OP-ED: Mainstreaming gender into tax policy discussions

MAPUTO – The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) in collaboration with Autoridade Tributária de Moçambique will host the ATAF Women in Tax Network (AWITN) Dialogue in Maputo, Mozambique on 15th February 2023.

Organised under the theme ‘The Role Of Tax Policy And Leadership In Addressing Gender Inequality In Africa’, the dialogue will seek to examine strategies towards a harmonious balance and link between tax policy and gender and provide innovative solutions for Africa’s decision-makers for equality and equity of legal and administrative tax provisions.

ATAF sat down with Ms Varsha Singh, Head: Strategy Planning and International Cooperation, to talk about what the event will achieve, what people can look forward to and the achievements of the AWITN to date.

  1. The ATAF Women In Tax Network has a phenomenal list of speakers at this dialogue. What have been some achievements of the network?

“Since its launch in March 2021, the network has achieved the following:

• The first Women in Leadership Conference was held in October 2021 on the theme “African Women in Leadership”. A key take away was the complexities surrounding gender balance in revenue administrations. The participants deliberated on the relatively high percentage of females in the overall staff complement of tax administrations vis a vis the small number in senior management positions or core technical areas and concluded that countries need to consider ways to improve their attempts to achieve greater gender equality.

• In supporting the development of women in leadership and core technical tax areas, AWITN launched the pilot mentorship programme to support women during the formative stages of their careers in 2022. The pilot programme included 20 participants (10 mentors and 10 mentees) culled from Revenue Administrations, International organizations, Civil society, Academia, and the Private sector.

• The publication of the research on “as-is analysis: Are tax policies developed to reduce gender inequality in ATAF member countries?” was launched on the 1st of August 2022.

• Building on the findings of the research, the dialogue, in hybrid format, will be held in Mozambique on the theme THE ROLE OF TAX POLICY AND LEADERSHIP IN ADDRESSING GENDER INEQUALITY IN AFRICA.

• The drive to collect gender-disaggregated tax administration statistics aimed at quantifying the gender analysis of existing and possible future tax policies in member countries. The 2022 African Tax Outlook (ATO) will expand the scope of data collection from member countries to include the areas such as i) the Gender statistics for all staff and executive leaders; ii) Taxpayers’ gender statistics on tax type, segments, collections; and iii) Tax policies and administrative initiatives that promote gender equality.

  1. The theme is the Role of Tax Policy and Leadership in addressing Gender Inequality in Africa. Why this theme?

“The theme is twofold – Firstly we seek to address the role of women in leadership and to enable and empower women to break the glass ceiling. We discovered that education and good mentorship are the steppingstone to creating leaders who use their voices and speak at tables to which they were previously not invited. Secondly, it is to enhance the link between gender equality, tax policy and Tax Administration by drawing lessons from country experiences as you will hear from the different speakers.”

  1. What does the dialogue aim to achieve?

“A key outcome of the dialogue is to mainstream gender into discussions on Tax Policy and Tax Administration. Many of the tax challenges Africa faces still hinders its development – the informal economy, scarcity of technical expertise, lack of human capacity, and in particular, lack of gender equality. One of AWITN’s objectives is to drive gender equality for women in tax-related fields as we continue to map our future and for our continent to learn from its history.”

  1. What can participants look forward to during the dialogue?

“The dialogue comes at a time when the AWITN seeks to bring gender issues at the forefront and define the gender sensitive future we want. You can look forward to hearing from different speakers from tax administrations, civil society, international organisations and so on, that all genders have equal ability to influence and contribute to policy-making. Therefore, conferences such as this are the ideal platforms needed to advance policy debates on the gendered approach to taxation.”

Ms Singh stressed that when it comes to gender, taxation plays a pivotal role in promoting gender equality by financing policies and programmes that address gender-based inequalities.

“For example, progressive tax systems that tax the wealthy at higher rates can help reduce income inequality between men and women, as women are disproportionately represented among the poorest members of society. However, tax policies can also perpetuate gender inequalities if they do not consider the unique challenges faced by women, such as the gender pay gap and the burden of unpaid care work,” she said.

As Africa’s economies strive to increase their recovery trajectory in the aftermath of varied socio-economic challenges, in-depth leadership interactions become critical to examine the subject of gender equality and taxation through serious consideration of gender-sensitive tax policies and their very vital role in widening the tax base, improving tax efficiency, and meeting cardinal tax principles.

Therefore, it’s important to ensure that tax policies are designed and implemented in a way that promotes gender equality!

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