Taxes: Net may be closing in on fat cats

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Finance minister Tendai Bit have been on a crusade of financial inclusion.

Candid Comment with Itai Masuku

They mean the same thing but perhaps for different reasons. For the Reserve Bank financial inclusion refers to the “unbanked”, basically people who do not have bank accounts.

Reasons for this may vary from not having readily accessible banking facilities, as might apply to rural areas or simply not earning enough to justify a bank account. On the other hand treasury is more interested in getting those funds into its own coffers.

Both men have a problem with the fact that at any given time, for the same amount that circulates officially in Zimbabwe, through the banks, almost an equivalent amount is circulating outside the system.
That means neither Gono nor Biti have access to those funds. Blue chip Innscor has an axiom that goes; “follow the money”. And as anyone can see, these guys do follow the money.

Following that maxim, one decided to examine where the money has gone and found what one may liken to Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. In one aspect of our country we have the classical Marxist Leninist scenario where wealth (and in our case liquidity) is concentrated in the hands of a few.

This is the economy of the people whom we see speeding around in huge automobiles with V8 and four-litre-plus engines running on petrol at that. Many of them live in mountain-built mansions, are in the process of building some or are renovating them for the umpteenth time.

If we call to mind what ended up being dubbed the “Warren Buffett tax proposals” that US President Barack Obama mulled on for the better part before his re-election campaign, we can draw some parallels with our own situation at home.

These super rich pay a very small proportion of their income towards tax. In fact, the supercars and mansions may be means of avoiding tax. This leaves the only remaining tax base as the “unbanked”. This is the second part of our tale of two countries.

It’s now difficult to call them the working class, or proletariat, given the dismal unemployment levels in the country. Experts tell us those in formal employment in the country amount to 800 000 people, out of Zimbabwe’s approximately 12 million, a mere 6,7% of the populace. The rest are the unemployed, semi-employed, or self-employed.

The last category therefore constitutes the remaining tax base. I call this the dollar economy because here, most things are sold for a dollar or less. If government wants to follow the money immediately, this is where they should go. However, morally this is unsound as it implies robbing the poor to give to the rich.

Politically this is calling the devil from the vast deep. But there are proposals to amend Zimbabwe’s tax laws, and a cursory glance suggests, like the Buffett proposals, the net may be closing in not so much on the bottom tier economy but on the fat cats who have enjoyed the reverse of the Robin Hood phenomenon.

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