Taxpaying Saffers can today settle their 2024 tax bill - FMF

Tax Freedom Day is a measure of how much time taxpayers spend working to fund state projects

Taxpaying SAns finally settle their 2024 tax bill on 20 May – Tax Freedom Day

20 May 2024

Today, 20 May 2024, is Tax Freedom Day. This is the day when the average taxpayer has earned enough money to fulfil their annual tax obligation. After Tax Freedom Day, taxpayers work for themselves and their families, and not for the government. From 1 January until 20 May, all the income earned by tax-paying South Africans is needed to pay for one year of government spending.  

The Free Market Foundation (FMF) has calculated and published South Africa’s Tax Freedom Day annually since 1997. 

Tax Freedom Day is a measure of how much time taxpayers spend working to fund state projects. From tomorrow, the people of South Africa will be working for their own benefit, and not that of South Africa’s underworked, overpaid civil service.  

“Based on recent tax and spending levels, South Africa’s Tax Freedom Day is predicted this year to land on 20 May, four days later than last year. At the end of 2024, with complete data for the year, the date could be revised a couple of days earlier or later. But over the past 30 years, the actual Tax Freedom Day has been trending ever later in the year – and making most people poorer”, says Dr Richard J Grant, FMF senior consultant and Professor of Finance and Economics at Cumberland University, Tennessee. 

Tax Freedom Day is determined in this way and spread over the first months of the calendar year to give us an idea of how the burden of taxes affects the average taxpayer. It is accepted that some lose more and others less of their hard-earned income in taxes, but the average, measured in days of the year, confirms what people know intuitively: South Africans are paying too much tax with a very low return on investment.

Given the current state of affairs in South Africa, Tax Freedom Day is likely to trend later and later into the year as government spending, the deficit, and public debt continue to increase. 

Elaborating on the concept, Grant explains that “if Tax Freedom Day were on 1 January, taxpayers would be paying no tax, and if it falls on 31 December, the government would be taking all of our incomes as tax and we would have nothing left. The later the day, the worse for the average taxpayer and for anyone who needs a job.” 

Despite the ever-growing tax burden on hardworking South Africans, the government produces little to show for it. The shocking state of infrastructure, the public healthcare system, high rates of violent crime, and the collapse of Eskom are a few examples of this tragedy. 

When government is not misallocating tax revenue, corrupt politicians and officials in South Africa often steal it outright, without ever being brought to justice. 

If South Africans want to see economic growth, a reduction in taxes and a concomitant increase in the efficiency of spending must occur.  

A large plurality of the budget is dedicated to paying the salaries of officials. This is a logical and appropriate area in which to begin with necessary layoffs and spending cuts. 

A reduction in taxes would provide a greater incentive for South Africans to work, save, and invest, thereby having more room to become champions of growth and job creation. The result would be greater investment, more innovation, a stronger economy, more jobs, more opportunity, and a more contented populace. 

The current rate of taxation and its inadequate return on investment are not sustainable.  

On Tax Freedom Day, roughly 10 days before the 2024 general election, the FMF invites South Africans to take a hard look at whether the 'tax and spend' approach government has adopted over the preceding three decades has benefited anyone except the political elite.

The list below shows that TFD 2021 is four days later than in 2023.  

Year – Tax Freedom Day 

Tax Freedom Day 

1995 - 23 April 

1996 - 20 April 

1997 - 26 April 

1998 - 28 April 

1999 - 4 May 

2000 - 29 April 

2001 - 29 April 

2002 - 18 April 

2003 - 25 April 

2004 - 25 April 

2005 - 29 April 

2006 - 28 April 

2007 - 25 April 

2008 - 25 April 

2009 - 3 May 

2010 - 4 May 

2011 - 5 May 

2012 - 11 May 

2013 - 9 May 

2014 - 12 May 

2015 - 19 May 

2016 - 10 May 

2017 - 9 May 

2018 - 11 May 

2019 - 10 May 

2020 - 25 May 

2021 - 19 May 

2022 - 17 May 

2023 - 16 May 

2024 - 20 May

Issued by Anneke Burns, FMF Publicist, 20 May 2024