Category Archives: Finance

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency and blockchain has been the hot topic in the media the past year. It is a concept that few truly understand, and could change the future for everyone in a major way.

But what is cryptocurrency and blockchain?

Per the online dictionary:

A cryptocurrency is a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

The most popular currently in the market is Bitcoin; others include Eutherian and Litecoin.  There are various platforms on which to trade in cryptocurrency, for example Luno. Luno functions like the JSE, where willing buyers and willing sellers transact in shares / cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions made in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.

An example to demontrate how blockchain works:

Pete wants to buy Bitcoin from Mary.  They both use Luno as platform to trade on.

By joining Luno, Pete and Mary effectively each receives a copy of the big overall “ledger” that shows where each unit of Bitcoin is at that point in time and where each unit of Bitcoin has been.

Each transaction is represented as a block. Each time a transaction is authorised, a block is then added to the other blocks already in place creating a chain, hence the term “blockchain technology”.

The chain is then compared between all the copies of the “ledgers” that are spread out over the world to validate them. You can actually add Bitcoin to your own account without actually purchasing any, but as soon as your ledger compares to the others around you, it will see the unauthorised transactions and reject your version.

Bitcoin is severly encrypted, therefore to be able to finalise a transaction, there are people in the market who solve very complex mathematical problems using a significant amount of expensive computing power to authorise the transaction. These people are called “miners”. They receive one Bitcoin for every transaction they finalise.

As soon as the transaction between Pete and Mary is authorised by the miner, the “ledger” is updated by adding another block to the chain.

The question that then arises is why would hackers not just hack and authorise transactions for themselves? This is where the magic of blockchain technology comes in – the computing power required to solve the complex problem is so expensive, that is more costly to hack than to rather just act as miners themselves and earn Bitcoin. Therefore, no one needs to trust each other and the technology allows the users to trust the system.

It is this level of technology that will regulate the future, effectively eliminating the need for lawyers and banks. The concept is throwing governments across the globe into a state of panic as there is currently no proper regulation inbedded in current tax laws.

Like Da Vinci’s inventions, the technology is a little ahead of its time and the rest of the world needs some time catching up. It is therefore critical to keep an eye on further developments as this will impact the way business is done in future.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Interest received by non-residents on SA bank accounts

Persons that are not tax resident in South Africa (“SA”) are only taxed in SA on income received by or which accrued to such non-resident from an SA source. This will include interest received on an SA bank account.

Non-residents may, however, be exempt from SA income tax on interest earned in terms of section 10(1)(h) of the Income Tax Act. The section 10(1)(h) exemption does not apply though to the extent that the non-resident is a natural person who was physically present in SA for a period exceeding 183 days in the 12-month period preceding the date on which the interest was received by or accrued. In these circumstances, the non-resident must register for income tax and declare such SA source interest to the South African Revenue Service. The exemption will also not apply where the debt from which the interest arises is effectively connected to a permanent establishment of that person in SA or where the interest received is in the form of an annuity.

The general interest exemptions in section 10(1)(i) may, however, still apply to non-residents that are natural persons.

Other than for an income tax effect, non-residents earning SA source interest can also be subject to the withholding tax on interest (“WTI”) at a rate of 15%, unless certain exemptions apply.

This withholding rate can be reduced by an applicable double taxation agreement between SA and the foreign country where the person (who is a non-resident for SA tax purposes) is tax resident. Two exemptions from WTI may apply to non-residents receiving interest on an SA bank account. Firstly, there is a general exemption from interest received from SA banks.Secondly, no WTI is payable where the non-resident exceeds the 183-day threshold as set out above.

In summary, non-residents are not subject to WTI on interest received on an SA bank account. Also, no liability for income tax will arise on condition that none of the exclusions in section 10 mentioned above applies. To the extent that any of these exclusions apply though, the non-resident will have to register for income tax in SA and submit an income tax return. An applicable double taxation agreement should also be considered as it may contain specific provisions relating to the taxation of interest and providing relief to the extent that none is afforded by the domestic legislation discussed in this article, although this will not affect the obligation to submit an income tax return to the South African Revenue Service.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Budget 2018

Following the annual national budget speech delivered by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on 21 February, we highlight some of the most significant matters arising below:

  • The much-debated VAT rate has been increased from 14% to 15%, which was widely expected although hugely unpopular given the political sensitivity coupled with the effect that this will have on the poor;
  • The corporate income tax and transfer duty rates have been left unchanged;
  • The CGT inclusion rate (40% for individuals, 80% for companies or trusts) was left unchanged too (although we do expect these to go up to 50% / 100% in the near future);
  • “Bracket creeps” or “stealth taxes” had a significant impact on the current budget and refer to marginal tax brackets not being adjusted upwards for the effect of inflation annually. This year, no adjustments will be made to the top 4 tax brackets for individuals. Assuming that inflation is 6%, it will therefore be 6% “easier” for taxpayers to fall into a higher tax bracket compared to last year.
  • A new estate duty / donations tax bracket is to be introduced for donations or estates in excess of R30 million, and which will attract tax at 25%. Amounts below this threshold will still be taxed at the prevailing rate of 20%.
  • The above and other most significant changes can be summarised as follows:

