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Distributional Impact of Fiscal Policy in South Africa

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  • Gabriela Inchauste
  • Nora Lustig
  • Mashekwa Maboshe
  • Catriona Purfield
  • Ingrid Woolard

Abstract

This paper estimated the distributional impact of the main elements of general government taxation and spending in South Africa, applying fiscal incidence analysis to the 2010/11 IES (Stats SA 2012b). On the tax side, it analyzed the incidence of 64.5 percent of total tax revenue, including PIT, VAT, excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco, and the general fuel levy. On the expenditure side, it analyzed the incidence of 43 percent of general government expenditures, focused on social spending including direct cash transfers, free basic services, and health and education spending.The results show that South Africa uses its fiscal instruments to significantly reduce market income inequality and poverty through a progressive tax system and highly progressive social spending. The rich in South Africa bear the brunt of taxes that we examined, and the government redirects these resources to the poorest in society to raise their incomes. Only the top three deciles of the income distribution pay more in taxes than they receive in transfers. As a result, the fiscal system lifts some 3.6 million individuals out of poverty. Despite the large fiscal redistribution, however, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. More can and should be done to improve the quality of education and health service delivery.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriela Inchauste & Nora Lustig & Mashekwa Maboshe & Catriona Purfield & Ingrid Woolard, 2015. "Distributional Impact of Fiscal Policy in South Africa," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 29, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tul:ceqwps:29
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    File URL: http://repec.tulane.edu/RePEc/ceq/ceq29.pdf
    File Function: Revised May, 2017
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    1. Marisa Bucheli & Nora Lustig & Máximo Rossi & Florencia Amábile, 2012. "Social Spending, Taxes and Income Redistribution in Uruguay," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 1212, Department of Economics - dECON.
    2. Nora Lustig, 2016. "Commitment to Equity Handbook. A Guide to Estimating the Impact of Fiscal Policy on Inequality and Poverty," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1301, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    3. Ali Enami, 2017. "Measuring the Effectiveness of Taxes and Transfers in Fighting Inequality and Poverty," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 64, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
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    5. Kakwani, Nanok C, 1977. "Measurement of Tax Progressivity: An International Comparison," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 87(345), pages 71-80, March.
    6. Nora Lustig & Carola Pessino, 2012. "Social Spending and Income Redistribution in Argentina During the 2000s: the Rising Role of Noncontributory Pensions," Working Papers 1221, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    7. Cabrera, Maynor & Lustig, Nora & Morán, Hilcías E., 2015. "Fiscal Policy, Inequality, and the Ethnic Divide in Guatemala," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 263-279.
    8. Jean-Yves Duclos & Martin Tabi, 1996. "The Measurement of Progressivity, with an Application to Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(s1), pages 165-170, April.
    9. Nora Lustig & Sean Higgins, 2012. "Commitment to Equity Assessment (CEQ): Estimating the Incidence of Social Spending, Subsidies and Taxes Handbook," Working Papers 1219, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    10. Sean Higgins & Claudiney Pereira, 2014. "The Effects of Brazil’s Taxation and Social Spending on the Distribution of Household Income," Public Finance Review, , vol. 42(3), pages 346-367, May.
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    13. John Scott, 2014. "Redistributive Impact and Efficiency of Mexico’s Fiscal System," Public Finance Review, , vol. 42(3), pages 368-390, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:enepol:v:126:y:2019:i:c:p:108-117 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Margarita Beneke & Nora Lustig, 2015. "El Impacto de los Impuestos y el Gasto Social en la Desigualdad y la Pobreza en El Salvador," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 26, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    3. Abebe Shimeles & Ahmed Moummi & Nizar Jouini & Nora Lustig, 2016. "Fiscal Incidence and Poverty Reduction: Evidence from Tunisia," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 38, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    4. World Bank, 2015. "Georgia Public Expenditure Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 22259, The World Bank.
    5. Namibia Statistics Agency & World Bank, 2017. "Does Fiscal Policy Benefit the Poor and Reduce Inequality in Namibia?," World Bank Other Operational Studies 27538, The World Bank.
    6. Woolard Ingrid & Hundenborn Janina & Jellema Jon, 2018. "The effect of top incomes on inequality in South Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 90, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. Kalle Hirvonen & Giulia Mascagni & Keetie Roelen, 2016. "Linking taxation and social protection Evidence on redistribution and poverty reduction in Ethiopia," WIDER Working Paper Series 111, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    8. Marisa Bucheli, 2014. "Public Transfers and Poverty Reduction: an Evaluation of Program Contribution to the Exit Rate from Poverty of Children and the Elderly," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0914, Department of Economics - dECON.
    9. Nora Lustig, 2015. "Fiscal Policy and Ethno-Racial Inequality in Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala and Uruguay," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 22, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    10. Margarita Beneke & Nora Lustig, 2015. "El Impacto de los Impuestos y el Gasto Social en la Desigualdad y la Pobreza en El Salvador," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1326, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    11. Higgins, Sean & Lustig, Nora, 2016. "Can a poverty-reducing and progressive tax and transfer system hurt the poor?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 63-75.
    12. Nora Lustig, 2015. "The Redistributive Impactive of Government Spending on Education and Health Evidence from Thirteen Developing Countries in the Commitment to Equity Project," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1330, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    13. Sean Higgins & Nora Lustig, 2015. "Can Poverty-Reducing and Progressive Tax and Transfer System Hurt the Poor?," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1333, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    14. Nora Lustig, 2015. "The Redistributive Impactive of Government Spending on Education and Health Evidence from Thirteen Developing Countries in the Commitment to Equity Project," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 30, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    15. Gemma Wright & Michael Noble & Helen Barnes & David McLennan & Michell Mpike, 2016. "SAMOD, a South African tax-benefit microsimulation model Recent developments," WIDER Working Paper Series 115, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    16. World Bank Group, 2015. "Georgia Public Expenditure Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 22674, The World Bank.

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