South African taxpayers should not expect good news in 2024 budget

SAIPA National Tax and Sars Committee chairman Ettiene Retief said South Africans should not expect any tax relief in the February 2024 Budget, and tax hikes will likely be spread across different kinds of taxes.

Retief’s comments come in light of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana preparing to present the 2024/25 Budget on 21 February.

Ahead of the Budget, many speculate that the Minister will announce tax hikes to make up for its significant revenue shortfall.

Tax revenue disappointed in 2023 largely due to lower-than-expected corporate tax income, as companies struggled to make profits in the country’s weak economy.

The government also faces a large deficit as fiscal spending significantly outpaced revenue in recent years.

The Finance Minister has said he is not ruling out tax increases in 2024 but acknowledged it would be a difficult exercise in the country’s current weak economic environment.

In addition, 2024, being an election year, puts pressure on the government to make decisions that would please its citizens.

Retief told Kaya Biz that a balancing act is at play where the government must decide which section of the population to favour.

For example, it could favour one section of its voting population that would like to see tax increases in terms of a wealth tax. On the other side, a section would completely oppose such a tax or any other tax increases. 

“And we might see, in fact, a flight of capital from South Africa through doing that,” he warned. 

“It’s a delicate balance and being in a political period as well, things like National Health Insurance, a Basic Income Grant, are also key factors. Remember, they have costs because that’s a requirement of outflow of money.”

Therefore, to maintain this balance and in an attempt to appease both sections, Retief believes the government may spread its tax hikes across various kinds of taxes

“To a great extent, don’t expect any relief of tax, we might see some marginal increases in taxes, but it might be kind of spread,” Retief said. 

“It’s like a little bit here, a little bit there rather than one big tax increase.”

For example, the government might slightly increase sin taxes, sugar taxes, carbon taxes, donation taxes, and capital gains taxes rather than, for example, significantly increasing personal income tax or raising value-added tax.

South Africans may also see a phenomenon known as ‘bracket creep’, where inflation pushes people’s income into higher tax brackets.

While these small spread-out increases may sound more digestible than one large tax hike, Retief warned that this may still not be enough to make up the government’s revenue shortfall.

This is due to an economic principle called the ‘laffer curve’. Simply put, the Laffer curve suggests that if tax rates are increased above a certain level, tax revenue can fall.

This is because taxes above a certain level could discourage people from working, resulting in lower consumption expenditure levels and encouraging companies to move to other countries.

Therefore, rather than simply raising taxes to make up its revenue shortfall, the government must also cut spending and borrow less to reduce its debt and enormous debt servicing costs.

“If we cannot reprioritise and cut that spending, unfortunately, we might see more aggressive taxes than what will come from this budget,” Retief said.


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