By Longar Mathiec Wol, Nairobi, Kenya
January 16, 2017 (SSB) — Tax is a fee charged by a government on a product, income or other activities. When it is charge or levied directly on personal or corporation, then it becomes direct tax. When charge on the price of a good or services it is known as indirect tax. The main purpose of taxation is to finance the government expenditure. According to that definition tax is charge on products, income and activities. It has never mentioned an unemployed people. Apart from these three it is no longer a tax but looting.
But one think that is not clear in context of south Sudan or part of, the problem not tax but the way this tax is applied or the legality of some taxes. In September the former Governor of Gogrial state Abraham Gum Makuach announced the increment of the house hold tax to 500 SSP that is 40 million SSP per a month, but he didn’t explained what he is going to do with this money. Any way I am not authorized to question any individual but to let the public know.
The common word we hear from our leaders is delivering of services to the people without knowing those services have names. Whether health, education, security, roads and etc. should be made clear. Government exists because of people and there would be no need whatsoever to talk about increasing the tax to achieve the government agenda and forget the people. It should be other way around people first then the government.
So, how does this household tax come about? House hold tax is one of the popular tax in south Sudan. It has been there since the liberation struggle till now. For some time back, during struggle people can understand that it means to assist the liberation struggle since SPLM activities need finance and the SPLM administration has no source of income because it was rebel movement that time.
So, they brought taxes in different forms include household tax. The SPLM came up with that because during struggle there were no businesses in southern Sudan to rely on, there were no people working for the government to be tax. Everything was volunteer which was understandable. But why now? I think every tax is legal but this household tax is not legal and will never be. At that time, these taxes come in forms of sorghum (kilo), cash (Ajuer) and cow (Weng Muon) for every household.
The household tax was popularly known as hodnhom in Dinka or every house. But all seems to be strategies put in place to help the struggle to achieve its goals during struggle but now that struggle turn to be government. It was/is time for that government the people help to come to power to reciprocate the same kindness the people shown during tough times in two decades war and relief them from suffering. Some of this tax where every house is tax without knowing their source of income is a miscalculation and lack of understanding about the people’s situation on the ground. With this economic hardship this so call household tax will push families further into poverty.
As we all know everyone head of the household is struggling to feed the family plus this tax will make thing worse. So, does this household tax really still relevant? The period when it was needed the most has passed. This blanketing tax of today seems to be an organize looting. Government has right to tax me when I am employed, through my earning, when I am selling anything, when I am buying through VAT which does not even exist. Because I have never been given a receipt when I buy clothe that mean I am not tax or I am tax and is going to the wrong direction.
But after independence is it really still necessary. Some people will argue that tax is mandatory in any country. That is fine it mandatory but what I want to drive at is the way in which this taxes are paid. There are so many tax that citizens have to pay, for example like, corporate tax, pay roll, property tax, individual tax and sales tax also known as value added tax (VAT) and so forth. Actually there are many type of tax.
To briefly explain them: individual tax is a type of tax filed by individual. It is done by every individual filer who earns a certain amount of income. They must file this type of tax return whether single or married. But let get it clear her, you don’t file when you are not employ. It is only in the United States of America where the unemployed individual can pay because of unemployment benefits. It is consider an income. But what of our tax why do we have to tax an individual who is unemployed. Is that really constitutional? I don’t think any legal mind can dream of calling it constitutional; not only being unconstitutional but against human right.
Corporate tax is a direct tax imposed by a jurisdiction on the income or capital of corporations or analogous legal entities. It is only paid by corporation and remember corporation is like human being it has its own birth certificate and death certificate. That mean it is independent entity. Property tax is a tax on real estate. The tax is usually based on the value of the property individual own and is often assessed by local or municipal governments. It is restrict on real estate assets only. These are the tax the government gain from an individual selling their properties and land rate tax.
I think we mistook property tax to be household tax. The government tax the property when it is a register in some one name and the owner or entity has title deed. But in case of our household tax what is not clear is whether the governor is taxing the people who stay in house or taxing the house. If it is taxing individual then it supposed to be individual tax. But induvial tax is not applicable on someone who is not doing anything. It strictly for the people who earn whether working with the government of doing something that bring an income.
I know it has been there long time ago when very person who is 18 years and above pay tax. But the mistake we do is not differentiating between the guerilla time and now as a government. What we did last time was to make sure SPLA succeed it has succeed. It now a government it up to it to it to make sure some of the illegal thing are prohibited now. They continue taxing of the people who are struggling to live is acceptable. This money is not helping anything with the high level of corruption; the money ended up in the pocket of chiefs, commissioners and governors and the vulnerable people continue to suffer.
We need to differentiate the different between land rat and the so call household tax Difference is land rate is only imposed on the properties that are registered and the owners or entity own the title deed. But what about this tax of ours. Is that name really a correct name for this tax?
There are many people in south Sudan who own many plots in different states and they are just there. They are not doing anything to benefit the government or the people of the state. This are the people to impose land rate on their properties. So that if they don’t pay the municipalities can take over and sell them. Any land that is registered in the ministry of physical infrastructure of land office should pay land rate, not to tax the vulnerable people in the villages.
The lack of clarity about the household tax raises a question whether the house hold tax is constitutional or unconstitutional? Any think that is not clearly define by the law is likely to be unconstitutional. Therefore, household tax can easily be concluded to be unconstitutional. Although tax is constitutional then the way this particular tax applied is questionable. How could you tax someone who is not earning, not doing any business, not selling anything, someone struggling to live? I don’t know but legally it does not apply anywhere. Tax are only applicable on income, on value and on legally registered properties.
Is it a time for the government to look into this issue. Tell the people what are they are really taxing? You can’t tax unemployed persons, unregistered land in the village. Why the government is not taxing the people who registered and own many lands in town? They are the ones to pay the land rate to the government not innocent people who have nothing but struggling to survive.
The author, Longar Mathiec Wol, is a South Sudanese student at United States International University-Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, where he is pursuing Bachelor degree of Science in International Business Administration and Minoring in International Relations. He can be reached through email address: email@example.com.
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