Black Tax: A Beneficiary’s Perspective

Black Tax - A Beneficiary's Perspective - Afrika Kesho

A bit of a recap

As I said in my previous article, “Let’s talk about Black Tax”, some people who are their family’s financial supporters may see Black Tax as a burden, and others may see it as their responsibility. In many instances where we have discussions on Black Tax, we usually consider it from the benefactor’s point of view. But, what about the receiver’s perspective on Black Tax – how do the beneficiaries of financial support actually see the whole situation of receiving financial support from newly working members in the family?

So, who are these beneficiaries?

According to research conducted through the Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor, for black respondents, support for parents was the most prevalent, followed by support for siblings. These beneficiaries are our own parents, who might have raised us under difficult circumstances, and our siblings, who deserve access to better opportunities than we had.

The beneficiary’s reality

South Africa’s economic landscape, to speak frankly and honestly, is outright unequal, and does not seem to show significant signs of improvement in the near future. In fact, our country has been labelled one of the most unequal societies in the world, in terms of both income and wealth. This claim can be supported by various studies whose focus has been the inequality trends in South Africa. One such study, which recently caused headlines across South Africa, was by Stats S.A. The report findings, which can be found on the Stats SA website with the title Inequality Trends in South Africa: A multidimensional diagnostic of inequality, showed that the wage income for black South Africans, as opposed to their white counterparts, was substantially lower (three times lower).

What this means is that, for a mother of a black or colored child, even if they are employed, the money they are paid may not necessarily be enough to sustain and support the whole family. The income paid to black parents, therefore, does not fully eliminate the burden of Black Tax on someone who is expected to give financial support to her family. In a nutshell, with South Africa’s economic outlook looking like it is on a downward trajectory, the dependence on this ‘Black Tax’ will increase.

Let me make this clearer using an example. Recall Nobuhle from the previous article on Black Tax. Nobuhle was a young and black female who was a recent graduate and had been recently employed but was facing the situation of financially supporting her family; she was paying Black Tax. If Nobuhle’s parents had been employed, it means that despite the income that they received, it may have still not been enough to support them and their whole family, and so the family would also have to rely on Nobuhle for financial support.

As you can see, even if Nobuhle’s family may not want to burden their daughter, who has been recently employed, the broader circumstances that affect South Africa does not afford them that luxury. And this is the case for the average South African family. In the end, they are forced to receive (or request) additional money to sustain adequate living conditions.

The flip side of the above situation regarding Nobuhle’s parents would be if their income was substantial enough for them not to depend on their daughter for any financial support. In such a case, Nobuhle would only chip in financially if and when she wanted to. The rest of the money she could spend on herself and building her life.

My personal journey with Black Tax

I recently had a candid conversation with someone in the library who is studying towards his medical degree and when I asked him if he would change degrees his answer was an outright “no”. I expected his reasoning for such an answer to be that he was enjoying his degree but that wasn’t the case. Although he was enjoying his choice of study, his underlying reason was that he has younger siblings at home and wants to contribute financially towards the rest of their schooling journey. To him, finishing his degree as quickly as possible would mean being able to achieve just that. He wanted to see his younger siblings being afforded better educational opportunities than he had received; something most South African older siblings want for their younger siblings.

When you come from humble beginnings, especially as the oldest child of your parents, as is the case most of the time, you are the first one in the family to attend university and obtain a degree and subsequently get a job. After these two milestones, you do not only become a role model, but you also become a beacon of hope financially. There is a sense of hope within your family that things will get better. There is now one more person to contribute to paying off the bills which include groceries, electricity, school fees, medical expenses and many other necessities.

Black Tax isn’t meant to fund a lavish lifestyle for our parents and siblings, it exists as a means to enable our parents, siblings and other family members to have access to better opportunities than we had. This is so that somewhere down the line, they can also pave the way for those who are less privileged within the broader South African society.

My final thoughts on Black Tax

On a personal level, had it not been for the support that I received from not only my parents, but my aunts and uncles, who contributed to my life and me being able to attend school and achieve my educational goals, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. They paved the way for my future, and if I ever have to do the same, then I would not think twice, because I have seen and experienced first-hand what this can do for someone.

It’s a fact that no one likes taxes, but compared to the tax that is collected through SARS, which seems not to be going to any good use judging by the way inequality is growing and the economy is ailing (lest we forget the increase in corruption), I would rather sow my seed directly into my parents and siblings and watch it germinate through the so called ‘Black Tax’.

This article was written by Karabo Motau

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