Even professors ask for extensions – the chair of the VAT review panel, Prof Ingrid Woolard, can attest to that. Unlike many struggling undergraduate students, they often get them. I thought of this as I reflected on the task we, alongside eight other panel members, were given by the National Treasury to consider an approach to mitigate the effect of the one-percentage-point rise in VAT announced in February’s budget. Scope and deadline changes are the nature of such an inquiry, especially when a panel consists of members with very strong views, as ours had. My views on the merits and inevitability of the VAT increase are well documented. It is a regressive tax and makes the system of indirect taxes (and the overall tax system) generally regressive. It hurts the pockets of the poor. I accept, however, that zero-rating mitigates some of the regressivity. To what extent it does this is important. I was asked to serve on a panel that would consider whether the existing 19 items that ca...

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