Executive summary

Building tax culture, compliance and citizenship remains as important now as when the OECD published a first report on the topic in 2015. While there has been significant progress in international tax co-operation to tackle fraud, tax avoidance, and tax evasion, important challenges remain in domestic revenue mobilisation. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased demands on states to provide public goods, while reducing economic activity. In this context, mobilising resources requires ambitious fiscal policies backed by robust implementation. Tax administrations’ resources, however, are scarce in both financial and human terms. Audits, penalties and other coercive measures have a role to play, but voluntary compliance lies at the heart of all tax systems and so building a taxpaying culture is vital to the domestic revenue mobilisation efforts of countries.

Supporting the efforts of developing countries in taxpayer education is especially important, given the lower levels of taxpayers-per-capita, revenues and tax morale. Developing countries face a combination of challenges: narrow tax bases (resulting in fewer taxpayers), low revenues and low reported levels of tax morale. Therefore, while taxpayer education initiatives are important in all countries, they are especially important to developing countries. They serve as a tool to help reach, and encourage, new taxpayers; explain the role of tax in society; build tax morale; and ultimately increase revenues. It is therefore primarily with developing countries in mind that this report has been prepared, though it is hoped that it will be of use to an even wider audience.

This report builds on the work begun in 2015 to support tax administrations, especially in developing countries, in the design and implementation of taxpayer education initiatives. In response to feedback, the scope has expanded to a broader range of countries of all income classifications and in all geographic regions. To that end, this report builds on the experience of 59 countries gathered through a survey to provide a unique catalogue of the range of taxpayer education initiatives being undertaken around the world. It also proposes a simple four-step methodology that can guide the practical design and implementation of taxpayer education initiatives.

Taxpayer education can take many forms, adapting to local needs (and resources). The 140 initiatives covered by this report (see Annex A) show a wide variation in approach: from student essay writing contests to workshops on complying with new technical regulations; from efforts to inspire the taxpayers of the future while still at school, to assistance in filing this year’s returns. Taxpayer education is not only about learning in a formal setting; it is also about communication between citizens and tax administrations, including reminding taxpayers of important deadlines, and being transparent and explaining how revenues are used in a way citizens can understand. Taxpayer education also encompasses reaching out to groups of citizens who have limited contact with the tax administration – for example because they are vulnerable, are far from major cities, or lack access to technology. Taxpayer education initiatives use the full range of communication media, physical and virtual. It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to taxpayer education, with countries operating under differing resource constraints undertaking a range of initiatives to achieve a number of objectives.

There are, however, clear commonalities among this diversity, enabling the creation of a taxonomy of taxpayer education initiatives and the identification of common approaches, challenges and solutions. All taxpayer education initiatives appear to focus on one of three key approaches:

1. teaching – providing in-depth engagement with the audience which is often, but not always the youth

2. communicating – higher-level engagement focussed on awareness-raising campaigns

3. providing practical assistance – supporting taxpayers directly in their compliance obligations.

This report goes into detail on each of these approaches, identifying common challenges and solutions. It is intended to serve as a valuable resource to inspire and support those designing and implementing taxpayer education initiatives.

Tax administrations are not alone in their focus on taxpayer education. Many of the initiatives featured in this report are conducted in partnership either with other government departments, including local government, or other institutions such as schools, business associations, and non-governmental organisations. Partnerships offer opportunities for expansion and scale that otherwise might not be possible, especially where resources are constrained within tax administrations. In addition, partnerships can help bring access to the target populations, to specific skills and resources, and to logistical support. A number of non-governmental actors also engage in taxpayer education activities independently from the tax administration; while such activities were not part of the survey, their role is analysed in recognition of the important role they can play in taxpayer education.

While there is some positive evidence on the impact of taxpayer education, further efforts are needed to better monitor and evaluate taxpayer education initiatives, especially over the long-term. The survey respondents reported that taxpayer education initiatives had a positive impact in several areas, most clearly on tax morale. However, only half of the initiatives covered in the report were subject to any form of evaluation, highlighting the need to improve the evidence base for the impact of taxpayer education. Even where evaluations had taken place these tended to focus on short-term impacts, despite many having long-term objectives. While evaluation, especially of long-term impacts, may be challenging, it is vital to increasing the understanding of how taxpayer education works, and of how to improve its impact.

The potential of taxpayer education has not yet been realised by all administrations; achieving this will require broader dialogue and deeper integration of taxpayer education into the tax system. All, bar one, of the initiatives covered in the 2015 report are still running, most of them having expanded; there is considerable scope for further expansion, as highlighted by many of the new initiatives covered in this report. The potential to use taxpayer education initiatives to facilitate feedback on tax policy and compliance measures is clear in some countries but is far from universal. Resources are a challenge in many countries and in some there are concerns that taxpayer education may be insufficiently prioritised.

The OECD will continue to encourage the research and development of taxpayer education, and of tax morale more broadly. This report is part of a broader workstream at the OECD, which undertakes new research and encourages global discussions on various aspects of tax morale in developing countries. Covering both businesses and individuals, this workstream recognises the importance of finding tools and approaches to build the intrinsic willingness to pay tax, which is vital for long-term sustainable revenues.


[1] OECD/FIIAPP (2015), Building Tax Culture, Compliance and Citizenship: A Global Source Book on Taxpayer Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264205154-en.

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