I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.
August 16 marks the day our National Planning Minister delivered his National Development Plan to Parliament. The plan was positively received by stakeholders and hailed by the media as a "plan for all citizens".
The plan's main objectives are to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. These objectives should be supported as South Africa is in dire need of change.
What we all should realise though is that these objectives will not come cheap. Indeed even the Minister was quick to state that "we must accelerate the pace of change, work harder and better to move toward this vision".
"Work harder and better"
It is fair to say that this call to action should apply equally to citizens, taxpayers, business people, and professionals, members of trade unions, civil society and government officials.
What is it that each of these groups should do to make the plan work?
Business owners should pay their fair share of tax and should not employ questionable and aggressive tax planning techniques to avoid or evade tax. The Christo Wiese affair was widely reported in the media. According to reports he owes R2 billion in taxes and SARS announced that it had uncovered 9 300 South Africans, most of whom have wealth in excess of R75m and who had earned more than R7m last year, had failed to properly pay their fair share in taxes. These 9 300 individuals are potentially responsible for a R50bn tax shortfall.
Tax practitioners should ensure that tax returns are completed accurately and honestly. We cannot be seen to be associated with misleading information. Government employees and workers generally should commit to higher productivity and lower absenteeism.
And taxpayers generally? Is there something that they can do to make the plan work? Should they commit to paying more taxes? It is clear that the plan will need an increase in government funding and spending. National treasury's medium-term budget forecast indicates that tax collections from personal income tax is set to increase with R40 billion, a 14.7% increase from the previous year. For 2014/2015 the percentage increase is 15%. Economists and tax specialists agree that an increase in personal income tax is likely. However they are concerned about the taxpayers' ability to pay more. Toll roads, food inflation, consumption taxes, electricity increases are becoming overbearing. Can we really expect taxpayers to do more and fund ever increasing salary costs of government departments with no improvement in service delivery?
Like the traveller in Robert Frost's poem South Africa is about to enter a new path. Will we do so as equal partners carrying the same burden? Or will we regret the road not taken?
Section 240A of the Tax Administration Act, 2011 (as amended) requires that all tax practitioners register with a recognized controlling body before 1 July 2013. It is a criminal offense to not register with both a recognized controlling body and SARS.