A wealth tax, but for whom?

The announcement on 15 October 2022 on the conclusion of an agreement in principle between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led to an unprecedented increase in debate and exchange around the government’s reform programme. Few people welcomed it because of the lack of details and details of the measures taken by the team Bouden planning to set up. several people have infers that the refusal to communicate on this subject stems from the provisions of the agreement in question. There are cries of scandal and betrayal. Even on the side of the support for Kaïs Saidwe take up this argument. Others believed that Tunisia should not have even applied for funding from this institution. The government, for its part, continues to refuse to engage in dialogue and answer questions on this issue. He chose a real policy of forced passage.

Now that we are faced with a fait accompli, the government has chosen to choose a new approach. Instead of refusing statements and interviews, we refuse to answer questions precisely. There have been several statements about the planned reforms, but none of them provide concrete details. The interview given by Finance Minister Sihem nemsia on the TV channel Attessia and released on November 3, 2022 is the perfect illustration of this. The interview lasted almost two hours, but no detailshave could have been torn from the minister’s mouth. She has satisfied to address some general points on the abolition of compensation and the restructuring of public enterprises. She made it clear that the offsets will be redirected in the form of direct transfers of funds to consumers instead of being applied to the selling price. Shechem nemsia magnificently avoided the two journalists’ questions and filled the debate with details regarding the progress of the meetings between the representatives of the ministries or with the IMF teams.

Everything went well until the last part of this interview, when the question of tax reform came up. The minister tried to control himself and maintain his authoritarian tone, but in vain! What had tipped the situation was none other than the concept of “wealth tax”. Shechem nemsia tried to present the case well by initially dealing with the issue of the lump sum scheme which allowed several people to escape their obligations by providing false amounts of income. She also insisted on fiscal solidarity and on the injustice experienced by employees. The latter are model citizens in tax matters, as the collection takes place even before the employee can get his hands on his remuneration. Following Shechem nemsia claimed that this measure was supported by the participants in a recent meeting of the National Tax Council which had taken place a few days before. She revealed that the wealth tax was part of the reforms submitted to the IMF.

Nevertheless, all these details do not allow us to understand the thing. These are only generalities and arguments regarding the basis for the implementation of such a measure. It is not enough to announce the establishment of a wealth tax to create equality and fiscal solidarity. Citizens need much more detail. How ? WHO? When ? The minister did not answer any of these questions! Will it be a measure aimed at people with high incomes? A citizen who belongs to this category and has little or no property would therefore be a wealthy person and must pay a wealth tax? Will the reform focus on the opposite case, ie people with low incomes but with high wealth? The government will therefore ask people with no income to pay taxes due to the possession of a valuable asset without considering the human and social aspect of things! What if the transfer of title to a property is due to an inheritance? Citizens will be asked to pay tax for having inherited a house or apartment after the death of a relative. It seems quite logical! But if the person did not have the means to pay this tax? A person with no income who inherits the family home will have to find a way to honor his obligations to the state or terminate that obligation! Only way out: sell the family property and give up his inheritance! Is this what the state expects from its citizens?

The term “wealth tax” always makes us think of people who are significantly wealthy, who travel a lot on their private jets and vacation in one of their second homes. However, the Minister’s statement does not provide any details on this subject. Does the application of wealth tax concern the second summer home or any home regardless of purpose? Shouldn’t it depend on the value of the house or the number of owners? Let’s take an example that is strongly connected to our reality: cottages owned by brothers, sisters or cousins. Several choose to save and contribute together to acquire an apartment or a house in one of the tourist areas in order to enjoy a few days of vacation in turn. The latter will be considered wealthy people and will have to pay a wealth tax.

The above examples relate to real estate. However, a person’s inheritance may include movable property and values ​​may qualify him as a rich and wealthy person. Any citizen could choose not to invest in a house and go in the direction of acquiring shares in the stock market. Will this person be subject to wealth tax? What about art collections and valuables such as vintage cars? We will have to evaluate them to determine if their owner was rich or not! Are Treasury services adequately equipped to do this? Can we track the transfer of the goods in question? Does this not require the establishment of a complex and technical system to ensure the appropriate use of this tax?

The questions can only pile up due to the lack of details. None of this is clear! The minister missed an opportunity to explain to the Tunisians what awaited them and how they should approach it. She talked too much, yes, but not enough. Shechem nemsia dropped a bomb during this interview where he talked about wealth tax. A tax which, according to her, must come into force after the adoption of the Finance Act 2023. So we’ll have to wait until the end of December to find out what exactly we’re dealing with. A wealth tax in its most standard form and aimed at a very small part of the population or some other chimera reminiscent of certain provisions of the 2022 Finance Bill and whose application has still not taken place.

Sophie Ghoubantini

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