Tax Bargaining, Fiscal Contract, and Fiscal Capacity in Ghana: A long-term perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many Sub-Saharan African countries are unable to generate sufficient tax revenues for public purposes. While it is widely accepted that governments’ ability to tax is shaped by politics, the precise mechanisms through which this relationship takes place in practice remain elusive. Based on a historical analysis of four major tax reforms in Ghana from the 1850s to the late 1990s, this article captures the various ways in which taxpayers negotiate with the state in an attempt to limit the extent of taxation, especially in cases where state reciprocity falls short of what people expect. Our evidence suggests that, far from being a recent development, effective taxation in Ghana has long depended on the ability of the state to convince taxpayers that tax revenues will be used for the public benefit. A history of misappropriation of tax revenues, overt corruption, and profligacy diminished taxpayers’ support for governments’ tax efforts. More generally, the article points to the importance of understanding how tax bargaining works in practice and people’s perceptions of their governments over the long term to overcome resistance to tax reforms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177–202
Number of pages26
JournalAfrican Affairs
Issue number475
Early online date2020 Mar 16
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • Africa
  • Ghana
  • taxation
  • fiscal policy


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