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Solidarity and Taxation:
the Ubuntu approach in South Africa
Lizelle R. Calvino, Mthokozisi F. Khuzwayo,
Lorraine Greyling, Anne Soldat and Marco Greggi
Tilburg, 24 May 2024
Outline of the Presentation
(and of the Paper)
• The UN and the OECD approach: a South African Point of view;
• Ubuntu as a Pathway to Equitable Taxation in International Systems
• Legislative Framework Anchored in Ubuntu Philosophy: The South African Case
• The South African Tax System and its Development consistently with the Solidarity Principle
• Harmonizing Taxation with Ubuntu Philosophy: Toward Equitable and Inclusive International Tax Policies
• Ubuntu as the Theoretical Foundation of the UN Tax Policy in the Years to come
• Concluding remarks
2
The Influence of the
UN Charter on Taxation …
• Article 55: inclusive and joint forum to address economic issues
• Article 56: all Member States pledge to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the
Organization for the achievement of these purposes;
• “joint “ and separate” achievement of the goals, it may be argued that the international community should act
as one in addressing rising economic development and challenges of the states.
• The UN has never consistently taken relevant initiatives in the field of taxation as required in terms
of Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter.
• The Economic and Social Council has delivered papers and a Model Tax Convention, but the momentum was
lost in favour of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
3
… and the Making of
the International Tax System
• Influence on International Tax Policy
• OECD’s cohesion membership and economic performance have facilitated a dominant role in international tax policymaking
• Goal of any treaty: prevent international double taxation and address international tax avoidance;
• The structure of the Treaty provides for several criteria to be used to regulate where taxes (on income) should be charged if
revenue is produced in one state but received by a resident in another contracting state.
• The dichotomy between source-based and residence-based taxation is the backbone of the OECD Model Tax Convention;
• Attribution criteria in this model are unfair as they tend to favor the state of residence against the state of the
source which is not in line with Article 55 of the UN Charter.
• We contend that this outcome arises from a qualitative perspective, as the principles of social justice, fairness, and
redistribution of wealth are not addressed in any of the tax treaties
4
Continued: the Nature of the Treaties
• Treaties are coherent with a social contract approach:
• Allegiance to a community is mediated by negotiations and consensus to a
specific set of reciprocal obligations;
• Social inequalities (between states) are therefore not considered, as treaties
are functional to the prevention of double taxation only;
• Approach is in line with the OECD–inspired understanding of
international tax law, which distinguishes between international and
domestic perspectives on taxation.
5
And the Justification of Taxes
(in the part of the World)
• Duty to pay domestic taxes is often underpinned by social, ideological,
cultural criteria (and always legal);
• Duty to pay taxes, is connected to a quasi-contractual relationship, in
pursuit of some sort of equality as underpinned by the Constitution of
the case;
• The international tax system, on the other hand, is built on bilateral treaties
and does not pursue equality via redistribution of wealth, nor an attempt to
address social injustices;
• If inequalities and injustices are to be addressed, then the contractual model
should be revised.
6
Introducing Ubuntu as a
Pathway to Equitable Taxation
• African states: different understanding of social relations:
• Community-based approach of Ubuntu in terms of which collective well-being and
societal solidarity are emphasized.
• African model:
• Operates horizontally, holding individuals accountable to others as members of a
community
• Instead of a one-to-one relationship, the Ubuntu approach to social relations
embraces a one-to-many connection, that covers both rights and obligations;
• Infused in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996,
certain South African legislation as well as domestic tax policy.
• Ubuntu philosophy into international tax frameworks offer profound insights and pave
the way for the development of a more equitable global tax policy, an alternative to
the European approach.
7
Continued: Ubuntu Approach
• Ubuntu prizes harmonious relationships and behaviors that do not
jeopardize others;
• Interdependence, interconnectedness, and communalism are all key to
the Ubuntu philosophy;
• Ubuntu philosophy can operate as an interpretive tool for the rules in
force, by eventually expanding the scope of anti-avoidance or anti-
abuse provisions.
