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The effect of tax harmonisation in the Southern African Development Community on Foreign Direct Investment

This paper investigates the effect of tax harmonisation on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Findings of a first attempt to investigate the linkage between taxation (tax rates and policy) and FDI (in all 15 countries), using an eclectic panel data modeling approach from 1990-2010 are presented. A new value added tax (VAT) harmonisation variable is introduced (in addition to a corporate income tax (CIT) harmonisation variable) via a tax policy harmonisation measure (TPHM) in the panel empirical investigation, complemented by a sensitivity analysis (using the extreme-bound analysis (EBA) technique) on the impact of taxation on FDI inflows to the SADC.

The investigation shows that when errors in the regressors (for instance contemporaneous correlation, heteroskedasticity, cross-sectional dependence, endogeneity) are controlled for, tax harmonisation (amongst other contributing factors) does indeed have a significant causal relationship with FDI in the SADC. The study generally provides empirical evidence to support the argument for effectively using taxation towards higher FDI inflows in the region.

Policy considerations towards improved tax harmonisation emanating from the paper include the need for individual SADC governments to promote national tax policies aimed at supporting regional tax harmonisation objectives, through strengthening existing tax agreements and treaties. This is necessary to reduce disparity in tax rates (including the definition of tax bases), improve existing level of tax co-movement, mitigate tax leakages and promote FDI inflows.

Working paper 694
1 July 2017
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