Working Paper

The Politics of Taxation and Implications for Accountability in Ghana 1981–2008

Published on 1 July 2009

In many ways the raising of tax revenues is the most central activity of any state, but it is only recently that the development field has begun to take questions about taxation and its relationship to the performance of government seriously. This research seeks to investigate the particular hypothesis that a government that relies primarily on tax revenues, as opposed to natural resource rents or foreign aid, is more likely to be accountable to its citizens.

This research seeks to capture the evolution of the Ghanaian central government tax system since 1982. The first goal is to understand the politics behind this evolution, in order to pinpoint the factors influencing the willingness and ability of governments to raise domestic revenue. The research then proceeds to ask whether the evolution of the tax system provides evidence that government efforts to raise taxes have given rise to successful demands for greater accountability.

The research finds that there is significant evidence that taxation has often been a catalyst for demands for greater accountability, but also finds that the nature of this relationship has varied dramatically across time, context and tax types. While generalisations demand further research, initial evidence points to several factors that shape the nature of state-society bargaining over taxation, among them: the broader state of politics, the role of elites, the mobilising capacity of civil society, the motives for the tax increase and the type of tax in question.


Wilson Prichard

IDS Research Fellow and ICTD Chief Executive Officer

Publication details

published by
Prichard, W.
IDS Working Paper, issue 330
978 1 85864 773 8


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