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Revenue mobilization in developing countries is often insufficient to support the investments governments need to make to advance their sustainable investment and poverty reduction strategies. CGD researchers are exploring the political, institutional, and technical constraints to mobilizing domestic revenues, with particular attention to fragile and post-conflict states.
Even for countries that are far away from graduating from foreign aid, the importance of domestic resource mobilization for maintaining macroeconomic stability and sustained economic growth is well documented. A look at the experience of countries that have received HIPC debt relief validates this point and underlines the need for attaching a high priority to tax policies and practices in international assistance programs for low income countries.
This paper looks at estimates of the potential gains from taxing across borders, alongside largely domestic measures such as property tax, personal income tax, VAT, and tobacco taxes. It finds that while action on cross-border taxation could yield additional tax take in the region of one percent of GDP, in many countries measures targeting the domestic tax base might deliver something in the region of nine percent. The main enabler is political commitment.
Domestic measures have greater potential for raising tax yields over time. Rough estimates indicate that there may be $9 of additional tax capacity from domestic policy measures for every $1 from international action. The main enabler is political commitment.
Discussion on tax and development can be incoherent, both within and between different sectors. A symptom of this is the tendency for inflated expectations about the scale of revenues at stake in relation to multinational corporations and misunderstandings and contested definitions on the issue of illicit financial flows.
Domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) seems set to be a priority area for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under Administrator Mark Green. The challenge has been in tracking US (and other donors’) support for DRM activities. While the data only covers projects in 2015 so far, it contributes to a better understanding of what US aid agencies are doing in the DRM space and where they are working. If the United States is looking to step up assistance in this area, it will be instructive to understand the landscape of current efforts.