South Africa has had a trying two years, but today Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana presented a budget with a surprising amount of good news in it. However, this good news needs to be tempered with the current economic situation, which remains challenging. As the minister said, quoting Shakespeare, “One swallow does not a summer make”.The improved revenue performance the minister spoke of is not a reflection of a structural improvement in the economy. South Africa’s economy is expected to grow at 2.1% in 2022 and average 1.8% over the three years 2022-2024. This growth rate is below the rate required to meet South Africa’s needs.
South Africa faced a consolidated Budget deficit of 10% of GDP in 2020/21. This is expected to improve to 5.7% of GDP in 2021/22, 6% of GDP in 2022/23 and 4.2% of GDP in 2024/25. However, government debt has reached R4.3 trillion and is projected to rise to R5.4 trillion over the medium term. Gross debt will peak at about 75.1% of GDP in the 2024/25 fiscal year. The cost of servicing South Africa’s debt has now reached greater levels than each of policing, basic education and health.
Although there is rising debt, the minister indicated that we now expect to realise a primary fiscal surplus – where revenue exceeds non-interest expenditure – by 2023/24. He provided additional context that we are bringing debt down for the first time since 2015 as we are reducing the borrowing requirement, over the next three years, by R267.3 billion.
Also positive is that government now projects to collect R1.55 trillion in taxes during 2021/22, R62 billion more than projected at the time of the MTBPS and R182 billion more than expected at the start of the year. This appears to be due to a windfall from the commodities boom and the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) indicated that we will likely not be able to bank on this going forward. It is clear that SARS’ goal of boosting capacity, and intensifying their work to counter criminal and illicit activity, has also made a difference.
From a tax policy perspective, the Finance Minister indicated that government was focussing on broadening the tax base rather than increasing the major revenue generating taxes.
The following is a summary of some significant tax aspects:
This was a very positive budget speech for Minister Godongwana and we commend his commitment to the reconstruction and recovery of the economy; saving lives and restoring livelihoods, as well as securing the long-term prosperity of South Africa