The first differentiated tax policies for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa were introduced in 2001. Several relief measures have followed, the most recent being the introduction in the 2008/9 budget of a presumptive turnover tax system and venture capital incentives for investments in high-growth and high-tech SMEs. The present study uses a qualitative systematic literature review to assess the effectiveness of using differentiated tax policies to address the constraints that have been imposed on South African SMEs. It draws on international experiences in the use of differentiated tax policies to address constraints imposed on SMEs. Thereafter it focuses on differentiated tax policies in South Africa and considers the effectiveness of using differentiated tax policies to address constraints that have been imposed on SMEs. Research in other countries indicates that when differentiated tax policies are used in isolation, they are not very successful in bringing about changes in the level of entrepreneurial activity. However, these policies can assist in creating an environment that is conducive to the growth of SMEs and can alleviate the constraints faced by SMEs. The effectiveness of differentiated tax policies in the alleviation of the constraints imposed on small and medium enterprises can be improved by means of various non-tax policy measures. The National Treasury has used differentiated tax policies to target two specific constraints for SMEs, namely access to equity finance and easing of the tax compliance burden. This study concludes that the current differentiated tax policies for small and medium enterprises that are articulated in tax legislation do not address the constraints identified by the National Treasury effectively. The findings of this study cast doubt on the ability of the differentiated tax policies in South Africa to alleviate the constraints that SMEs face in this country. Furthermore, it poses the question whether the main objective of the policies is not to collect more revenue by broadening the tax base. The study focuses on the differentiated tax policies that came into effect before August 2008. The effectiveness of the differentiated tax policies that were proposed in the 2008/2009 budget (venture capital incentives and presumptive turnover tax) will depend on the details of the tax legislation that is promulgated. Future research could determine the effectiveness of these differentiated tax policies in addressing the constraints with which SMEs are faced. Copyright
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2009.