• Policy Brief

Customary and State Land in Zambia: Implications for Property Taxation


This policy brief is centered around the insights from a planned taxpayer survey. Like many sub-Saharan nations, Zambia currently exempts customary land from property taxation. However, with the expansion of urban areas, the demarcation between customary and state land often becomes ambiguous, leading to a sense of unfairness when some properties are taxed while others are not. Land allocation in Zambia is a sensitive issue, often sparking conflicts between local councils and traditional authorities, particularly in rural districts undergoing rapid urbanization or in regions rich in minerals and other untaxed resources.

This brief delves into the history and reasoning behind the existing legislation and land allocation system. It explores citizen perspectives on the distinction between customary and state land, especially in terms of property registration and taxation, and their reasons for choosing to reside in one area over the other. Using data from the pilot exercise and taxpayer survey, the brief aims to quantify the potential revenue loss from exempting customary land from property taxation. It also contrasts Zambia’s experiences with those of other countries where property taxation on customary land has been implemented, examining the negotiation dynamics between councils and traditional leaders. The brief concludes by outlining various policy options to facilitate revenue collection from customary land and to fortify the relationship between councils and traditional authorities.


Doctoral Fellow

Publication Details

Sripriya Iyengar Srivatsa

Doctoral Fellow

Sripriya Iyengar Srivatsa is the Thematic Focal Point for Gender and Tax at the ICTD and a Doctoral Fellow at LoGRI. She is pursuing her PhD at University of Cambridge. Her research areas include political economy, state capacity, and gender, with a geographical focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Combining observational data and experimental methods, she specialises in analysing the roles of competing political institutions, state-society-land relations, and connections between intra-household dynamics and socioeconomic outcomes. She was an ODI Fellow at the Ministry of Finance in Sierra Leone from 2019-2021. She obtained her Master’s in Political Economy from SOAS, University of London. 


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