Improving tax compliance in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Project Active from to State, Cities and Tax

A pre-condition for sustained public service provision is the mobilisation of reliable tax revenues to pay for these public services, often referred to as fiscal capacity. There is extensive literature examining tax mobilisation and compliance in developed countries, where fiscal capacity is already high due to pre-existing norms around compliance. However, it has little to say about how low-income countries foster tax compliance and, in turn, develop fiscal capacity.

This project aims to fill this gap by examining different strategies to improve tax compliance in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The city of Freetown elected a new mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, in March of 2018 on a progressive reform platform with an ambitious development plan: Transform Freetown. One of the central pillars of this reform agenda is to increase municipal tax revenue fivefold by 2020. A scoping pilot has already been carried out from January 2019 to August 2019 by the Mayor and Freetown City Council (FCC) in partnership with the IGC and the International Centre for Tax and Development’s (ICTD) African Property Tax Initiative.

The project now aims to move forward to a scale-up of the pilot, co-led by the IGC, the Mayor’s Office/FCC, the ICTD, and Warc. On top of the implementation of a city-wide points-based property assessment system and an IT system to manage this city-wide scale-up, this next phase will also aim to pinpoint optimal strategies to bolster tax compliance of city residents and, in turn, foster local fiscal capacity.