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Zimbabweans Endorse Taxation, But Have Difficulty On How Govt Uses Revenue

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Afrobarometer Dispatch No. 466


TAXATION is an essential tool for domestic resource mobilization as well as policy-making, shaping the distribution of resources among wealthy and less-wealthy citizens and enabling the government to address national development objectives (AFRODAD, 2011).

The government of Zimbabwe relies to a substantial extent on tax revenues (12.62% of the gross domestic product in 2018), especially in light of heavy external and domestic debt (Trading Economics, 2021).

Competing socio-economic and infrastructure demands have led the government to introduce additional taxes, including the unpopular intermediated money transfer tax.

This 2-cent tax on every dollar transferred using mobile-money platforms (Mapakame, 2020) is widely seen as having a double-taxation effect, especially for those in the formal sector (Sibanda, 2020).

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), which is responsible for tax collection and administration, must contend with substantial leakages through tax evasion, avoidance, and corruption (Transparency International Zimbabwe, 2020).

Findings from a new Afrobarometer survey in Zimbabwe show that citizens generally endorse the right of tax authorities to collect taxes, but they also demand accountability for how taxpayers’ money is spent.

Few citizens believe it’s easy to find out how the government uses tax revenues, and many doubt whether they are usually spent to benefit the citizenry.

A majority believe that ordinary people pay too much in taxes, and would prefer paying lower taxes even if it means receiving fewer government services.

Afrobarometer surveys Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan survey research network that provides reliable data on African experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life.

Seven rounds of surveys were conducted in up to 38 countries between 1999 and 2018. Round 8 surveys (2019/2021) cover 34 countries. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice.

The Afrobarometer team in Zimbabwe, led by the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI), interviewed 1,200 adult citizens of Zimbabwe in April 2021. A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

Key findings

▪ Three-fourths (75%) of Zimbabweans concur that tax authorities always have the right to enforce taxes.

▪ Close to two-thirds (64%) say Parliament should hold the president accountable for how the government spends taxpayers’ money.

▪ Despite support for taxation, a majority (56%) would prefer to pay lower taxes, even if this means fewer services provided by the government.

▪ A majority (58%) say ordinary people have to pay too much in taxes. Only 15% say the same thing about the wealthy.

▪ About half (51%) of Zimbabweans think it is fair to tax rich people at a higher rate than ordinary people in order to help pay for government programs to benefit the poor. But 40% disagree.

▪ About seven out of 10 citizens (69%) say it is difficult to find out how the government uses tax revenues.

▪ Only three in 10 (31%) believe that the government usually uses tax revenues for the well-being of citizens.

▪ Only about a third (36%) of citizens say they trust the ZIMRA “somewhat” or “a lot.”

▪ The same proportion (36%) think that “most” or “all” tax officials are involved in corruption.

▪ More than half (53%) of Zimbabweans think people “often” or “always” avoid paying their taxes.