Utilising Tax literacy to Build Societal Confidence in a State: The Rwandan Model

The common perception of taxes being a burden is one shared amongst many developing countries and Africa is no exception. This is mainly due to inefficiencies in tax revenue utilization, inequalities in distribution, corruption, lack of accountability and transparency in revenue management. Developing nations tend to be composed of tax resistant individuals. However, Rwanda’s historical and societal contexts, demonstrates the dramatic effectiveness of customised tax literacy programmes in enhancing tax understanding and consequently tax compliance.

One, the post-colonial and post-conflict developing countries face different tax contexts from those of European countries which have been well studied. In Rwanda for example, it is important to understand that the notion of tax existed in pre-colonial times in the form of tributes to the rulers: mwami, the colonial tax regimes only formalised it. Therefore, it is not possible to force this unique blend of tax history into models based on tax studies done mostly in European countries.

The link between fiscal development and tax literacy is not often unpacked. However, just as financial literacy is essential to financial management, so is tax literacy to tax awareness. The two have a direct correlation. Poor financial management can lead to lost wealth which is in turn lost tax revenue. Therefore, if financial literacy can influence financial behavior, it is expected that tax literacy too would also positively impact tax behavior. The end result is more tax revenue for fiscal development.

Consequentially, the culmination of progressive tax literacy stages in Rwanda has seen addition in tax revenue and appreciation of tax payment. It has increasing confidence in the State which is the collector of taxes while maintained the peace. State efforts range from radio programs, tax education in local languages, inculcation into school syllabus and involvement of the society in tax revenue allocation.

African states and developing countries should add in more tax literacy projects especially through state processes. This will enhance the confidence the society has in the State in regard to tax revenue use and the benefit that accrues back to the tax payer. [1]

[1] Waris and Murangwa, Tax Literacy in Rwanda https://www.academia.edu/2419611/Utilising_Tax_Literacy_and_Societal_Confidence_in_a_State_The_Rwandan_Model