8
Legislative Framework:
the South Africa Case
• The Interim Constitution of South Africa made a poignant reference to
Ubuntu in its epilogue;
• It highlights the imperative of fostering understanding over vengeance,
reparative actions over retaliation, and the ethos of Ubuntu over
victimization;
• This emphasis underscored the transitional nature of the constitutional
framework, steering the country away from the scars of apartheid towards a
society grounded in compassion, reconciliation, and shared humanity.
9
The Constitutional Value of Ubuntu
• Sec. 1 establishes a democratic state founded on the values of human dignity, equality, and
freedom which values are at the core of Ubuntu’s philosophy:
• The Bill of Rights, enshrined in the Constitution, upholds fundamental rights and freedoms;
• Sec. 39 mandates the courts (…) to interpret the Bill of Rights in line with an open and democratic
society, based on the foundational values of human dignity, equality, and freedom:
• The latter provision thus extends beyond mere legal interpretation as it encompasses a broader societal ethos
that emphasizes collective well-being, social cohesion, and the recognition of interconnectedness;
• The influence of Ubuntu as a constitutional value is palpable through the constitutional framework's
commitment to fostering an open, democratic society;
• Influences jurisprudence, shaping South Africa's legal landscape and societal ethos post-apartheid, and playing
an important role in the making of South African tax law.
10
Judicial Precedents
• First judicial acknowledgments of Ubuntu dates to 1876 the importance of promoting equity and
fairness alongside contractual freedoms was emphasized (Mills and Sons vs Benjamin Brothers
1876);
• S v Mkhwanayana 1995(3) SA 391 (CC), Mokgoro J. defined Ubuntu as “humaneness”.
• In its most fundamental sense, it translates as personhood and “morality”;
• The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd and Others v McBride (CCT 23/10) [2011] ZACC 11 illustrated how Ubuntu
permeates legal decisions, constitutional values, and community norms, enriching South African
jurisprudence;
• Port Elizabeth Municipality v Various Occupiers: The spirit of Ubuntu, is part of the deep cultural
heritage of the majority of the population;
• Dikoko v Mokhatla: Our constitutional democracy, the basic constitutional value of human dignity,
relates closely to Ubuntu or both, an idea based on a deep respect for the humanity of another.
11
Making sense of Ubuntu in Taxation
• Ubuntu’s values of compassion and interconnectedness inform tax administration
practices;
• South African Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 provides for effective and efficient tax
collection as well as for the protection of taxpayers’ rights and the pursuit of fairness;
• Ubuntu calls for balancing individual and collective interests. It could be argued that policymakers should
weigh the needs of foreign investors against the revenue requirements of their citizens;
• Transparent policies that hold governments accountable for the effective use of tax revenues are
underpinned by the Ubuntu principle;
• Community participation in decision-making is another key concept in the developing of the
South African approach to solidarity:
• When designing tax systems, policymakers can prioritize policies that benefit the broader population
rather than just a select few;
• Applying Ubuntu to taxation by promoting fairness and equitable distribution of resources.
12
Ubuntu contribute to UN Tax Policy
• For years the UN and prominent stakeholders have advocated the necessity to address
international tax governance from different perspectives.
• Method by which decisions are taken and …
• Their content (the international tax agenda);
• Although steps have been taken, the developing countries and the lower-income countries, have a
role that is not proportional to their latest position in the globe (Global South);
• The Ubuntu approach might provide adequate justification for a paradigm shift, and the social and
moral legitimization of a bottom-up method in proposing reform to the international tax system;
• The expansion of the power to tax by the source state, as admitted by the UN's latest changes to the Model Tax
Convention, would find a legal justification;
• These changes are thus not solely according to an agenda inspired by social justice.
13
Concluding Remarks
• The contractual approach (do ut des) still inspires policymaking even in
scenarios where inclusive framework exists;
• The Ubuntu perspective on taxation, with its focus on solidarity and
wealth redistribution, has the potential to surpass the current
scenario.
• Paradigm shift in taxation approach and benefit distribution is
theoretically justifiable, but it requires endorsement by representative
bodies and alignment with diverse cultural values.
