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Afrobarometer: Zimbabweans Endorse Legitimate Taxation, Have Difficulties Finding Out How Government Uses Tax Revenues

FILE: A man holds one of the new two-dollar banknotes issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in Harare, Tuesday, Nov, 12, 2019.

An Afrobarometer survey in Zimbabwe shows that citizens generally endorse authorities’ right to collect taxes, but they also demand accountability for how taxpayers’ money is spent.

Results of the survey conducted in the country between April and July this year indicate that 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.

“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, according to Afrobarometer, 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 (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) ‘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.

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. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice. The Afrobarometer team in Zimbabwe is led by the Mass Public Opinion Institute.

According to Afrobarometer, 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.

Trading Economics says the government of Zimbabwe relies to a substantial extent on tax revenues (12.62% of gross domestic product in 2018), especially in light of heavy external and domestic debt. In its official website, Trading Economics says it provides its users with accurate information for 196 countries including historical data and forecasts for more than 20 million economic indicators, exchange rates, stock market indexes, government bond yields and commodity prices.

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