Black Tax: How International Students Can Avoid Family Exploitation

Black Tax: How International Students Can Avoid Family Exploitation's photoBy Ernest Emeka
Thu Feb 01 2024
Black Tax: How International Students Can Avoid Family Exploitation

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Things are challenging for Oluwatosin Ogundeji. If her family didn't understand her plight in the United Kingdom, she would drop out of school and face deportation. Oluwatosin struggles to find her foot as an international student and has barely worked for two weeks. She must pay black tax to avoid a severe reprimand on the family WhatsApp group.

She has sent N75,000 to her elder brother's house rent, a meager amount that was not acknowledged. It was hard to explain to everyone that she was feeding from hand to mouth in London. However, she must support her family. Some nights, Oluwatosin cries herself to sleep, torn between surviving and meeting family needs. 

Black Tax: How International Students Can Avoid Family Exploitation

Read: 9 Common Challenges International Students Face Abroad

Historically, the black tax has become a continent-wide custom because of economic disparities, unemployment rates, and entitlement for most people. Unless you live in Jupiter, everyone has paid or is still paying black tax. Whether you paid the hospital bill of a relative, village mate, or school fees of your cousins and provided daily subsistence, a tax has been paid. 

Diasporans have become the largest revenue-generating constituency in Africa and other parts of the world. According to World Bank records, over $80 billion was sent to Africa in 2020, reflecting Africans' willingness to help those at home.  

In 2022, Sub-Saharan Africa received a remittance flow of $53 billion, a 6.1 percent increase from the previous year. In addition, the region’s remittance flow is projected to rise by 1.3 and 3.7 percent in 2023 and 2024, respectively. 

How the Black Tax Works

Black tax originated in apartheid South Africa when a few opportune individuals who got good jobs had to take care of others. The black tax refers to money or financial support individuals send to their families, relatives, and friends. The tax comes as a responsibility or entitlement towards loved ones.

For instance, Nigerians abroad come home with heavy luggage containing black tax content. It often brings bad blood and jealousy if you forget to add everyone to this content. However, you don’t have to relocate to the UK like Oluwatosin before you can pay black tax. If you reside in posh places like Lekki, Ikoyi, or Abuja, it's erroneously believed you have enough money to help others.

On the other hand, graduates, eldest siblings, uncles, and aunts are not left out of this custom. The eldest or successful sibling must care for everyone's financial whims in poorer families.

How Black Tax Affects Africans

Parents in a typical African home believe that kids are future insurance and investments when they retire or can't meet certain needs. African homes are wired differently, which has made it extremely difficult to do without the black tax.

Parents must give up luxury to ensure their kids receive better education and life opportunities. They want to see their kids do better than their peers, and the journey to make this a reality often comes with sacrifices. A mother may not mind selling her jewellery or a father selling the only piece of land of the family to send a child abroad or to school.

"As human beings, we have people who need from us. But we haven't built for ourselves yet, so sometimes you have to build for yourself first before you can give to others." - Trevor Noah

Beneficial of these sacrifices, don't forget how they climbed the success ladder and must work to give back. As a result, some people have to struggle to meet this demand. The morale instilled in every child helps them understand that "There is no place like home."

Read: 10 Best European Universities for International Students

When you succeed, you are expected to carry the family's umbrella and, most times, cover the shortcomings of relatives and friends.

Black Tax: How International Students Can Avoid Family Exploitation

Black Tax: The Burden of International Students

International students feel the brunt of black tax abroad. Most people don’t believe that they are struggling abroad. When these students don’t live up to the home expectations, the impression that “they have forgotten their struggling families” comes up as blackmail.

You receive a time frame to settle down as a student before the demands start coming. Some loved ones turn these students into cow cash to worsen the situation. Like Oluwatosin, you must take care of others. 

Students must find a balance between solving their financial demands that come with a sense of entitlement and chasing their dreams abroad. Extended family members join in asking for help, and when you don't offer help, ties are cut due to avarice.

The Dilemma

Black tax can breed vulnerability that originates loved ones from seeking undeserved special treatment. It can be emotionally draining and frustrating as a student when you have little to support your dreams abroad. 

It often seems that you are carrying the burden of a village as a student abroad. You must build a house, help people get married, pay rent, start businesses for others, and provide mandated support.

That is going to be the greatest burden unless you free it from yourself. You (should) get to decide what that tax should be; nobody else gets to tell you." - Oprah Winfrey

The privilege of living abroad makes you indebted to many people, and you have to work extra hard to pay these entitlements. Unfortunately, these debts must be repaid in many ways, but it would not make you black tax-free.

You pay for the entitled family members' wants instead of solving their needs. The more you try to escape from this vicious cycle, the more unknown relatives join the cycle.

How to Deal with Black Tax

Black tax has helped millions of poor or struggling families escape poverty. Many families have become financially liberated and moved ahead to do great things. However, when you mismanage the way you pay black tax, it could lead to hindering generational wealth and cause resentment.

Read: How to Work With Your UK Tourist Visa

Here is how you can handle black tax:

Draw the Line:  You should set a black tax budget monthly. Don't begin indiscriminate or unplanned giving to avoid financial consequences. Learn to be sensitive and assertive about dealing with family needs or requests. Once you reach your black tax target, push the rest of your needs for the following month, except in an emergency.

Have an emergency fund: An emergency can save you from unforeseen situations. Create an emergency fund that can help you solve financial needs when you have little funds available.

Have a solid financial plan: A solid plan ensures students progress to financial freedom. You should consider savings, food, accommodation, and other financial obligations.

Set a black tax deadline: We bet you don’t want to be a cash cow forever to certain people unless it’s your elderly parent. 

Pay yourself first: Before saving the world, pay yourself first. Activate investment and automatic savings on your account.

Don’t reveal your financial information: You must ensure your earnings remain private. Many people will calculate your earnings based on the home country's exchange rates. 

A Final Thought

If you do it right, you can use black tax to turn your family and loved ones' financial situations around. However, it could leave you in a financial crisis if you don't know when to say "No" to some needs. Find ways to help people to become financially literate. We believe this article would help you become a good black taxpayer. If you reside in the United States of America, you can use Pay4Me App to send money home in minutes.

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