A comparative study of the primary tax rebate system in South Africa in relation to Brazil and Australia.

The South African primary rebate is governed by Section 6 of the Income Tax Act (58 of 1962). This primary tax rebate entitles taxpayers to a tax-free income portion up to a certain level depending on the rebate amount (also referred to as the tax threshold). The concept of tax thresholds in a tax system in essence adhere to the first tax canon of Smith (1776:676), which suggests that individuals should pay taxes in proportion to each person’s ability to pay tax. The implication of this tax canon is that individuals who have a limited or no ability to pay tax should only be subject to pay tax in relation to their ability. Therefore, before tax can be levied, an amount for the necessities-of-life must be deducted from the taxpayer’s income (Vivian, 2006:85). The primary rebate system thus gives individuals a tax-free income portion which is supposed to first compensate for an individual’s necessities-of-life expenses or put differently the costs to survive. The main purpose of the present study is to critically analyse and compare the fairness of the primary rebates in South Africa in relation to other countries. To meet the main purpose a comparison was done between South Africa’s primary rebate and related government grant programs to that of Brazil and Australia. It was found that South Africa rebate system creates significant vertical and horizontal unfairness and that it compares poorly to the fairer multiple rebate and government grant systems of Brazil and Australia. Accordingly it was recommended that the unified primary rebate system of South Africa is reviewed and brought in line with the multiple rebate systems implemented in countries such as Brazil and Australia.


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