THE Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says workers are still overburdened with taxes despite the increase in the Pay As You Earn tax threshold from K3,300 to K4,000.
In an interview, union deputy secretary general Elastone Njovu said although the decision to increase the threshold was positive, workers above the threshold still faced the huge tax burden of 25 percent to 35 percent.
“Basically, we are very positive about it ourselves because this is what we have been doing year in year out when the government extends invitations to ZCTU to submit their input into the budget. Every year, the burden of workers has been on the massive tax that will pay. I say massive tax because the top band is that tax regime of Pay As You Earn is 37.5 percent and then the lowest band is 25 percent meaning that if you are earning K3,300 in the current regime as an employee, then you don’t pay anything we welcomed that last year. While appreciating they are revising the minimum tax threshold of Pay As You Earn from K3,300 to K4,000 if you look at other tax bands, there they remain the same,” Njovu lamented.
” o for example they are saying if you earn K3,300 then you don’t pay any tax, if you earn anything above K4,000 then you pay 25 percent tax Pay As You Earn. If you earn above K6,000 you pay 35 percent going upwards. We feel that while we welcome the revision of the tax threshold from K3,300 to K4,000 for minimum wage earners our grievances still remain.”
He added that the failure to reduce PAYE percentage on those obliged to pay was still overburdening workers taking into consideration the continued rise of inflation.
“It is like they have done nothing for the majority of workers in the country, because honestly it doesn’t show justice to charge someone 25 percent if he is earning K4,000 and above, when you take into consideration other factors like the rising inflation which is now a two digit figure and on a day to day basis we feel the cost of living going up, the cost of fuel for example just triggers a rise in the cost of everything. So for us as labour leaders, our primary concern is food on the table and the issue of rent is primary as well. Issues of shelter and bread and butter are primary. Take the case of someone who is earning K4,200, already their tax is 25 percent,” he said.
Njovu said government needed to stick to its campaign promises of lower taxes and more money into people’s pockets.
“This is why we have been saying, government needs to stick to its words particularly the platform of our current government, the Patriotic Front was lower taxes and more money in your pockets and that philosophy was supported by every well meaning Zambian. Meaning that if the Patriotic Front just for once had to do a revision of what they said in 2011, they will find that they are failing the workers and the people of this country in the area of more money in your pockets. It will be gratifying that even as the budget is being debated after Dr Bwalya Ng’andu presented it, the government will listen to us. This is a serious matter which also borders on politics as we heard towards the 2021 elections because that is the way governments are formed. Basically, it is the politics, if people are happy with your politics, you will carry the day,” said Njovu.
“The people are complaining, they are hungry and remember there is a saying a hungry man is an angry man, a hungry woman is an angry woman. So I think the government needs to review this proposal, we are taking it as a proposal so it gives us the platform to be able to argue out our case, to be able to accept certain things or reject certain things. So, we accept the revision of the minimum tax threshold but over and above all we are still complaining as workers that the tax bands of 25 percent and 35 percent that is too much, it is killing me personally and it is killing every Zambian working in this country.”