SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Roy, Pallavi and Khan, Mushtaq (2021) 'Digitizing Taxation and Premature Formalization in Developing Countries.' Development and Change, 52 (4). pp. 855-877.

Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY 4.0).

Download (414kB) | Preview


The digitization of taxation systems can assist inclusion. However, it can also inadvertently lead to adverse outcomes for the poor in developing countries where many firms in the informal sector have low capabilities. Moreover, larger formal sector firms are often politically networked and in a position to engage in extractive informal transactions that digitization alone cannot restrict. Thus, while digitization creates tools for the enforcement of formal regulations, formalization can be unequal. This contribution focuses on digitized taxation as an application of a more general problem with digitization as a tool for formalization, referring to evidence from the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India. Using the analysis of political settlements, the authors distinguish between types of rule violations in developing economies. Networked higher-capability firms engage in ‘informal’ transactions when they violate rules to extract rents. This is different from the informality of unregistered micro and small enterprises in the informal sector who often violate rules they cannot adhere to, and make informal payments to enforcers to continue operating. When digital technologies are used in these contexts, adverse outcomes for welfare and inclusion can follow from ‘premature formalization’. A more cautious and inclusive path to formalization is necessary to protect vulnerable groups.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
Departments and Subunits > Interdisciplinary Studies > Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy
ISSN: 0012155X
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2021 10:17

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item