South Africa’s sugar tax system: a taxation perspective
Obesity is a growing epidemic of our time and sugar is considered to be one of the main culprits. Various governments have implemented a sugar tax system as a way to discourage sugar consumption to address the obesity problem. There is concern, however, around the fact that yet another burden in the form of an excise tax has been introduced without sufficient evidence regarding the sustainability of a sugar tax system. If a tax system is not regarded as a good tax system, it is likely that it will be short-lived. If this is the case, the obesity problem has not been addressed appropriately. This study is concerned with the use of legislation, particularly a sugar tax system, as a way to address obesity in South Africa. The objective of this study is to analyse whether a sugar tax system is considered a good tax system. It will be of no use to introduce yet another tax system without first establishing whether the tax system meets the minimum standards of a good tax system, yet it is acknowledged that governments should intervene. Obesity is not only a South African problem but has been classified as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2013). If no action is taken, millions of people will suffer from serious health disorders related or attributed to obesity. This non-communicable disease (NCD) has not only led to increased medical costs for employers but also a decrease in the productivity of employees. It is also an epidemic that is linked to a very rapid increase in chronic diseases that will certainly have a growing negative impact on the economies of countries, South Africa included, if not addressed urgently. Since the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity is estimated at a staggering 85% amongst South Africans, this is certainly a point of concern (Cois & Day, 2015). A comprehensive study of literature on the principles of a good tax system is performed in this study. The study adopts a legal doctrinal research approach. The tax principles are ultimately adapted in respect of the key elements of a sugar tax system to use as a conceptual framework against which the South African sugar tax system is measured. The South African sugar tax system is found not to be a good tax system, with many areas of improvement identified.