14
Thanks for Your Attention
15

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Solidarity and Taxation: the Ubuntu approach in South Africa

  • 1. Solidarity and Taxation: the Ubuntu approach in South Africa Lizelle R. Calvino, Mthokozisi F. Khuzwayo, Lorraine Greyling, Anne Soldat and Marco Greggi Tilburg, 24 May 2024
  • 2. Outline of the Presentation (and of the Paper) • The UN and the OECD approach: a South African Point of view; • Ubuntu as a Pathway to Equitable Taxation in International Systems • Legislative Framework Anchored in Ubuntu Philosophy: The South African Case • The South African Tax System and its Development consistently with the Solidarity Principle • Harmonizing Taxation with Ubuntu Philosophy: Toward Equitable and Inclusive International Tax Policies • Ubuntu as the Theoretical Foundation of the UN Tax Policy in the Years to come • Concluding remarks 2
  • 3. The Influence of the UN Charter on Taxation … • Article 55: inclusive and joint forum to address economic issues • Article 56: all Member States pledge to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the Organization for the achievement of these purposes; • “joint “ and separate” achievement of the goals, it may be argued that the international community should act as one in addressing rising economic development and challenges of the states. • The UN has never consistently taken relevant initiatives in the field of taxation as required in terms of Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter. • The Economic and Social Council has delivered papers and a Model Tax Convention, but the momentum was lost in favour of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 3
  • 4. … and the Making of the International Tax System • Influence on International Tax Policy • OECD’s cohesion membership and economic performance have facilitated a dominant role in international tax policymaking • Goal of any treaty: prevent international double taxation and address international tax avoidance; • The structure of the Treaty provides for several criteria to be used to regulate where taxes (on income) should be charged if revenue is produced in one state but received by a resident in another contracting state. • The dichotomy between source-based and residence-based taxation is the backbone of the OECD Model Tax Convention; • Attribution criteria in this model are unfair as they tend to favor the state of residence against the state of the source which is not in line with Article 55 of the UN Charter. • We contend that this outcome arises from a qualitative perspective, as the principles of social justice, fairness, and redistribution of wealth are not addressed in any of the tax treaties 4
  • 5. Continued: the Nature of the Treaties • Treaties are coherent with a social contract approach: • Allegiance to a community is mediated by negotiations and consensus to a specific set of reciprocal obligations; • Social inequalities (between states) are therefore not considered, as treaties are functional to the prevention of double taxation only; • Approach is in line with the OECD–inspired understanding of international tax law, which distinguishes between international and domestic perspectives on taxation. 5
  • 6. And the Justification of Taxes (in the part of the World) • Duty to pay domestic taxes is often underpinned by social, ideological, cultural criteria (and always legal); • Duty to pay taxes, is connected to a quasi-contractual relationship, in pursuit of some sort of equality as underpinned by the Constitution of the case; • The international tax system, on the other hand, is built on bilateral treaties and does not pursue equality via redistribution of wealth, nor an attempt to address social injustices; • If inequalities and injustices are to be addressed, then the contractual model should be revised. 6
  • 7. Introducing Ubuntu as a Pathway to Equitable Taxation • African states: different understanding of social relations: • Community-based approach of Ubuntu in terms of which collective well-being and societal solidarity are emphasized. • African model: • Operates horizontally, holding individuals accountable to others as members of a community • Instead of a one-to-one relationship, the Ubuntu approach to social relations embraces a one-to-many connection, that covers both rights and obligations; • Infused in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, certain South African legislation as well as domestic tax policy. • Ubuntu philosophy into international tax frameworks offer profound insights and pave the way for the development of a more equitable global tax policy, an alternative to the European approach. 7
  • 8. Continued: Ubuntu Approach • Ubuntu prizes harmonious relationships and behaviors that do not jeopardize others; • Interdependence, interconnectedness, and communalism are all key to the Ubuntu philosophy; • Ubuntu philosophy can operate as an interpretive tool for the rules in force, by eventually expanding the scope of anti-avoidance or anti- abuse provisions. 8
