The TPM is a non-partisan non-profit organisation which advocates prudent expenditure of government revenues in the public's best interests. TPM board members include award-winning independent journalist Maya Fisher-French, Jonathan Friedland (former associate lecturer at Wits and currently in the banking division at one of the big-four accounting firms), Leon Louw (Executive Director of the Free Market Foundation) and Gillian Findlay (economist and founder of Cambial Communications, a corporate communications company).
The TPM aims to remind MEC's, MP's and ministers whose money they are spending while also reminding ourselves that we are paying for every cent that is spent by government - it is not "government's money"; it is in fact OUR money. Together we can create a powerful lobby group to raise the level of government accountability.
Everyone living in South Africa pays taxes through the VAT system, through company tax (which is passed on to consumers through pricing), and/or personal income tax. The TPM is relevant to all, even government ministers.
And the burden of personal income tax is heavy for those who pay it. Over a third of government revenue comes from tax levied on income, but there are only 5,5 million registered individual taxpayers (and we estimate only about 4,5 million of them pay tax as the balance earn too little). Less than 10% of the South African population pays income tax, the single largest source of government revenue.
With high poverty levels, crumbling infrastructure and inadequate education and health systems, we need to maximise the benefits from government spending.
To quote the Finance Minister in this year's Budget Speech: "Too often, the culture in the public service and in state owned enterprises is to ratchet up salaries, spend on frills, travel in luxury and spend more on marketing the agency than in fixing the service."
A R1 million spent on luxuries could have built 20 RDP houses, or paid for 10 nurses' salaries for a year or educated 100 children. To some, this may not sound like a lot of money, but it means that a single middle-class tax payer will be paying for the luxuries for the next ten years.
This initiative has found the support of some economic heavyweights. Mike Schussler, Chief Economist of economists.co.za says "I fully support the TPM. We need to ensure that our tax money is spent efficiently and that we get bang for our buck. Giving taxpayers some muscle will bring balance to the equation."
Dawie Roodt, the Efficient Group's Chief Economist, comments: "I believe the budget and all it entails (taxes, levies, expenditure) is at the heart of a democracy. We vote for those who propose taxes that we consider fair and just and for those that spend these taxes appropriately. Any government or opposition party should be judged by their policies and practices regarding taxes and the use thereof."
We have created a dynamic and engaging website (www.tpmsa.org) to keep taxpayers aware of how their taxes are being spent, to quantify wastage and to give credit when taxpayer money is used wisely. We will also identify campaigns to challenge decisions where taxpayers' money is being misused. People can register as members through the website or the mobi-site (also www.tpmsa.org) for a modest donation of R50.00 a year.
The TPM enables you to
o Voice your approval or disapproval of government's taxes and expenditure
o Debate government's budget proposals and form petitions
o Educate yourself on your rights as a taxpayer
Join the Taxpayers' Movement of South Africa to give yourself a voice and help us keep government spending in check. Please visit the website and sign up as a member.
Less gravy train, more Gautrain