Original Research

Public finance in South Africa: Tax compliance and behavioural responses to tax increases

Syden Mishi, Nomonde Tshabalala
Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review | Vol 11, No 1 | a662 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/apsdpr.v11i1.662 | © 2023 Syden Mishi, Nomonde Tshabalala | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 June 2022 | Published: 14 June 2023

About the author(s)

Syden Mishi, Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences, Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha, South Africa
Nomonde Tshabalala, Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences, Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha, South Africa


Background: Unfavourable macro-economic and socio-economic conditions have placed South Africa’s economy in a difficult fiscal situation, with rapidly growing public debt and large government deficits. This compromises service delivery in all spheres of government.

Aim: The study focused on assessing the level of tax compliance in South Africa and what factors explain the level of compliance.

Setting: World Values Survey data on South Africa were used to assess the tax side of fiscal policy, how taxpayers’ response to the policy affects compliance and what matters for compliance.

Methods: Descriptive statistics and an ordered logistic model were employed on longitudinal data. The study used data from two waves, the first wave between the years 2005 and 2009 and the second wave between the years 2006 and 2016.

Results: The study revealed that the perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of South African taxpayers have generally shifted from a society that values tax compliance to a nation that justifies tax evasion. The main factors that shape perception and behaviour towards tax compliance were found to be demographic factors, the level of confidence in the government and patriotism.

Conclusion: The study recommends that cognitive and behavioural factors that shape taxpayers’ choice to either comply with or evade tax need to be considered when designing and/or communicating the policy. In doing so, the framework will be well fitted into South Africa’s unique socio-economic landscape, helping finance public service delivery. In summary, public service delivery needs to incorporate behavioural insights.

Contribution: The significance of understanding human behaviour in public management planning, which is given less attention, has been found to be central.


Fiscal consolidation; tax compliance; behavioural response; tax evasion and avoidance; public service delivery.


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