in: Irma Mosquera / Dries Lesage / Wouter Lips (eds.); Taxation, international cooperation and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Cham: Springer International Publishing, 173-193
The use of tax expenditures (TEs) is an important fiscal practice that is often overlooked in public spending debates. The fiscal cost as well as the lack of effectiveness of TEs can be significant. This chapter describes the state of TE reporting across the world, focusing on Africa. It begins by explaining in detail what TEs are and what their role in government expenditure is. It proceeds by offering examples of the fiscal cost of these provisions, their (in)effectiveness, and the reasons why they are often hard to remove. The main portion of the chapter focuses on the lack and inconsistency of TE reporting. The chapter provides the first results of the “Global Tax Expenditures Database” (GTED), an ongoing project aiming to increase transparency and boost research in the TE field. The GTED reveals that over 64% of African countries do not provide any information on their TEs, while most of the countries that do report on TEs leave out important information such as the policy objectives and beneficiaries of those provisions. Lastly, using the available data, the chapter reports that, on average, TEs in African countries account for 2.8% of GDP and 17.8% of total tax revenue, and being as high as 7.8% (in Senegal) and 58.4% (in Mauritania), respectively.