  • 9. Legislative Framework: the South Africa Case • The Interim Constitution of South Africa made a poignant reference to Ubuntu in its epilogue; • It highlights the imperative of fostering understanding over vengeance, reparative actions over retaliation, and the ethos of Ubuntu over victimization; • This emphasis underscored the transitional nature of the constitutional framework, steering the country away from the scars of apartheid towards a society grounded in compassion, reconciliation, and shared humanity. 9
  • 10. The Constitutional Value of Ubuntu • Sec. 1 establishes a democratic state founded on the values of human dignity, equality, and freedom which values are at the core of Ubuntu’s philosophy: • The Bill of Rights, enshrined in the Constitution, upholds fundamental rights and freedoms; • Sec. 39 mandates the courts (…) to interpret the Bill of Rights in line with an open and democratic society, based on the foundational values of human dignity, equality, and freedom: • The latter provision thus extends beyond mere legal interpretation as it encompasses a broader societal ethos that emphasizes collective well-being, social cohesion, and the recognition of interconnectedness; • The influence of Ubuntu as a constitutional value is palpable through the constitutional framework's commitment to fostering an open, democratic society; • Influences jurisprudence, shaping South Africa's legal landscape and societal ethos post-apartheid, and playing an important role in the making of South African tax law. 10
  • 11. Judicial Precedents • First judicial acknowledgments of Ubuntu dates to 1876 the importance of promoting equity and fairness alongside contractual freedoms was emphasized (Mills and Sons vs Benjamin Brothers 1876); • S v Mkhwanayana 1995(3) SA 391 (CC), Mokgoro J. defined Ubuntu as “humaneness”. • In its most fundamental sense, it translates as personhood and “morality”; • The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd and Others v McBride (CCT 23/10) [2011] ZACC 11 illustrated how Ubuntu permeates legal decisions, constitutional values, and community norms, enriching South African jurisprudence; • Port Elizabeth Municipality v Various Occupiers: The spirit of Ubuntu, is part of the deep cultural heritage of the majority of the population; • Dikoko v Mokhatla: Our constitutional democracy, the basic constitutional value of human dignity, relates closely to Ubuntu or both, an idea based on a deep respect for the humanity of another. 11
  • 12. Making sense of Ubuntu in Taxation • Ubuntu’s values of compassion and interconnectedness inform tax administration practices; • South African Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 provides for effective and efficient tax collection as well as for the protection of taxpayers’ rights and the pursuit of fairness; • Ubuntu calls for balancing individual and collective interests. It could be argued that policymakers should weigh the needs of foreign investors against the revenue requirements of their citizens; • Transparent policies that hold governments accountable for the effective use of tax revenues are underpinned by the Ubuntu principle; • Community participation in decision-making is another key concept in the developing of the South African approach to solidarity: • When designing tax systems, policymakers can prioritize policies that benefit the broader population rather than just a select few; • Applying Ubuntu to taxation by promoting fairness and equitable distribution of resources. 12
  • 13. Ubuntu contribute to UN Tax Policy • For years the UN and prominent stakeholders have advocated the necessity to address international tax governance from different perspectives. • Method by which decisions are taken and … • Their content (the international tax agenda); • Although steps have been taken, the developing countries and the lower-income countries, have a role that is not proportional to their latest position in the globe (Global South); • The Ubuntu approach might provide adequate justification for a paradigm shift, and the social and moral legitimization of a bottom-up method in proposing reform to the international tax system; • The expansion of the power to tax by the source state, as admitted by the UN's latest changes to the Model Tax Convention, would find a legal justification; • These changes are thus not solely according to an agenda inspired by social justice. 13
  • 14. Concluding Remarks • The contractual approach (do ut des) still inspires policymaking even in scenarios where inclusive framework exists; • The Ubuntu perspective on taxation, with its focus on solidarity and wealth redistribution, has the potential to surpass the current scenario. • Paradigm shift in taxation approach and benefit distribution is theoretically justifiable, but it requires endorsement by representative bodies and alignment with diverse cultural values. 14
  • 15. Thanks for Your Attention 15