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Capsule Review

Taxing Africa: Coercion, Reform, and Development

In This Review

Taxing Africa: Coercion, Reform, and Development
Taxing Africa: Coercion, Reform, and Development
By Mick Moore, Wilson Prichard, and Odd-Helge Fjeldstad
Zed Books, 2018 288 pp. Purchase

Although taxes are a fundamental part of any modern economy, taxation in Africa remains poorly understood. The authors of this concise and masterly introduction to the topic go some way toward filling that gap. The book starts by showing how international tax law disadvantages African governments. It then discusses the attempts by African states to tax multinational corporations, especially in the oil and mining sectors. The book then turns to formal and informal domestic tax systems. It has a tendency to gloss over the variation among countries, but it does provide powerful evidence for several important generalizations. First, foreign companies, especially in the extractive industries, pay remarkably little in taxes. Second, the richest Africans also pay very little and have managed to park enormous sums abroad. Third, African fiscal systems have done much better at taxing average Africans than they get credit for. Finally, that means African tax systems are highly regressive, with poorer citizens paying much higher rates than richer ones.

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