Taxation and Development: The Weakest Link?

Taxation and Development: The Weakest Link?

Essays in Honor of Roy Bahl

Studies in Fiscal Federalism and State–local Finance series

Edited by Richard M. Bird and Jorge Martinez-Vazquez

Taxation and Development highlights the importance of better understanding the ways in which taxes and expenditure are linked. Focusing on developing countries, the book argues for a broader approach to the topic, with a secondary focus on developing and applying new modeling techniques to country-specific data.

Chapter 10: Implementing sustainable property tax reform in developing countries

Roy Kelly

Subjects: economics and finance, development economics, public finance, public sector economics


Property taxation has tremendous potential for mobilizing improved revenue and equity, especially in developing countries. Currently the property tax generates 0.3–0.6 percent of GDP for developing and up to 2–3 percent of GDP for OECD countries (Bahl and Martinez-Vasquez, 2008; Bird and Slack, 2004). This international benchmarking suggests a high potential for significant increases in property tax revenues, along with improvements in equity and efficiency, especially in developing countries. To realize these potential property tax revenue improvements, countries must undertake strategic reform, combining policy and administrative interactions to improve tax base coverage, property valuations, collection, enforcement and taxpayer services. The tax policy reforms must adjust tax base definitions and tax rate structures, along with making appropriate policy decisions linked to valuation standards, appeals, collection and enforcement. The tax administrative reforms must focus on improving tax base coverage, valuation, and collection, along with taxpayer services. A major constraint to improving the property tax in developing countries is weak administration, often a result of political, institutional and capacity constraints. Property tax reforms must be designed cognizant of these constraints, the existing reform environment, legal and institutional structures, government administration capacities, and political will, as all tax reforms must be country-specific, adapting international best practice to each unique reform environment. Major administrative reforms, undertaken within a proper property tax policy framework, are crucial to ensure sustainable implementation of a more equitable and efficient property tax system.

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