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Corruption in Tax Administration: Lessons from Institutional Reforms in Uganda

  • Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Over the past two decades many developing countries have implemented comprehensive reforms of their tax administrations in order to increase revenue and curb corruption. This paper examines recent experiences in the fight against corruption in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). It argues that the technocratic remedies supported by donors have underplayed the degree to which progress in tax administration depends upon a thorough 'cultural change' in the public service. The motives of individual actors are often inextricably tied to the interests of the social groups to which they belong. In the URA patronage runs through networks grounded on ties of kinship and community origin. As such, people recognize the benefits of large extended families and strong kinship ties, even as their social and economic aspirations may be indisputably modern. This implies that such social relations may undermine formal bureaucratic structures and positions. If these problems, which are rooted in social norms and patterns of behavior rather than administrative features, are overlooked, the result may be to distort incentives. As a consequence, the government's commitment to reforming the tax administration may also be undermined.

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Paper provided by CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway in its series CMI Working Papers with number WP 2005: 10.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:chm:wpaper:wp2005-10
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  1. Bernard Gauthier & Ritva Reinikka, 2006. "Shifting Tax Burdens through Exemptions and Evasion: an Empirical Investigation of Uganda," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 15(3), pages 373-398, September.
  2. Rauch, James E & Evans, Peter B., 1999. "Bureaucratic Structure and Bureaucratic Performance in Less Developed Countries," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt0sb0w38d, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  3. Espen Villanger & Anette Walstad Enes, 2004. "The role of participation and empowerment in income and poverty dynamics in Indonesia 1993-2000," CMI Working Papers WP 2004: 13, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
  4. Odd-Helge Fjeldstad & Bertil Tungodden, 2001. "Fiscal corruption: A vice or a virtue?," CMI Working Papers WP 2001:13, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
  5. Taliercio, Robert Jr., 2004. "Administrative Reform as Credible Commitment: The Impact of Autonomy on Revenue Authority Performance in Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 213-232, February.
  6. Odd-Helge Fjeldstad & Florida Henjewele & Geoffrey Mwambe & Erasto Ngalewa & Knut Nygaard, 2004. "Local government finances and financial management in Tanzania," CMI Working Papers WP 2004: 7, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
  7. Chand, Sheetal K. & Moene, Karl O., 1999. "Controlling Fiscal Corruption," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(7), pages 1129-1140, July.
  8. Joel Slemrod, 2002. "Trust in Public Finance," NBER Working Papers 9187, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Arne Wiig, 2005. "Corporate Social Responsibility in the Angolan Oil Industry," CMI Working Papers WP 2005: 8, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
  10. Besley, Timothy & McLaren, John, 1993. "Taxes and Bribery: The Role of Wage Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(416), pages 119-41, January.
  11. Bjorvatn, Kjetil & Torsvik, Gaute & Tungodden, Bertil, 2004. "How middle-men can undermine anti-corruption reforms," Working Papers in Economics 12/04, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
  12. Astri Suhrke & Espen Villanger & Susan L. Woodward, 2005. "Economic Aid to Post-conflict Countries: A Methodological Critique of Collier and Hoeffler," CMI Working Papers WP 2005:4, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
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