BLACK TAX: The ‘Enemy of Progress’​?

Black Tax is a financial issue affecting many African and Asian professionals | PHOTO: Belinda Amoah

Black tax generally refers to the financial support black people give to their families. This form of support has been normalized within certain cultures and communities particularly in Africa and Asia. Once a young professional successfully secure employment or starts earning income, the expectation to shoulder family and relatives’ financial responsibilities sets in. Black tax the financial burden on young professionals.

Blocking WhatsApp status and Instagram story viewing from family members is one recent but a common tactic. Many people facing black tax try to evade how their posts feed the prejudice relatives have about a ‘prosperous’ or financially fit lifestyle. Here’s a case of what they try to avoid.

Lizzy, a Financially Fit follower shared with us what some millennials experience.

“The other day, I posted on my WhatsApp status, a photo of myself with a well-known celebrity who happened to be in a weekend event I had attended. I got comments from my contacts such as ‘looking good’, ‘nice pic’ and generally reaction emojis.

Days later, the same photo was reposted on my family’s WhatsApp group. The caption seemed to suggest I was doing well financially (and even better than I admit whenever I’m asked). ‘Congratulations’ and ‘keep soaring our daughter’ were some of the awkward replies to the post. I went mute in the group chat that day.

I figured everyone would forget that it was ever posted. A month later an aunty of mine asked me for a refundable 15k. I was like ‘WHAT?’ Honestly that was just beyond what I had so I admitted it to her. Like a steaming kettle, she blew off.

“Kwani pesa na unatembea na wakubwa?” (How is it that you don’t have money, yet you walk with celebrities?) My aunt fronted how she’s earned a right to have me agree unconditionally to her request since I had been under her care for some time while I was in high school. To her, I seemed selfish and dishonest for denying her a loan. Rejecting a request for aid from an older relative can be equated to a taboo punishable by denying blessings or being treated as an outcast. In modern times this happens in subtle ways.

I was not surprised when I became My relatives’ WhatsApp group topic of discussion for a week. I even got a lecture during a family reunion on how I should never forget where I am coming from and that it’s my responsibility to cover my family. This (according to them) is why I had been blessed with a job.”

In Africa, Lizzy’s account of Black Tax is one too common. It’s often seen as a responsibility and in many cases, if you’re not an income earner, you could easily be a dependent involved in it.

Black tax is generally referred to as the financial support black people give to their families. This form of support has been normalized within certain cultures and communities. The more ‘successful’ sibling or family member is expected to shoulder the responsibilities of the younger siblings as well as their ageing parents and sometimes the needy relatives. To those depended on, it seems like family support without an end.

The reason why it’s considered tax is because of the expectation seeming as a mandatory deduction. Some family members swindle money through lying and inflating bills from actual costs. All this is done in the name of family. For instance, one would expect after paying tuition for a relative until they finish school that it would be the end of that burden. They would want capital to start their business, starting out a new life or even bride price payment and wedding costs. All these costs are met by one party.

This vicious cycle only ends if the flow of money ends. The need for support hardly ends. In many cases, it keeps on growing. There will always be tuition needed, repairs, weddings, funerals or some family financial emergency.

This is often cited by young professionals as an obstacle to financial progression. At the point of frustration, their personal experiences on black tax raises the question: does it do more harm than good?

--

--

Financially Fit is the global leader in personal wealth education offering personal finance education to individuals, families and businesses and nations.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Financially Fit

Financially Fit

40 Followers

Financially Fit is the global leader in personal wealth education offering personal finance education to individuals, families and businesses and nations.