Dr Daisy Ogembo

Junior Research Fellow in Law

I research tax law, an inherently inter-disciplinary speciality that draws heavily from scholarly perspectives in economics, politics, and psychology. My research interests are in tax law and policy, constitutionalism and taxation, tax and administrative law, comparative taxation, tax and development, and taxation of the shadow economy and small businesses. A significant part of my research explores the difficulties that tax authorities in lower-income countries contend with, in discharging their core mandate, and the broader legal, socio-economic, and political contexts upon which their success is contingent.

I am an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya (non-practising), and I hold degrees from University of Oxford (DPhil Law, 2019), University of London (LLM Commercial & Corporate Law, 2013), and University of Nairobi (LLB, 2006). After my undergraduate degree, and admission to the Bar, I worked as an associate in the litigation department of Kenya’s leading law firm, Oraro & Company Advocates. After six years at the firm, during which I had the opportunity to make numerous oral arguments before judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal, I worked briefly as a tax advisor at Viva Africa LLP, a highly rated tax advisory firm in Nairobi. In 2013, I accepted a full-time position as a fixed-term assistant lecturer at Strathmore Law School, where I set-up and directed the Strathmore Tax Research Centre. I left Strathmore to commence my DPhil in Oxford in 2014; I recently completed my doctoral research on the taxation of ‘hard-to-tax’ professionals in Africa and was awarded one of the 53 prestigious British Academy-funded Postdoctoral Fellowships in 2019.

I research tax law, an inherently inter-disciplinary speciality that draws heavily from scholarly perspectives in economics, politics, and psychology. My research interests are in tax law and policy, constitutionalism and taxation, tax and administrative law, comparative taxation, tax and development, and taxation of the shadow economy and small businesses. A significant part of my research explores the difficulties that tax authorities in lower-income countries contend with, in discharging their core mandate, and the broader legal, socio-economic, and political contexts upon which their success is contingent.

Taxes are the lifeblood of governments, without which they cannot provide physical, social, and administrative services. However, ‘no tax is better than its administration, so tax administration matters—a lot’ (Bahl and Bird, 2008).  Tax administration matters even more for low and middle-income countries, which are striving towards improving tax collection in recognition of rapid changes in development funding and the urgent need to harness domestic resources to meet growing socio-economic needs sustainably.

Most research on taxation in lower-income countries has tended to focus on the effects of tax avoidance by multinational enterprises and challenges in the international tax system. However, there is increasing awareness that domestic resource mobilisation is equally important and requires more attention. In my DPhil, I focused on the difficulties that tax authorities in low and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, face in dealing with tax evasion by self-employed professionals. The term ‘hard-to-tax’, in tax evasion literature, refers to farmers, small and medium-sized enterprises, and professionals. However, scholarly discourse on the hard-to-tax in low and middle-income countries has focussed primarily on farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises. Professionals are rarely critically considered despite acknowledgement in the literature that, considering their potential earnings, the absolute amount involved in evasion by professionals is probably higher than other hard-to-tax groups and can cause severe damage to the tax systems of lower-income countries.

Filling this gap, I interrogated the phenomenon of tax evasion by hard-to-tax professionals in low and middle-income countries by answering the novel research question: what are the barriers to tax compliance by hard-to-tax professionals and how can tax authorities in these countries effectively improve their tax compliance? I collected and used interview data on tax evasion by lawyers and dentists in Kenya to determine what inhibits their compliance (my fieldwork was funded by an award from the Chartered Institute of Taxation).

In my British Academy-funded project, I aim to determine whether transformative constitutionalism in Africa has resulted in institutional change and power shifts in tax administration. ‘Transformative constitutionalism’ describes the process by which the enactment, interpretation, and enforcement of a constitution transform a country’s social and political institutions, and power relationships, steering them towards democracy, participation, and egalitarianism (Karl Klare, 1998). This radical social change, described as more than ‘reform’ but less than a ‘revolution’, is delivered through constitutional interpretation and enforcement by courts, and by public institutions such as tax administrations. In this research, I question whether transformative constitutionalism has influenced tax administration in Africa.

Coming at a time of renewed global focus on tax administration in Africa, my postdoctoral research will address this question by bridging scholarly perspectives from tax, constitutional, and administrative law, to determine how the transformative constitutions of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya have: (i) influenced judicial decisions in watershed tax cases, (ii) resulted in institutional change in tax administration, (iii) impeded or strengthened tax administration, and (iv) transformed power relationships between tax authorities and taxpayers.

Journal Articles:

‘Are Presumptive Taxes a Good Option for Taxing Self-Employed Professionals in Low and Middle-Income Countries?’ (2019) 5 Journal of Tax Administration. Also free to download and read here: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3442648.

‘The Tax Justice Network-Africa v Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury & 2 others: a big win for tax justice activism?’ (2019) British Tax Review, No. 2, 105 (Available on Westlaw). Also free to download and read here: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3390820.

 

Journal Articles in Progress:

‘A Balancing Act: The Tension Between Taxpayers’ Rights to VAT Refunds and State Resource Distribution Priorities in Africa’.

Profession Regulators and Associations: An Untapped Resource for Domestic Revenue Mobilisation

Trust or Power? Improving Tax Compliance by Self-employed Professionals Amid Severe Government Corruption & Poor Service Delivery

 

Policy Publications:

Ogembo, D.A., ‘Taxation of Self-Employed Professionals in Africa: Three Lessons from a Kenyan Case Study’ (ICTD Working Paper Series, forthcoming 2019)

Ogembo, D.A. and Kenya Community Development Foundation, “Creating an Enabling Environment for Philanthropy through Tax Incentives”, May 2014. 12 pages.

Where next?

Writing the History of Neoliberalism

15 Jan 2019

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