ICTD Research in Brief issue 15: Informal Taxation in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone: Taxpayers’ Experiences and Perceptions

Tuesday, 23 January 2018
Samuel Jibao, Wilson Prichard and Vanessa van den Boogaard
ICTD Research in Brief issue 15: Informal Taxation in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone: Taxpayers’ Experiences and Perceptions

This ICTD Research in Brief is a two-page summary of ICTD Working Paper 66 by Samuel Jibao, Wilson Prichard and Vanessa van den Boogaard. This series is aimed at policy makers, tax administrators, fellow researchers and anyone else who is big on interest and short on time.

This paper looks at the reality of informal taxation. In low-income and post-conflict countries and particularly in rural areas, citizens often pay a range of ‘taxes’ that differ substantially from statutory policies. These ‘informal taxes’, paid to a variety of state and non-state actors, are frequently overlooked in analyses of local systems of taxation. This is problematic, as it leads to misunderstandings of individual and household tax burdens, as well as of systems of local governance. We define informal taxes and levies a all non-statutory payments made to state or non-state actors as a result of the exercise of political, coercive or social power. We distinguish between illegal state levies, informal chiefdom taxes and user fees, and non-state levies and user fees for collective services. Illegal state levies include a range of bribes, extortions and goodwill payments, while non-state and chiefdom levies and user fees may take a variety of forms, including various types of community levies, with payments made to community groups providing publicly available services or goods. While there is a growing recognition that these informal taxes and levies are a critical aspect of local governance, research has yet to systematically capture what informal taxes people pay, how these taxes are collected, how they are perceived, and how these things vary across different groups of individuals and different locations. Using a mixed methods approach, including both a large-scale taxpayer survey and qualitative data, we examine how both formal and informal taxes are distributed, collected and perceived by citizens in rural areas of low-income, post- conflict countries in order to capture ‘real’ rather than ‘idealised’ systems of tax and governance.

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  • Author
    Samuel Jibao, Wilson Prichard and Vanessa van den Boogaard
  • Version
    1.0
  • Created
    Monday, 02 October 2017
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