In the early stages of development, taxation adopts a passive role of raising revenue. The choice of the 'best' tax bases (i.e. the administratively most feasible) depends on the economic structure. As purported by the Hinrichs thesis, import duties are the chief source of revenue within the tax structure. However with economic, social and political development, these instruments can become active 'levers' to directly shape the economic structure in conformity with the desires of the most influential political decision makers. Although the experiences of Papua New Guinea substantiate this postulate of the changing role of import taxation, it is suggested that the present import tax structure is ineffective in the passive function of raising revenue, and that import taxes, in the active role as protective tariffs, are an inefficient means of molding an economic structure conducive to development.