paper 30, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2587853 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2587853

Wilson Prichard

University of Toronto - Institute of Development Studies (IDS) ( email )

Library Road
Brighton, Toronto BN1 9RE
United Kingdom

Vanessa Van den Boogaard (Contact Author)

University of Toronoto, Students ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8
Canada

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