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An Analysis of South Africa's Value Added Tax

By Delfin S. Go, Marna Kearney, Sherman Robinson and Karen Thierfelder

Abstract

In this paper, the authors describe South Africa's value added tax (VAT), showing that (1) the VAT is mildly regressive, and (2) it is an effective source of government revenue, compared with other tax instruments in South Africa. They evaluate the VAT in the context of other distortions in the economy by computing the marginal cost of funds-the effect of raising government revenue by increasing the VAT rates on household welfare. Then they evaluate alternative, revenue-neutral tax systems in which they reduce the VAT and raise income taxes. For the analysis, the authors use a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model with detailed specification of South Africa's tax system. Households are disaggregated into income deciles. They demonstrate that alternative tax structures can benefit low-income households without placing excess burdens on high-income households.

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