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2nd World Bank Tax Conference: Taxing Personal Income and Wealth in Developing Countries

September 24-25, 2020

Virtual Format


This event has concluded. Thank you to all who attended. Click on the "Agenda, Papers & Presentations" tab below to see papers and presentations from the conference.


This conference will bring together leading researchers and policymakers to discuss recent research on taxing personal income and wealth with relevance for developing countries. The conference will feature a keynote address by Wojciech Kopczuk, Professor of Economics and International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, research presentations and academic discussions, and a special session dedicated to shorter presentations of early-stage work. A brainstorming session on potential new projects will facilitate interactions between researchers and policymakers and the testing of innovative research ideas with high policy relevance. A unique feature of the conference will be the blending of frontier academic research with the practical experience of policymakers.

  • Individual income taxes are a major source of government revenue in high-income countries, and the primary tool for redistribution via the tax system. In lower-income countries, however, taxing individual income and wealth can be challenging. Many individuals in the lower part of the income distribution operate outside of the formal sector, while those in the upper part of the distribution often have diverse sources of non-wage income that can be de jure or de facto untaxed. These personal tax collection challenges can lead to a critical shortfall in government revenue, hampering the state’s ability to fund essential development programs and reduce inequalities.

    The conference will be hosted by the World Bank Group in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Institute for Fiscal Studies, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Office of Tax Policy Research at the Michigan Ross School of Business, and Columbia University.

    This is the second event in an annual series of conferences on taxation issues in developing countries. The first conference in the series, The Value Added of Value-Added Taxes, was held in Washington, D.C., on May 9-10, 2019.

    For all conference enquiries, please contact Megan Breece at

  • Conference Agenda

    All times are in EST

    Links to papers, abstracts and presentations are listed next to the relevant author/presenter. Alternatively, you can download all the papers, abstracts and presentations from Dropbox here.

    Day 1


    Welcome & Keynote


    Welcome: Marcello Estevão (World Bank)


    Keynote: "Administrative Capacity and Policy Implementation: Lessons from 2020"; Professor Wojciech Kopczuk (Columbia University)


    Property Taxes                                                                                                             

    Chair: Rajul Awasthi


    Paper 1: “State Capacity and Taxation: The Role of Detection and Enforcement Capacity on Property Tax Compliance in Liberia”

    - Presenter: Oyebola Okunogbe (World Bank)

    - Discussant: Justine Knebelmann (Paris School of Economics)


    Paper 2: “Rebuilding the Social Compact: Urban Service Delivery and Property Taxes in Pakistan”

    - Presenter: Mahvish Shaukat (World Bank)             

    - Discussant: Mazhar Waseem (University of Manchester)




    Policy Challenge Brainstorm*


    Breakout discussion leaders:

    - Mr. Roberto Arias (Secretary of Tax Policy, Ministry of Economy, Argentina)

    - Dr. Thierry Kalisa (Senior Economist, Head of Macroeconomic Policy Division, Ministry of Finance, Rwanda)

    - Ms. Andara Kamara (Assistant Revenue Officer, Tax Policy Unit, Ministry of Finance, Ghana)

    - Ms. Dadanee Vuthipadadorn (Director, Bureau of Tax Policy and Planning, Revenue Department, Thailand)

    - Mr. Mulay Weldu (Director, Tax Policy Directorate, Ministry of Finance, Ethiopia)


    This session will feature breakout group discussions on specific COVID-19-related tax policy challenges facing policymakers. The discussions will be moderated by the conference organizers, with the aim of generating ideas for collaborative projects between policymakers and researchers.


    *This session will not be livestreamed.


