ICTD Research in Brief 55

Active Ghosts: Nil-filing in Rwanda

Published on 8 July 2020

Nil-filing refers to taxpayers who report zero on all fields of their tax declaration. It is a largely ignored phenomenon in the tax literature, despite being well known to tax administrators.

There is almost no evidence on the characteristics of nil-filers and the reasons for their apparently puzzling behaviour. This paper sheds light on this issue in Rwanda, using a descriptive analysis of administrative data, a randomised controlled trial (RCT), and qualitative interviews with taxpayers and tax officials. We argue that evasion is part of the explanation for nil-filing, but it seems to play a relatively small role. Instead, a major reason for nil-filing lies at the interaction between aggressive recruitment campaigns by the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), and taxpayers’ response to a complex and often confusing tax system.

Cite this publication

Mascagni, G.; Santoro, F.; Mukama, D.; Karangwa, J. and Hakizimana, N. (2020) Active Ghosts: Nil-filing in Rwanda, ICTD Research in Brief 55, Brighton, IDS


Giulia Mascagni

IDS Research Fellow and ICTD Research Director

Fabrizio Santoro

Postdoctoral Fellow

Denis Mukama
Naphtal Hakizimana

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies
Prepared by Adrienne Lees


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