Joseph Muscat, the recently re-elected prime minister of Malta, has described corruption as tax at all levels. There is no denying this. It has also been generally proven that the more corrupt a society becomes, the less formal tax revenue it is able to collect.
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) authorities need not look any further, but just deal with the cancer of corruption to solve the tax revenue crisis. Remember, SARS used to exceed its revenue collection targets — compare the level of corruption or perceived corruption then and now. It is not hard to connect the dots.
However, vilifying the tax authorities will not solve the crisis. Some commentators have rather unfairly held SARS commissioner Tom Moyane responsible for the revenue shortfall and gone further to vilify his management team, in essence also holding the hundreds of honest, hardworking men and women at SARS responsible. This is a misdiagnosis of the real problem.
At the root of the problem is larceny in the top echelons of our society. Citizens at every level now feel they have or are paying their dues either through the bribes they are forced to pay, the unjust treatment they receive in any number of touchpoints with the government and the services they are denied.
The mooted inquiry to be set up by the president is only likely to add to the catalogue of reasons why tax compliance will deteriorate further. Most will think the cost of setting up the inquiry rather than simply dealing with allegations of corruption is yet more evidence that the government does not deserve any more from citizens’ hard-earned incomes.
Kola Jolaolu, Cape Town