Malawi is among the low and middle-income countries.
Since the colonial days, tax has been part of life for Malawians. From 1891 tax that targeted each household to the modern pay-as-you-earn (Paye), Malawians have been exposed to different forms and names of tax.
Income tax, value-added tax (VAT), fringe benefit tax, non-resident tax, withholding tax and domestic excise.
The names are not few, but are these taxes improving the lives of Malawians?
Be it stamp duty, customs duty, business tax, Paye or import duty that people continue to pay, it appears Malawi has just inherited a tax system which can work better in developed countries.
More revenues come from income taxes than indirect ones.
Malawi remains one of the countries in the world where tax wipes out almost half of one’s monthly earnings.
However, the way the government uses the money collected from the people is a question for another day.
What is clear is that in most cases, there are no medicines in hospitals, roads are perilously pothole, inadequate social support services to the masses that are barely existing, dilapidated schools remain underfunded and only a tenth of the population has access to electricity.
To get more, the government requires even individuals who pay almost half of the salary in taxes to pay some more each time they go shopping.
By the end of the day, many people in the country pay more to the government in taxes than what remains in their pockets or bank accounts.
Still, we ask: Are taxes improving the lives or impoverishing people in Malawi?
One of the exciting promises that catapulted the Tonse Alliance to a whopping victory in the fresh presidential election of June 23 2020 was the talk of a duty-free week.
Out of a frenzy, Malawians did not seek to understand the logistics involved in the implementation of the duty-free week first announced by Vice-President Saulos Chilima at Njamba Freedom Park during the campaign trail.
That is a character of a repressed people who seem to find a window of relief in sounds that excite their ears. They will just jump at it even when they do not understand what they are gunning for.
The expectations that the people had in the run-up to the poll have been greatly shuttered because apart from the tax, many basic services from both the government and private sector demand a lot of money to be gotten.
The payment for services at the road traffic directorate, Immigration Department and private hospitals remains restrictive to the poor majority.
To add to the unfavourable economic landscape, Parliament has recently passed another punitive tax bill which will force Malawians to make an advance tax payment before they can import goods into the landlocked country.
It is shocking how the parliamentarians, who ought to have aspirations of Malawians interests, prioritised their numbers and party interests to back the bill.
If the taxes translate to quality service delivery for the good of citizens, many people would be happily paying the tax.
But tax in Malawi does not give back to those who pay.
This is why many are asking why they should pay tax in the new form when they have to buy medicine every time they fall sick, their children keep learning in classrooms falling apart and in tree shades, when they will still get substandard services from government offices at a higher price, when public resources will be stolen by a few politicians and their cronies?
With all this in mind, the question still remains: Are taxes improving our lives or impoverishing us?
Apart from the motivating speeches by President Lazarus Chakwera that some few people still have ears that hear, what can Malawians show that is advancing our lives?
Your guess is as good as mine.