Lessons from history predicting a possible tax revolt in South Africa

16 Feb 2022

South Africa is experiencing harsh economic circumstances, which negatively affects the economic environment of its citizens. Literature shows that historical tax resistance or tax revolts were mostly sparked by citizens burdened by their economic living conditions. South Africans’ disgruntlement has been voiced in many ways, from resistance to E-tolls to increasing numbers of violent service protests. This article explores the economic factors present in three historical tax revolts to assess the possibility of tax resistance and/or a tax revolt in South Africa. The three historical tax revolts were identified through a purposive selection process. A systematic review was then followed to identify the economic factors present in each historical tax revolt. Finally, the economic factors deduced from the historical tax revolts were applied to the current economic situation in South Africa. The findings are that all the economic factors identified from history are currently present in South Africa, indicating the imminent possibility of a tax revolt. Whilst previous research has focused mainly on explaining past events, this article attempts to anticipate and prevent a future event. The contribution of this article is thus to underline possible economic factors that may lead to tax resistance and/or a tax revolt in South Africa. The aftermath of COVID-19 may further worsen the current economic situation, especially with the exacerbation of the already high unemployment rate that may just be a tipping point for a possible tax revolt.