Reassessing Tax and Development Research: A New Dataset, New Findings, and Lessons for Research
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There is growing concern with the weaknesses of economic statistics relating to developing countries, and the risks that poor data have generated misleading research findings and poor policy advice. Cross-country tax data offer a striking example, with existing datasets frequently highly incomplete, analytically imprecise, plagued by errors, and sharply lacking in transparency. This paper introduces the new Government Revenue Dataset from the International Centre for Tax and Development, which provides a more reliable, transparent, and comprehensive basis for cross-national research. This new dataset has initially been used to re-examine major questions about the relationships between tax and aid, elections, economic growth, and democratization. The results deepen some previous conclusions and call others seriously into question—notably the assertion that aid dependence consistently undermines domestic revenue efforts. Above all, the research demonstrates the value of the new dataset, the broader sensitivity of many results to changes in data quality and coverage, and the consequent importance of expanded attention to, and investments in, data quality.