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Black Tax: How Are Young Nigerians Coping?

Black tax refers to money black people send to their families out of obligation. It could take many forms — from the “urgent ₦2k” request from a sibling to the defined lump sum your mum expects to receive after your salary drops. 

Taking care of family is important in Nigerian culture, but where is the line? When does being the breadwinner of your family begin to hurt your ability to save or build generational wealth, especially if you become part of the sandwich generation

We asked a few Nigerians how they feel about black tax. Their responses are presented below.

“Around ₦150k out of my ₦650k salary goes home” — Dan

I started working in 2017. My first salary was ₦80k, and I used to send ₦10k home. Pops was still alive, so I could get away with it. After he died in 2020, his burial alone wiped ₦500k from my savings. Luckily, his siblings helped with the rest of the money. 

From that moment, I started sending home no less than ₦70k every month. I was earning ₦250k at the time. Then it increased to ₦100k. Now, around ₦150k out of my ₦650k salary goes home. I’m even saving towards renovating our home in the village because it is in a poor state and my mum visits often. 

My siblings still call me to ask for money for books or projects, or even to buy clothes that they need. As the first son of my family, it’s not just the money, but the mental load of the responsibility itself. I’m working towards relocating to another country, and I’m mentally preparing for the billing that’ll follow.

“I spend almost half of my salary on black tax.” — Mayowa

I started paying black tax during my NYSC in 2020. I’m the first born, and, at the time, none of my parents were working. So once the allawee from FG came in, I would give up ₦20K to ₦25k out of the ₦33k. Initially, I had plans to save, but we were all at home. I had little need. So, my family came first.

After NYSC I got a job in Ilorin, where I was being paid ₦30k. My family is in Lagos, so the pressure of my black tax reduced a bit. But I still sent home money for gas and electricity. I also gave some money to my siblings.

In 2021, I got an entry level job back in Lagos and returned home. My salary was ₦75k, and I was initially dropping ₦15k to ₦20k monthly. Unfortunately, 2022 came with huge financial problems for my family. My father, who now had a job, had so many debts to service. My mum, a petty trader, lost a lot of money to fraudsters. I had to shoulder more responsibilities. 

I still managed to save, even though I was parting with way more money than before. My salary increased to ₦85k, and I made the mistake of telling my folks. At some point, I even had to give up my thrift savings to support the home. 

I now earn ₦120k, but I didn’t tell them this time around. Sometimes, I still spend almost 50% of my salary on black tax. Last month and this month, I spent ₦40k. It might be more next month. Or less. Hopefully it’s less. Now that I’m even married, the entitlement is worse because they think my husband is sending me dollars because he lives abroad. 

“My parents are separated so my mum is my responsibility.” — Dinma 

My parents are separated, so my mum is my responsibility. 70% of my monthly earnings go home; it has been this way since I started working. At my very first job straight out of school, I was earning ₦15k and sending ₦7k home. 

My black tax kept increasing as my salary increased. I got a job that paid me ₦70k, and I would send  ₦40k home. After I left that job, I began to freelance full time. The money isn’t constant like a salary, but it’s better than I used to earn, so I can still send money home monthly. I currently send around ₦80k to ₦85k home every month, and she uses that money to take care of herself and my siblings. I’m also responsible for paying her yearly rent of ₦300k. I’m happy to do it because, honestly, I would give anything to make my mother happy.

“My family pays an average black tax of 160k monthly.” — Frank

I started paying black tax in January, a few months after my wife and I left the country. Every month, I allot ₦95k to send home. If you add my wife’s contribution, it comes to about ₦160k. So, my family pays an average black tax of that amount monthly. 

₦110k of the ₦160k goes to my mother-in-law. The rest goes to my sister for her upkeep. My wife has a younger brother in secondary school, so every term, we get the bill for his fees alongside other small expenses. Now, my dad is already planning a family meeting to discuss how we should take over the upkeep of our last born, as if I’m the one that asked them to have another child. But he cannot do it alone anymore. And the only thing we can do is helpout. 

I can’t stand by and watch my parents beg for bread.

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