Tax Administration Models

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Tax Administration

The policy design of tax administration involves the determination of how taxes are collected. The choices include centralized collection, multilevel government control, and tax assignment with legislative control at lower levels. Visit to learn more.

A centralized model of tax administration maximizes efficiency by using one central office to set uniform rules and regulations, administer a single collection system, oversee the training of tax collectors and enforce standards of excellence for all tax collectors. Countries that choose this model include federations, such as the United States and Switzerland, and unitary states such as Italy and Germany. This approach allows the central government to take advantage of administrative economies of scale when collecting individual and corporate income taxes, sales taxes, value-added taxes (VAT) and customs duties.

Moreover, it is easier to track taxpayer records when there is only one tax database and standard procedures for recording and reporting data. A centralized system also facilitates productive coordination with other departments and agencies in an organization, increases political accountability through quantified analysis and introduces analytical rigor. In addition, centralized review can improve the quality of regulatory decisions by increasing their consistency and clarity.

Centralized tax administration can also improve compliance and reduce the cost of operating businesses. In the absence of a central tax administration, local governments often increase their own administrative costs by imposing a patchwork of different collection and enforcement rules on businesses that operate in multiple jurisdictions. For example, if a person who is a resident of locality A rents part of their residence to a tourist in locality B, the withholding of tax on interest income becomes complicated by the fact that different localities may set different withholding rates for withholding payments.

The choice of whether to centralize or decentralize tax administration should be based on an assessment of the level of control that a country wants to exert over revenues and expenditures. The type of taxes to be collected at various levels of government must also be determined. The knowledge and skills needed to administer a property tax differ substantially from those required for the administration of income taxes or VATs.

A centralized tax administration is more effective for taxes that are highly mobile, such as VATs, customs duties and natural resource taxes. In these cases, the collection and enforcement costs of each level of government are minimized if the taxes are collected at the level that is most capable of doing so.


Subnational governments are able to collect taxes such as property and certain excise taxes. However, these taxes have significant administrative drawbacks. For example, property tax collections require extensive auditing and verification. It also requires a high level of information technology (IT) capabilities, which are not always available at the local level. It is therefore necessary to balance these costs against the benefits of devolution to local levels of government.

Other taxes, such as income, VAT (especially on a destination basis), customs duties and natural resource taxes, are more complex. In these cases, a more cost-effective solution is to share the administration of these taxes at the central level with a set of rules and procedures designed to maximize collection efficiency.

The decision on which tax instruments to devolve to subnational government should be based on the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to administer the respective taxes. For instance, the tax administration requirements for a presumptive tax on small businesses and informal sector activities are different from those required for collecting an income tax. These differences in requirements should be taken into account when deciding how to structure the tax system, as well as the tax policy options and revenue assignment.

A central government could also adopt a formula for determining the allocation of revenues to local governments. This arrangement would allow for more effective monitoring of tax collection and compliance at the local level. For this to work, it is crucial that the formula be unbiased and transparent. The choice of the formula also affects the motivation and behavior of tax staff, which may be influenced by perceptions of equity or unfairness.

One option to mitigate the costs of devolution is to have a centralized national IT system that can support all levels of taxation. This can reduce collection and enforcement costs and ensure consistency in taxpayer services, auditing, penalties and appeals. However, this approach can be costly and can also create inefficiencies due to the need to transfer data across boundaries.

Ideally, the central government should determine tax policy through legislation and standardize taxation laws. At the same time, it should allow lower levels of government to decide on their marginal tax rates. This can be done by piggybacking on a centralized IT system that supports the national tax base and tax rates, or by using a formula for apportioning revenue between levels of government.

Multiple Levels of Government

Many countries have multiple levels of government that are authorized to levy and collect taxes. Some have centralized tax administration, while others allow for some level of revenue sharing between different levels of government. Regardless of which model a country uses, the more levels involved in taxation can create additional complications in administration. Duplication of efforts can easily occur, and effectiveness may suffer if all levels do not share the same requirements for compliance.

The issue of coordinating taxation at different levels is one that needs to be considered by both policymakers and administrators. The policy decision to assign or share revenues can be determined by the amount of money needed at each level and the desired tax base, as well as the structure of the public sector.

A central tax agency, for example, may need to have a high level of skill and sophistication for its employees to be effective. It may also need a large budget to provide for sufficient office space and the latest technology. In contrast, a subnational tax bureau can have less need for such resources and may be able to function on a much smaller scale. It can also use its knowledge of local conditions to perform better in functions such as collecting property taxes or enforcing zoning regulations (Rubinfield, 1992).

As economies develop and shift from socialist states to capitalist systems, it becomes possible for some levels of government to collect their own taxes. This is particularly the case in countries that allow their local governments to levy property taxes or impose income taxes on individuals. However, such tax collection must be accompanied by a strong enforcement mechanism and effective auditing.

As former socialist economies move toward a market orientation, their governments need to reform their tax administrations so that they can effectively perform the core function of collecting taxes. This is particularly important for enterprises that are still under state ownership, although it also applies to privatized and new private companies. Tax collections and audits must be strengthened in order to increase the confidence of taxpayers that their taxes will be used fairly and equitably.


Despite the best efforts of tax collectors, taxpayer compliance remains a major challenge. Noncompliance impedes the effectiveness of taxes, reduces the amount of revenue collected, and can even result in fraud or corruption. To address these challenges, governments must develop a system of policy and administration that focuses on efficiency and promotes voluntary compliance.

Ideally, tax administration should be simple to ensure that taxpayers understand their obligations and are incentivized to comply. However, this can be complicated when multiple levels of government levy and collect taxes. In such a situation, it is important to have a clear line of authority and uniform rules and procedures. In addition, tax inspectors should have a central database or master file with information on all taxes for which the taxpayer is liable. This will help to prevent duplication of efforts and make it easier to detect noncompliance.

In addition to developing a tax collection strategy that is efficient and cost-effective, the government should also establish procedures for resolving disputes between taxpayers and the tax authority. These procedures should be transparent and consistent with international standards. This will help to avoid misunderstandings and improve the credibility of the tax administration. In the event that a dispute cannot be resolved by the taxpayer and the tax authority, a court should be consulted to decide on a settlement.

A tax collection strategy should be designed to minimize the costs of collection while ensuring that all taxpayers are treated fairly and that their tax liability is accurately assessed. This can be done by establishing procedures for audits and examining the accuracy of the assessment process. Additionally, the tax collection strategy should provide incentives for taxpayers to report accurate data and not conceal information.

Tax administration is an essential component of any economy. When there are concerns about tax administration, it is important to consult with an experienced professional. They can help you determine the most effective strategies for your business. This will help you avoid unnecessary fines and penalties, and ensure that your taxes are filed on time. Ultimately, this will help you avoid costly mistakes that can be difficult to correct in the future.