Throughout history until modern times, taxation has always appeared prominently as a key contributor in both the prosperity and decline of nations.This was part of the message Prof Theuns Steyn, Head of the Department of Taxation, delivered during his inaugural address in September 2018, titled ‘Sleeping Beauty and the tax burden’.
He explained that tax is an inevitable part of life and the responsibility, duty or perhaps the misfortune of having to pay tax, essentially starts from the day a person is born until the day a person dies.
“Tax is a powerful stimulus that can provoke people, and public trust in ruling politicians is more often than not influenced by perceptions related to the level of fairness of the distribution of the tax burden. Equity, especially in relation to the tax burden, can be viewed as the glue of democratic societies and people’s perceived equal treatment in relation to others, inevitably invokes resistance, which often vests in their willingness to pay tax.”
He further illustrated his point by referring to Amilcare Puviani, an Italian economist who in 1903 presented his Fiscal Illusion Theory as a discernible answer to a hypothetical question, raised from the perspective of ruling politicians: How to diminish people’s resistance against an increase in the tax burden, without losing their support from the voters?
“Puviani’s theory was ahead of its time when it was introduced. As a result, his theory in essence became ‘Sleeping Beauty’, unrecognised for the real value of its contribution. A ‘Sleeping Beauty’ depicts a scientific theory that goes unnoticed for a long time and then, almost suddenly, gets recognised for the real value of its contribution,” he added.