What Explains the Recent Calls for the Reinstatement of a Tax Considered Unpopular? An Analysis of Graduated Tax in Uganda
24 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 25, 2018
Successful decentralization relies heavily on the ability of subnational government to generate its own revenue. In many African countries, subnational government is authorized to collect a variety of taxes and user fees, including trade licensing taxes, property taxes, market fees, garbage collection fees and road user fees. With the exception of property taxes, which have the potential to generate significant revenue, most other taxes collectively fund a small proportion of subnational government budgets. Until recently, one of the main sources of own revenue for subnational government in Uganda was a poll tax known as graduated tax. Tanzania and Kenya had a similar tax, referred to respectively as the development levy and graduated personal tax. However, the tax was abolished in Kenya in 1974, in Tanzania in 2003 and in Uganda in 2005. The reasons for abolishing the tax in the three countries were similar, and included the fact that it relied on coercive enforcement, the costs of collection were high and it disproportionately affected the poor. In Uganda, however, there have recently been calls - within and outside government - for the reintroduction of the tax. This paper seeks to answer the question :what explains the calls for the revival of a tax that was largely unpopular? There are two main explanations. First, graduated tax was the main source of revenue for local government in Uganda and there has been no adequate replacement for it. Second, the tax was a symbol of pride for some men and encouraged economic productivity. Women, particularly in the rural areas, feel that its abolition reduced such productivity.
Keywords: Graduated Tax; Local Government; Nostalgia; Politics; Uganda
JEL Classification: K3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation