When rendering unto Caesar gets too much – FMF

Try telling the government that taxing us all less will, in the medium term, boost investment, innovation, start-ups and a stronger economy … and that it will ironically widen their tax base. The Free Market Foundation, promoting Tax Freedom Day (15 May, this year), infers exactly this in a highly informative piece that helps us calculate what value for money we’re getting. As if it’s necessary, here’s the hard logic behind the contention that we’re being fleeced relative to other countries in the world. The FMF’s statistician Garth Zietsman tells us that South Africa has the 12th highest income tax burden, the 9th highest company income tax burden, and the 14th highest non-resource tax burden worldwide. Where’s the matching economic development? We’re paying for dysfunction, high-flying lifestyles of MPs and their tender brethren, both those with inevitably imminent criminal records and those with a cleaner slate and, perhaps most importantly, a level of service delivery that’s globally embarrassing. – Chris Bateman 

Congratulations SA taxpayers. You’ve paid government. Now what you earn is yours!

Before you earn a cent, government takes a chunk out of your pay packet in taxes. Today, 12 May, marks (predicted) Tax Freedom Day 2022. Tax Freedom Day (TFD) is a measure of how much time you spend working for someone else’s benefit – government GDP – rather than your own. TFD is the day we, the people of South Africa, at last start to work for ourselves. It is the day on which we have finally paid our tax bill in full. From 1 January until 11 May, all the income earned by average South Africans is needed to pay for one year of government spending.

Tax Freedom Day 2022 falls 10 days later than predicted in 2021 and four weeks later than actual in 1994. The average South African taxpayer had to work 131 (predicted) days in 2022 to pay their taxes. In 1994, South Africans took 101 (actual) days to pay for government, a whole 30 days fewer than in 2022. Unfortunately, the trend towards TFD falling later and later is likely to continue as government spending, the deficit and government debt continues to increase.

Each year, the FMF’s statistician, Garth Zietsman, calculates South Africa’s Tax Freedom Day. According to Zietsman, “Tax Freedom Day is calculated by dividing general government revenue by GDP at market prices, then multiplying the result by the number of days in a year, and finally adding a day.”

TFD is determined in this way and spread over the first months of the calendar year to give us an idea of how the burden of taxes affects the average taxpayer. It is accepted that some lose more and others less of their hard-earned income in taxes, but the average, measured in days of the year, confirms what people know intuitively: the taxes we pay are too high.

Says Zietsman: “South Africa has the 12th highest income tax burden, the 9th highest company income tax burden, and the 14th highest non-resource tax burden worldwide.” He adds: “For our level of economic development, that is exceptionally high by international standards.”

Government produces little to show for the high tax burden. Zietsman points out, “Our educational system is dismal and the crime rate is high with most serious crimes going unsolved.” While taxes have been trending upwards, income per capita has been trending downwards. The result is that South Africans have had to carry a growing tax burden while getting poorer.

Growth requires lower taxes. Reduced taxes would provide a greater incentive for private individuals to work, save and invest. The net result would be greater investment, more innovation, a stronger economy, less unemployment, less poverty and a more contented populace.

Government is both less innovative and less efficient than the private sector. South Africa’s state-owned enterprises are numerous and usually produce large losses that require regular substantial bailouts at taxpayer expense. High taxation slows, not grows, an economy.

TFD reminds us to think about the role of government in our lives and whether we are getting value for money.

The table below shows that the predicted TFD 2022 is ten days later than the predicted TFD 2021 and three days later than the actual TFD 2021; it is four weeks later than in 1994.

Year – Tax Freedom Day
Predicted Actual
1994 – 12-Apr
1995 – 13-Apr
1996 – 16-Apr
1997 – 16-Apr
1998 – 26-Apr 19-Apr
1999 – 25-Apr 23-Apr
2000 – 20-Apr
2001 – 26-Apr 24-Apr
2002 – 22-Apr 04-Apr
2003 – 21-Apr 30-Apr
2004 – 27-Apr 09-May
2005 – 04-May 10-May
2006 – 11-May 09-May
2007 – 12-May 01-May
2008 – 09-May 12-May
2009 – 27-Apr 10-May
2010 – 30-Apr 01-May
2011 – 01-May 04-May
2012 – 03-May 08-May
2013 – 05-May 13-May
2014 – 07-May 13-May
2015 – 21-May 18-May
2016 – 21-May 15-May
2017 – 23-May 13-May
2018 – 23-May 18-May
2019 – 24-May 19-May
2020 – 06-May 21-May
2021 – 02-May 09-May
2022 – 12-May

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