ANTONY SGUAZZIN and PRINESHA NAIDOO
Finance minister Tito Mboweni told selected clients of two of the country’s biggest banks that the National Treasury had no plans to boost income, corporate or value added taxes (VAT) even as the coronavirus decimates the country’s finances.
The Treasury is discussing the possibility of an inheritance tax and a so-called solidarity tax in a bid to raise additional finances, two people who listened to the calls with hundreds of clients of Standard Bank and Absa said. They asked not to be identified because the calls were private.
Mboweni’s room to raise levies for individuals and companies is limited, with the ratio of tax revenue to GDP at 26% compared with a global average of 15%, according to World Bank data. Increasing VAT, which the government has done only twice since 1991, is unpopular within the ANC because it is seen as affecting the country’s poorest people hardest. Taxes on the wealthy are favoured politically and a solidarity tax, associated with the virus outbreak, would be limited in duration.
In a special adjustment budget last week, the government cut its revenue projection for the current fiscal year to R1.12-trillion from the R1.43-trillion it estimated in February as the virus and the associated lockdown reduced business activity.
Mboweni said an additional R40bn in tax will be raised over the next four years, without providing more details.
The Treasury, Absa and Standard Bank declined to comment.
In SA’s top income-tax rate is 45%, corporate tax is 28% and VAT is 15%.
In February, when the annual budget was released, the Treasury said it decided not to raise taxes due to the weakness of the economy and was considering lowering the levy on companies to boost the country’s competitiveness as an investment destination among emerging markets.
Since then, SA has lost the last investment-grade rating on its debt and the country on March 27 entered a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. While the government is gradually easing those restrictions, the Treasury forecasts GDP will contract 7.2% in 2020.