Taxation can be a powerful tool to reduce gender gaps through changing incentives and behavior towards better gender equality outcomes. A well-functioning and progressive tax system can help promote gender equality. Yet, seemingly neutral tax policies and administration practices can reinforce existing gender disparities when they intersect with structural differences and social norms that perpetuate inequality. However, there is a lack of evidence-based knowledge and granular analysis, particularly in the context of low- and middle-income countries.
Since September 2021, with the support of the Government of the United Kingdom, the Global Tax Program’s Integrating Gender Equality into Tax Reform Project has been providing direct policy advice to governments and producing analytical work that leverages the impact of the World Bank instruments (e.g., lending operations or diagnostic tools). It has also produced global knowledge products that facilitate sex-disaggregated analysis of tax policies.
The World Bank is well-suited to develop a work program on gender equality and tax reform. With a presence in over 130 countries and a diverse staff from 170 countries, including those in low- and middle-income countries, we have a global reach. Our analytical work supports lending operations and policy discussions with key officials in the Ministries of Finance and Tax/Revenue Departments, as well as local academic institutions and civil society. The Global Tax Team at the World Bank consists of experts with strong technical skills and global knowledge, enabling us to support in-country teams and clients as well as facilitate knowledge sharing across countries.
The overall objective of the Integrating Gender Equality into Tax Reform Project is to help improve the capacity of low-and middle-income countries to formulate tax policies and tax administration reforms that contribute to gender equality goals. The project is organized around two pillars:
- Pillar 1 activities aim to support governments in the design and implementation of tax policy reform programs that include gender equality objectives - and when relevant, incidence study of these policies - through World Bank technical assistance.
- Pillar 2 activities aim to support tax and customs administration reforms and processes that include gender equality objectives through World Bank technical assistance.
Select examples of our work
The ongoing work supported by GTP illustrates how the analytical and policy work on the gender analysis of tax policy and tax administration leverages World Bank lending operations or diagnostic tools to contribute to promoting gender equality.
The gender and taxpayer study in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, Pakistan, is an example of high-quality analytics to support World Bank operations - the ongoing International Development Association (IDA) funded USD$118 million project, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Revenue Mobilization and Public Resource Management Program (KPRMP). It provided advisory support on how the World Bank’s lending operation could integrate gender equality objectives in supporting the provincial revenue authorities – through tailoring tax service provision to meet women’s needs, human resource management and investments to recruit and retain women, and generating sex-disaggregated data.
The study on the gender implications of import tariffs in Bangladesh is an example of analytical work that contributed to the World Bank’s Public Expenditure Review, which is the core diagnostic that country teams use to have a policy dialogue with the government on tax and customs policies. The study showed how the current tariff policy adversely impacted female agricultural producers more than male producers because of the gender roles and division of labor in agricultural production.
A technical knowledge note on the gender and property tax in São Paulo, Brazil, contributes to expanding the evidence base on the implications of tax policy on gender equality. The study also shows innovative and replicable ways in which administrative property data could be sex-disaggregated in the absence of such data and has made the statistical codes publicly available on GitHub.
The paper on gender and the rural land tax in Ethiopia shows that because it is considered inappropriate for women to plow land or use oxen, sharecropping arrangements are often used when no men are available to till land, resulting in women receiving only half of the agricultural yield. Even if the farm sizes and, therefore, the tax liabilities are the same in an area-based land tax system, female landowners disproportionately bear a larger tax burden than their male counterparts because of the lower yield and consumption.
Partnership with regional organizations for tax administrations
The project team has developed a partnership with the regional network organization for tax administrations in Africa, the African Tax Administrative Forum (ATAF), by presenting at the training for tax administrators at the ATAF Women in Tax Network Leadership Conference and contributing to the capacity building program to sex-disaggregate tax administrative data. The impact of capacity building of tax administrations is leveraged by working through a regional organization, such as ATAF.
There are new knowledge notes in production that will unpack key gender issues in tax administration, tax compliance, tax policies for affordable childcare, and the presumptive tax on small and microenterprises in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and more.