    Optimal Taxation of Income and Property                                                       

    Chair: Mathew Verghis


    Paper 1: “Optimal Income Taxation in the Presence of Networks of Altruism” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Anasuya Raj (CREST, École Polytechnique) (link to presentation)                                 

    - Discussant: Katy Begstrom (World Bank)


    Paper 2: “The State Capacity Ceiling on Tax Rates: Evidence from Randomized Tax Abatements in the DRC” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Augustin Bergeron (Harvard University)

    - Discussant: Wilson Prichard (University of Toronto)




    Lightening Talks 1: Behavioral Responses to Taxes                                        

    Chair: Sebastian James


    Paper 1: “How do Top Earners Respond to Taxation? Evidence from a Tax Reform in Uruguay” (link to abstract)

    - Presenter: Marcelo Bergolo (Universidad de la República)


    Paper 2: “Strengthening Property Taxes, Responding to COVID-19” (link to abstract)

    - Presenter: Wilson Prichard (University of Toronto)


    Paper 3: “How Do Taxpayers Respond to Tax Subsidy for Long-Term Savings? Evidence from Thailand’s Tax Return Data” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Athiphat Muthitacharoen (Chulalongkorn University)


    Paper 4: “Elasticity of Taxable Income in a Low-Income Country: The Case of Senegal” (link to abstract)

    - Presenter: Léo Czajka (Université catholique de Louvain) (link to presentation)


    Paper 5: “Formalization, Tax Appeals, and Social Intermediaries: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Lagos, Nigeria” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Adrienne LeBas (American University) (link to presentation)

    Day 2


    Civil Society Session: How Can Civil Society Contribute to Tax Debates?

    Chairs: Stephen Davenport (World Bank) & Peter Hurst (Gates Foundation)



    - Paolo de Renzio & Fariya Mohiuddin (International Budget Partnership)

    - Juan Pablo Guerrero (Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency)

    - Representative/s from ICEFI (Guatemala)

    - Representative/s from SEATINI (Uganda)


    This session will feature a presentation on a recent survey of the civil society and tax landscape conducted by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) and the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT). This will be followed by short presentations from two civil society organizations engaged in shaping tax policy at the domestic level in Guatemala and Uganda respectively, and will conclude with an open discussion moderated by the co-chairs.




    Income Taxes                                                                                                      

    Chair: Gabriela Inchauste


    Paper 1: “It Takes Two to Tango: Labor Responses to an Income Tax Holiday in Argentina” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Dario Tortarolo (University of Nottingham & Institute for Fiscal Studies)

    - Discussant: Gabriel Tourek (MIT)


    Paper 2: “Tax Evasion and the Minimum Wage: Evidence from Hungary” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: László Sándor (Harvard University) (link to presentation)

    - Discussant: Steven Hamilton (George Washington University)




    Lightening Talks 2: Trends in Optimal Taxation                                                 

    Chair: Ana Cebreiro


    Paper 1: “Tax Progressivity and Development in the Long-Run”

    - Presenter: Anders Jensen (Harvard University)


    Paper 2: “Trust to Pay? Tax Morale and Trust in Africa” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Wilfried Kouame (World Bank) (link to presentation)


    Paper 3: “Forgiveness Seems Divine: Tax Amnesties and Tax Compliance” (link to abstract)

    - Presenter: Maximiliano Lauletta (UC Berkeley)


    Paper 4: “Age-Dependent Taxation in Emerging Markets: A Quantitative Assessment” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Carlos Uribe (Universidad San Francisco de Quito)


    Paper 5: “Optimal Multi-Regime Tax Systems” (link to paper)

    - Presenters: John D. Wilson (Michigan State University) & Joel Slemrod (University of Michigan)




    Taxing Wealth and High Net Worth Individuals                                            

    Chair: Marijn Verhoeven


    Paper 1: “Taxing High Net Worth Individuals: A Case Study of the Uganda Revenue Authority’s Approach” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Jalia Kangave (ICTD) & Ronald Waiswa (Uganda Revenue Authority) (link to presentation)

    - Discussant: Lucie Gadenne (University of Warwick)


    Paper 2: “Paraísos Fiscales, Wealth Taxation, and Mobility” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: David Agrawal (University of Kentucky) (link to presentation)

    - Discussant: Juliana Londoño Vélez (University of California, Los Angeles)


    Paper 3: “The Role and Design of Net Wealth Taxes in the OECD” (link to paper)

    - Presenter: Sarah Perret (OECD) (link to presentation)

    - Discussant: Nara Monkam (ATAF)


    Session Format

    Main sessions: 15 minute paper presentation, followed by a 5 minute discussion (with slides) and a 5 minute Q&A.

    Lightning Talks: 8 minute paper presentations (back-to-back), followed by a 10 minute Q&A at the end of the session.