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    A Wealth Tax for South Africa
    (2021-01) Chatterjee, Aroop; Czajka, Léo; Gethin, Amory
    This paper considers the feasibility of implementing a progressive wealth tax to collect additional government revenue to both reinforce fiscal sustainability in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and reduce persistent extreme inequality in South Africa. Drawing on our new companion paper, we first identify the tax base and discuss the design of potential tax schedules. Testing alternative tax schedules, we estimate how much additional revenue could be collected from a progressive tax on the top 1% richest South Africans. Our results show that under conservative assumptions, a wealth tax could raise between 70 and 160 billion Rands—1.5% to 3.5% of the South African GDP.We discuss in turn how sensitive our estimates are to assumptions on (1) mismeasurement of wealth and (2) tax avoidance and evasion, based on the most recent tax policy literature. We examine technical issues related to the enforcement of the tax, and how third-party reporting and pre-filled declarations could be used to optimize measurement of taxable wealth and minimize evasion and avoidance opportunities. Finally, we explain how this new tax could interact with other capital related taxes already in place in South Africa, and discuss the potential impact on growth.
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    Estimating the Distribution of Household Wealth in South Africa
    (2020-04) Chatterjee, Aroop; Czajka, Léo; Gethin, Amory
    This paper estimates the distribution of personal wealth in South Africa by combining tax microdata covering the universe of income tax returns, household surveys and macroeconomic balance sheets statistics. We systematically compare estimates of the wealth distribution obtained by direct measurement of net worth, rescaling of reported wealth to balance sheets totals, and capitalisation of income flows. We document major inconsistencies between available data sources, in particular regarding the measurement of dividends, corporate assets and wealth held through trusts. Both household surveys and tax data remain insufficient to properly capture capital incomes. Notwithstanding a significant degree of uncertainty, our findings reveal unparalleled levels of wealth concentration. The top 10 per cent own 86 per cent of aggregate wealth and the top 0.1 per cent close to one third. The top 0.01 per cent of the distribution (3,500 individuals) concentrate 15 per cent of household net worth, more than the bottom 90 per cent as a whole. Such high levels of inequality can be accounted for in all forms of assets at the top end, including housing, pension funds and other financial assets. Our series show no sign of decreasing wealth inequality since apartheid: if anything, we find that inequality has remained broadly stable and has even slightly increased within top wealth groups.