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A Wealth Tax for South Africa


  • Aroop Chatterjee

    (WITS - University of the Witwatersrand [Johannesburg])

  • Léo Czajka

    (UCL - Université Catholique de Louvain = Catholic University of Louvain)

  • Amory Gethin

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)


This paper considers the feasibility of implementing a progressive wealth tax to collect additional government revenue to both reinforce fiscal sustainability in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and reduce persistent extreme inequality in South Africa. Drawing on our new companion paper, we first identify the tax base and discuss the design of potential tax schedules. Testing alternative tax schedules, we estimate how much additional revenue could be collected from a progressive tax on the top 1% richest South Africans. Our results show that under conservative assumptions, a wealth tax could raise between 70 and 160 billion Rands—1.5% to 3.5% of the South African GDP.We discuss in turn how sensitive our estimates are to assumptions on (1) mismeasurement of wealth and (2) tax avoidance and evasion, based on the most recent tax policy literature. We examine technical issues related to the enforcement of the tax, and how third-party reporting and pre-filled declarations could be used to optimize measurement of taxable wealth and minimize evasion and avoidance opportunities. Finally, we explain how this new tax could interact with other capital related taxes already in place in South Africa, and discuss the potential impact on growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Aroop Chatterjee & Léo Czajka & Amory Gethin, 2021. "A Wealth Tax for South Africa," PSE Working Papers halshs-03131182, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-03131182
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Aroop Chatterjee & Léo Czajka & Amory Gethin, 2020. "Estimating the Distribution of Household Wealth in South Africa," Working Papers hal-02876974, HAL.
    2. Elizabeth Gavin & Jean L. Erero, 2015. "The Impact of the Dividend Tax in South Africa: A Dynamic CGE Model Analysis," Working Papers 544, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    3. Jaejoon Woo & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2015. "Public Debt and Growth," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 82(328), pages 705-739, October.
    4. Katrine Jakobsen & Kristian Jakobsen & Henrik Kleven & Gabriel Zucman, 2020. "Wealth Taxation and Wealth Accumulation: Theory and Evidence From Denmark," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 135(1), pages 329-388.
    5. Alstadsæter, Annette & Johannesen, Niels & Zucman, Gabriel, 2018. "Who owns the wealth in tax havens? Macro evidence and implications for global inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 89-100.
    6. Reinhard Neck & Gottfried Haber & Andrea Klinglmair, 2015. "Austrian Public Debt Growth: A Public Choice Perspective," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 21(3), pages 249-260, August.
    7. Johannes Hermanus Kemp, 2019. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income: The Case of South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 87(4), pages 417-449, December.
    8. Ludwig Straub & Iván Werning, 2020. "Positive Long-Run Capital Taxation: Chamley-Judd Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(1), pages 86-119, January.
    9. Davies, James B. (ed.), 2008. "Personal Wealth from a Global Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199548897, Decembrie.
    10. Real Arai & Takuma Kunieda & Keigo Nishida, 2014. "Is Public Debt Growth-Enhancing or Growth-Reducing?," KIER Working Papers 884, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
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