Developing Capacity in Tax and Customs Administration in South Sudan


South Sudan became an independent state on July 9, 2011, after a long civil war and faced unique macroeconomic and fiscal challenges. It ranked among the least developed countries in the world, and scored very poorly on almost all Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) indicators. For this young nation, making the most of its abundant oil and nonoil resources to generate growth requires effective fiscal and legal frameworks, and a strong financial sector. Extreme dependence on oil production also underscores the importance of developing the non-oil economy, which needs to be accompanied by an efficient tax system.


Post-conflict economic recovery requires building and modernizing of economic policies and institutions. The IMF began working with South Sudan in 2011, helping the country set up the necessary economic institutions and designing appropriate economic policies. The IMF established the South Sudan Trust Fund (SSTF) shortly after the country’s independence to support capacity development in a number of areas, including tax and customs administration.

After conducting initial assessments, the IMF concluded that South Sudan held significant potential for greater non-oil revenue collections if the tax and customs administration policies and procedures were established and the officials received training. Consequently, the IMF began providing strategic advice to the government aimed at building technical and institutional capacity.

The IMF focused on high-impact areas in tax policy and administration such as: designing legislation and procedures, helping establish basic infrastructure in the compliance management functions, and securing the largest proportion of tax revenue by strengthening the large taxpayer unit and customs operations at the largest port of entry. In collaboration with other development partners, the IMF spearheaded training and knowledge sharing through hands-on mentoring and coaching by its experts.


While more still needs to be done, South Sudan is starting to reap the rewards of reform. For example:

  • Basic revenue administration institutions and infrastructure have been set up.
  • Tax and customs laws and regulations have been enacted.
  • Administrative procedures have been put in place for taxpayer registration.
  • Collection enforcement and taxpayer audits have begun.
  • A viable large taxpayer unit has been set up.
  • Operations at the largest border post have been improved.
  • Basic information technology systems have been implemented including a higher per capita availability of computers for the revenue administration.

Non-oil tax-to-GDP grew from about one percent of GDP immediately after independence to nearly four percent; further potential remains largely untapped owing to instability. The worsening security situation in the country, which forced evacuation of IMF staff in 2014 and 2016 (missions to South Sudan have been suspended since July 2016), continues to undermine the impact of TA in South Sudan because of high staff turnover (fleeing the war) and the absence of resident advisors.