NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Taxation and Output Growth: Evidence from African Countries

Jonathan S. Skinner

NBER Working Paper No. 2335
Issued in August 1987
NBER Program(s):   PE

There is considerable debate over the appropriate role for tax policy in developing economies. In one view, tax hikes reduce deficits and ease budgetary pressures, thereby encouraging long-term growth. An alternative view emphasizes the distortionary effects associated with increased taxation and the positive benefits of a carefully designed tax system. This paper tests these propositions by measuring the impact of government taxation and expenditure on aggregate output growth. A theoretical model is derived which shows that the impact of tax distortions on output growth is usually negative. The theoretical model is tested using a pooled cross-section time-series data set for 31 sub-Saharan African countries during 1965-73 and 1974-82. The regressions imply that the positive benefits of government investment during 1965-73 outweighed the distortionary effects of taxes necessary to finance them. By 1974-82, however, the marginal productivity of government investment had fallen; tax-financed public investment was predicted to have reduced output growth. The empirical results also imply that a revenue neutral shift from the import, corporate, and personal tax to a sales/excise (or consumption) tax will encourage output growth.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2335

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