South Africa’s finance ministry has asked for a study into the introduction of an annual wealth tax as the government seeks to boost the standard of living of the black majority.
The Davis Tax Committee, which makes recommendations to the national treasury, also requested submissions from the public on the feasibility of a land tax and a national tax on the value of property in addition to existing charges, it said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.
It will take comments until 31 May before holding hearings.
The move comes two months after the government increased the top income tax bracket by four percentage points to 45% and as President Jacob Zuma called for “radical economic transformation” in his final year as leader of the ruling party. The ANC says the white minority still dominates ownership of the economy more than two decades after the end of apartheid.
“The distribution of wealth in South Africa is highly unequal,” the committee, led by judge Dennis Davis, said. “It is well established that economic inequality inhibits economic growth and undermines social, economic and political stability.”
South Africa currently has estate duty, transfer duty and a donations tax, while capital gains tax is viewed as a tax on income rather than wealth, the committee said. The study was requested by now ex-finance minister Pravin Gordhan, Davis said by text message.
The treasury is struggling to meet its revenue targets amid sluggish economic growth. The tax agency fell R30bn short of its projection in the past fiscal year, the biggest gap in seven years. The government has pledged to cut the fiscal deficit to 2,6% of GDP in two years, from 3,1%.
“The only way we can look at how we can address income inequality is to create more wealth and more jobs,” said Mike Schussler, chief economist at Johannesburg-based research group Economists.co.za. “In an era where there is competition between tax jurisdictions, they are going to struggle to collect more revenue. People are going to spend more time hiding their wealth.” — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP