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South African Tax Revenues Buck Global Trends

by Robert Lee,, London

07 April 2009

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) collected ZAR625.57bn (USD68.27bn) by midnight on March 31, 2009, slightly below the government's revised target, but 9.2% higher than the revenues collected in 2008 - a notable achievement given the prevailing global economic climate.

The main contributors to total revenue were company income tax (ZAR165.23bn), personal income tax (ZAR197.07bn) and VAT (ZAR153.81bn).

Import VAT and customs duty contributed to the shortfall as a result of falling trade volumes especially during the last quarter of the fiscal year. A key factor was a 10% decline in automotive goods and parts which make up 19% of monthly imports.

"This result was achieved in a climate of rapidly deteriorating global economic conditions and is therefore testimony to the relative robustness of the SA economy to date. It also highlights the benefits to South Africa of our sound fiscal and monetary policy choices we made over the last 15 years," said Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel in a statement. "Given the challenging economic conditions, this year SARS again engaged intensively with taxpayers to ensure they made payments on time."

During the year under review, SARS collected ZAR16.4bn in outstanding debt of which ZAR4.2bn was collected during the last month. A total of ZAR14bn (about 8% of total company income tax) was collected from companies as additional provisional payments in instances where companies had underpaid. Customs deferments collected amounted to ZAR4.2bn.

In anticipation of the economic downturn, the revenue target was adjusted downwards in February from ZAR642.27bn to ZAR627.69bn. The current conditions resulted in a collection that was 99.66% of the target.

Personal income tax collection was ZAR1.93bn below the February 2009 estimate due to job losses and lower bonuses.

VAT collection, despite being only marginally lower than the revised estimate, ended about 8% lower than the original printed estimate as a result of a slowdown in household consumption expenditure from 7% in 2007 to 2.3% in 2008.

Company income tax collection exceeded the February 2009 estimate of ZAR162bn - despite a slow down in the economy - with positive growth in the financial services, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and mining sectors.

Customs duty collection fell below the February 2009 estimate of ZAR23.78bn mainly due to a decline in imports. Automotive goods and parts which constituted 19% of the total monthly imports declined by 10% on a monthly basis.

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