Majority of people want wealthy to be taxed more, shows survey

With the country gripped by high levels of unemployment and many people living in abject poverty, two-thirds majority of South Africans want the rich to pay more taxes.

This is according to a survey conducted by Afrobarometer, a pan-African non-partisan research network that provides reliable data on African experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life.

The organisation stated that its team in South Africa, led by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and Plus 94 Research, interviewed 1 600 adult South Africans in May-June 2021.

Afrobarometer’s findings show that two-thirds of South Africans want tax authorities to always enforce tax laws.

A study by the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand indicates that at least 3 500 individuals are in possession of 15% of the country’s wealth, where the top 1% own 55% of the nation’s wealth, while 50% of the population live from hand-to-mouth, with virtually no savings pad.

“The latest Afrobarometer survey data collected, shows that most citizens endorse their government’s right to collect taxes, but many said it is difficult to find out what taxes they owe and how the government uses tax revenues.

The majority also said it is fair to tax the rich at higher rates to support the poor, and they expressed opposition to imposing taxes on the informal sector.

“While many said they believe tax avoidance is common, many people also indicated that they would be willing to pay higher taxes in exchange for more government services and in support of programmes to help young people,” reads the survey.

Afrobarometer stated that one in three citizens said “most” or “all” tax officials are involved in corruption, and a majority of them agreed that it is difficult to find out what taxes they owe and how the government uses tax revenues.

“Views on taxation levels were mixed as four in 10 citizens said ordinary people pay too much, while only 22% said the same about the wealthy,” said Afrobarometer.

“Majorities saw it as fair for the rich to pay higher taxes to support the poor, and only 39% agreed that the government should make sure that the informal sector pays taxes.

“More than half of citizens said they believe that the government generally uses tax revenues for the wellbeing of its citizens.

“Six in 10 people said their fellow citizens always avoid paying taxes, while more than half of the residents would prefer to pay higher taxes in exchange for more government services, and an even greater share would endorse higher taxes to support youth programmes.”

Afrobarometer’s Lived Poverty Index measures respondents’ levels of material deprivation by asking how often they or their families went without necessities such as food, water, medical care and cash income during the preceding year.

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