Matthew Lester: Mini-budget loses shine. How to keep the wheels turning.

2015-10-21 11:20
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene's promise to establish small business desks at SARS to help SMEs to comply with tax requirements is a positive move, says Daryl Blundell, GM of Sage Pastel Accounting. (Photo: Lerato Maduna / Foto24)

South Africa’s Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene will deliver the mini-budget this Wednesday.

It’s traditionally the half-time report, give the country’s stakeholders, the citizens, a view into how well the books are being managed. Matthew Lester reflects on past medium term budget policy statements, and says they lost that rockstar feel, when tickets to parliament were a must have.

While this year there is hardly a mention of the event in the press or on social media. All Lester wants from the budget is the answer to three simple questions. Another great piece of wit from the tax expert. – Stuart Lowman

By Matthew Lester

I remember times when a ticket to parliament to watch the budget speech or the mini budget (MTBPS) was highly prized in social circles. But that was all pre the financial crisis of 2008 to 2009.

The Medium Term Budget Policy Statement ‘MTBPS  or ‘mini-budget’ takes place in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon this week and there is hardly a murmur in the press or social media. One wonders how many will tune in?

True, there will be no announcements on tax rates. True, the state of tax collections is difficult to assess only 6 months into the tax year. True, Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene, will have to downgrade this years growth forecasts to below 2%. This is all music to slit your wrists by.

The most important aspect of this year’s MTBPS is its continuation from last year’s theme. Remembers Nene’s famous words on 22 October 2014 ‘‘The choice we face in considering these proposals is a difficult one.  But we believe that this course can no longer be postponed.’

Those few words heralded a substantial change in the tax outlook of RSA. They were an admission by National Treasury that the current tax base of RSA was insufficient to provide for the future. And that tax increases would be inevitable.

Nhlanhla_Nene

South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene

By September 2014 South Africa’s national debt trajectory showed no end. All the hopes of recovery through increased economic growth were dashed. And a new fiscal package had to be adopted

Back in October 2014 Nene’s call was to increase tax collections by R15bn pa and decrease state expenditure by R15bn pa.

By February 2015 the numbers were revised upwards to increase tax collections by R17bn pa and decrease state expenditure by R25bn pa. And taxpayers took a knock in the solar plexus in the form of a 1% income tax hike and a 80,5 cents per liter fuel levy increase.

So what Wednesday afternoon is all about us getting to the bottom of the crucial questions:-

• Were the fiscal strategies of 2014 enough to curb the national debt trajectory?
• What’s the plan to keep RSA going for another year?
• How likely are further tax increases in February 2015?

That’s enough to grab my attention. Even if Oscar has reached it to the safety of Arnolds mansion by then.

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