Tax, development and the SDGs: How we are supporting the data revolution.


At the core of efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals lies a commitment to enhance domestic revenue mobilization. Strengthening capacity to collect tax and other revenue is key for developing countries as they move forward. Not only is this priority enshrined in SDG 17.1 (, it also sits atop the Addis Ababa Action Agenda ( ().

Strengthen domestic resource mobilization, including through international support to developing countries, to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection - SDG target 17.1

As a result, there is renewed interest in tax and development from a number of corners. Researchers, for example, are considering how tax policy can shape the development process. At the same time policy makers are keen to know how tax reform can help them raise sufficient revenue to spur economic growth and help them meet their development needs.

UNU-WIDER's ongoing work on taxation is the subject of a special session at the IEA Congress ( in Mexico City this month. Here's a summary of key points.

Providing comprehensive data on government revenue

In late 2015, UNU-WIDER partnered with the International Centre for Tax and Development ( (ICTD) and agreed to host the Government Revenue Dataset (GRD). UNU-WIDER researchers have been working on the latest developments to the dataset, which will be released in the coming weeks.

The GRD is a cross-country dataset which complements data from traditional sources--such as the OECD's Revenue Statistics (, and the IMF'S Government Finance Statistics ( data from IMF Article IV country reports. This has led to considerable gains in coverage, particularly for developing countries.

The GRD provides data on government tax, non-tax, social contributions and grants in both local currency and as a percentage of GDP. It also highlights the portion of government revenues that accrue from natural resource extraction. This is of crucial importance for any research or analysis that seeks to explain revenue patterns in resource-dependent nations.

Take, as an example, Nigeria. As the graph (inset) shows, government revenues in Nigeria are extremely volatile. However, the GRD highlights...

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