Evaluating the design of special economic zones as a tax incentive in South Africa
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are defined as special demarcated areas that often contain favourable provisions for administrative procedures, streamlined legislation or compliance requirements and fiscal benefits often in the form of tax incentives offered by government. The South African economy experiences several challenges on a socio-economic level and it is part of the South African government's vision to address these challenges by 2030. The tools to address the issues faced by the country are weaved within the provisions of the National Development Plan (NDP). SEZs also contain specific objectives and one of the secondary objectives specifically aspires to support the vision of the NDP. The literature review aimed to answer the research question which critically considered if the South African SEZ model was properly designed to facilitate it to serve as a meaningful tax incentive. The research explored the theory associated with SEZs as well as the general principles associated with tax incentives. It was found that the SEZs offer generous tax benefits, which included corporate income tax inducements and indirect tax concessions. The research highlighted the required characteristics of a meaningful tax incentive and established a criteria against which the design of the South African SEZ model could be measured against. The criteria broadly focussed on objectives, aiming to be effective, containing stability and promoting transparency. The study identified that the South African SEZ regime did conform to be classified as a tax incentive and established that the design of SEZs in South Africa imitated some of the desired characteristics of a meaningful tax incentive, however some shortcomings and improvements have subsequently been identified. It was found that there was not a clear connection between the objectives of SEZs and their aim to support the NDP. Some deficiencies have also been noted with regards to the aim of being effective as there were issues with regards to monitoring the cost effectiveness on a national level as well as providing room for flexibility to support a qualifying company. There were some weaknesses identified that related to stability, as provisions restricting transactions with related parties resulted in uncertainty for previous investors. Areas for improvement have also been identified pertaining to promoting transparency as it should reflect improved government communication, regulation and the application process to locate within a SEZ.