- Host of basic consumer goods to be zero-rated
- Transfer duties due for considerable reduction
- Valuation reports for property transfers to be scrapped
- Govt to forego nearly P50m in VAT revenue
The government has announced a series of far-reaching changes aimed at making life easier for Batswana and residents while keeping an eye on the public fiscus to ensure the treasury is not rendered bankrupt.
According the Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, key among the changes is amending the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act to expand the list of VAT zero-rated items to include a host of basic consumer goods, scrapping the requirement for a valuation report for land and property transfers and reducing the transfer duty for non-citizens from 30 percent to 10 percent.
Commodities in daily household consumption like cooking oil, which was previously only temporarily zero-rated, will be permanently added to the list through the VAT (Amendment Bill) 2023, which has already been published. Sanitary pads/tampons, salt, ginger and leguminous vegetables, cooking, LPG, white bread, infant formula, and baby diapers are also on the list for zero-rating.
The list of VAT zero-rated items currently includes all grades of petrol, diesel, paraffin and foodstuff like millet grain, millet meal, wheat grain, maize cobs, sugar, Setswana beans, pesticides, fertilisers, as well as goods personal for the President’s use or any dependent of the President. The list also includes 5,000 litres of water per month for a residential dwelling. The proposed changes in the Bill seek to expand the list, shift some of the items from the exempted list to become zero-rated, and add one private medical service to exempted items.
Those that are to be shifted from exempted list to zero-rated are mainly farming implements like tractors, ploughs, disc harrows and combine harvesters. Addressing the media in Gaborone on Wednesday this past week, Minister Serame said the changes are to enhance support, especially for low-income households. “This is why we are going to add cooking oil and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) because last time it was just temporary,” she noted.
Minister Serame said other objectives of the changes are to encourage healthy eating and local production of certain commodities such as condoms and farming implements by moving them from the exempted list to the zero-rated list. “Another issue that we thought is important is private medical services,” said the finance minister. “This is because if you have the same service in the public facility currently, VAT is exempted, but when you go to a private facility, then you have to pay VAT.”
Exempting such services at private facilities will help, and even reduce, the burden for the government as more people can now go to private facilities, she added. Minister Serame emphasised that the proposed expansion of VAT zero-rated items will come at a cost to the public fiscus, noting that it is matter of striking a balance between cushioning consumers, especially low-income households, and growing government revenue.
According to availed data, P34.7 million in VAT was generated by the items due for zero-rating in 2020 while P45 million was generated as VAT by the selected items in 2021. VAT raised from the proposed items amounted to P49.5 million last year. Serame noted that this is essentially how much the government will forego in VAT revenue annually. Besides the VAT (Amendment Bill) 2023, the government was this week expected to publish the Transfer Duty (Amendment) Bill 2023.
“There has been an outcry, especially with regard to the re-enacted Tribal Land Act of 2018 and the Deeds Registry (Amendment) of 2017,” the finance minister said, adding that a number of issues that arose in implementation of the Transfer Duty Act. “One of them is that there has to be a compulsory valuation report for all transfers,” she said. “This includes re-registrations for tribal land.”
“What we are doing now through the proposed amendments is to exempt all land allocations,” Minister Serame announced. “This is because currently land boards have to register their land, and when it allocates you a plot, it is considered a transfer.” The exemption will include both tribal and state land, and the requirement for a valuation report will also be removed. “This, we believe, will speed up land allocation and re-registration,” said the minister.
In 2019, the government introduced a requirement for all land tenures which saw the Transfer Duty for non-citizens increase to 30 percent. “There has been an outcry, and in our discussions, especially with the private sector, it was seen to be a bottleneck,” the minister said. Under the proposed changes, the Transfer Duty for non-citizens will be reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent for a property up to the value of P2 million. “For anything above P2 million, it will be 15 percent,” Serame said.