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Indirect Taxation and Gender Equity: Evidence from South Africa

23 September 2012
Publication Type: Policy Brief, Working Paper
JEL Code: D63, E62, H22, J16

This paper explores the equity implications of indirect or consumption taxes from a gender perspective, using detailed expenditure data for South Africa. While a growing literature on the incidence of indirect taxes investigates their impact on the income distribution in developing countries, there is little work on whether indirect taxes have differential gender outcomes. Gender bias is likely to exist in taxes that are levied on consumption expenditure, because men and women (and their households) spend their incomes on different types of goods, or on goods that are taxed differently. To estimate the gender incidence of indirect taxes, this study explores differences between households that are classified as more ‘female’ or more ‘male’ according to their demographic and economic attributes. The results suggest that the zero-rating of a selection of basic foodstuffs and fuel for household use is important in protecting ‘female-type’ households, especially those in the lowest expenditure quintiles and with children, from bearing an otherwise disproportionate share of the burden of these taxes. In contrast, high taxes on alcohol, tobacco and fuel for private transport result in a higher incidence on ‘male-type’ households, those in the middle and top quintiles and those without children. The paper also suggests ways in which the indirect tax system could be refined to further reduce the large gender (and income) inequities that exist in South Africa.

Series title: Working Paper 193
1 September 2010
Journal: Feminist Economics 2012, 1-30
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