HKS Affiliated Authors


Winter 2024, Paper: "Income inequality is high and persistent in developing countries. In this paper, we ask what role taxation can or might play in reducing inequality in low and middle-income countries. Drawing on the recent literature, three findings emerge. Due to both structural factors and limited enforcement capacity, the effective distributional impacts of taxes often deviate from their 'statutory' objectives, in ways that are hard to predict based on evidence from high-income countries. Moreover, administrative reforms which are meant to be distributionally neutral end up having significant equity impacts because of the practical realities of implementation. Finally, the global challenges which tax authorities face to tax the very top of the income distribution appear to be even more pronounced in developing countries. We conclude by offering thoughts on future research and emphasize the need to carefully study equity characteristics of taxes at each stage of a country's development path."