Journal Article
No taxation without state-assigned property rights

Formalization of individual property rights on land and taxation in sub-Saharan Africa

The arguments that property rights and taxation positively affect development are well established in separate literatures, but the link between property rights and taxation is under-studied. To address this gap, we theorize, in the fiscal contract tradition, that property rights assigned and upheld by the state, as opposed to other political authorities, increase individual assent to taxation. We apply this argument to property rights on land in sub-Saharan-Africa, where the majority of land is governed by traditional authorities.

Empirically we examine (1) the link between the state-assinged property rights on land and assent to taxation using individual-level data from Afrobarometer, and (2) the effect of state-led formalization, measured through novel data on state-produced cadastral records, and revenue from taxes on individuals in a panel of 37 sub-Saharan African countries across 35 years. We find support for our argument that there is no taxation without state-assigned property rights.

Journal Article
This peer-reviewed research is available free of charge. UNU-WIDER believes that research is a global public good and supports Open Access.