Taxing times: Taxation, divided societies and the informal economy in northern Nigeria

Taxing times: Taxation, divided societies and the informal economy in northern Nigeria

This paper challenges the notion that taxing the informal economy provides a mechanism for increasing popular political voice and rebuilding the social contract. It contends that current arguments for taxing the informal economy suffer from a Eurocentric understanding of taxation and state formation, and a fiscally essentialist and undifferentiated notion of the informal economy. Drawing on fieldwork in northern Nigeria, this paper shows that history, gender, wealth and ethno-religious identity influence how taxing the informal economy shapes governance outcomes. Evidence from Nigeria suggests an inverse relationship between informal economy taxation and political voice, posing the risk that increased taxation will exacerbate social divisions rather than rebuild the social contract.