 

WAS

NOW

Top marginal PIT rate

45%

45%

VAT rate

14%

15%

Tax rate for trusts

45%

45%

Estate duty for estates > R30m

20%

25%

CGT annual exclusion

R40,000

R40,000

Primary rebate for individuals

R13,635

R14,067

The Minister also alluded to the following matters which would be subject to legislative intervention or refinement during the course of the legislative year ahead:

  • Interaction of anti-avoidance rules relating to share buybacks and dividend stripping and the general reorganisation rules are to be reviewed, since current rules may affect legitimate transactions (especially in the preference share funding context);
  • Appropriateness of the current high tax exemption as part of the “controlled foreign company” (CFC) regime will be considered. However, legislation targeting foreign companies held by foreign trusts (which have SA resident beneficiaries) and classifying these as CFCs will be reintroduced;
  • To further encourage venture capital company investments, the appropriateness of the current passive investment income threshold is to be revisited, as well as the timing of the “group company” disqualification requirement;
  • The “official rate of interest” (used to calculate tax consequences of interest-free or low-interest loans), currently at prime less 2.5%, is to be increased; and
  • Further refinements will be made to the new “debt relief” legislation introduced in 2017 to remove anomalies.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Borrowing to purchase listed shares – 100% tax ineffective?

Where a person borrows money to purchase shares, the general rule would be that the interest paid on the funds borrowed to fund that acquisition would not be deductible for tax purposes, the reason being that the interest expense is not incurred in the production of “income”.

Similarly, interest paid cannot be said to be a cost incurred in the acquisition of an asset (such as a share) for capital gains tax purposes: by its very nature, interest is a recurring cost only incurred after acquisition of the underlying asset if funded through debt. One would therefore imagine that interest incurred on funds borrowed to acquire an asset can similarly not form part of the “base cost” of the asset for capital gains tax purposes, in other words, used to negate the capital gains tax cost which arises when the asset purchased is eventually disposed of.

Leaving aside the commercial wisdom of borrowing money to fund the acquisition of listed shares (and probably giving up assets as security in the process), the Eighth Schedule to the Income Tax Act contains a surprising exception to the general rule against non-capitalisation of interest costs for capital gains tax purposes. Paragraph 20(1)(g) determines that “… one-third of the interest as contemplated in section 24J excluding any interest contemplated in section 24O on money borrowed to finance the expenditure contemplated in items (a) or (e) in respect of a share listed on a recognised exchange…” may be added to the base cost of those listed shares acquired. In other words, whilst all interest incurred on such debt funding will not be taken into account to calculate the base cost of the shares, 33% of all interest incurred at least may be added to the initial cost of acquisition of the shares in determining its base cost, and eventually in calculating the capital gain realised on disposal of those shares in due course.

While interest is therefore not deductible for tax purposes on the debt used to acquire shares generally – and interest would moreover typically not rank as a cost to be taken into account for purposes of calculating the base cost of an asset for capital gains tax purposes – interest incurred on the acquisition of listed shares appears to be a definite exception.

The exception is definitely one of the lesser-known provisions in the Income Tax Act, and one which is often overlooked when listed shares are sold. Where a listed share portfolio is therefore built up over time, investors should take into account borrowing costs that may have been incurred over the years to shore up further investments in their listed investment portfolios.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Claiming VAT input on “pre-enterprise” expenditure

In terms of section 17 of the Value-Added Tax Act, 89 of 1991, a registered VAT vendor is entitled to claim back any amounts of VAT paid on goods and services acquired or imported that will be used in the furtherance of that particular VAT enterprise. The ability to claim input VAT in this manner is however limited to VAT vendors only and the wording of section 17(1) makes it clear that input tax may only be claimed in respect of goods and services supplied to a vendor – in other words, a person that is already a registered vendor at the time that the goods or services are supplied to him/her.

Section 18(4) of the VAT Act provides relief for persons incurring expenses in the form of goods or services being supplied to them in anticipation of a VAT enterprise being set up. In terms of that provision, and notwithstanding section 17, where VAT is paid on goods or services acquired by a person and those goods or services will subsequently be supplied as part of a VAT enterprise, those goods or services on which VAT was paid historically will be deemed to have been supplied to that VAT vendor only at the stage that those goods or services are used by it to supply its own VAT supplies. In other words, the provision enables the person, who earlier would not have been able to enter a claim for input tax, to claim input tax on those goods and services supplied to him/her previously, before becoming a VAT vendor.

The relief is not only limited to goods or services supplied to the now-VAT vendor and on which VAT was paid, but also extends to second-hand goods which were previously acquired by it and is now also used in the furtherance of its VAT enterprise.

From a practical perspective, we often find in practice that SARS disallows such claims for input tax on the basis that the claiming vendor’s VAT number does not appear on the invoice which it would submit in support of its input VAT claim subsequently. This is obviously incongruous, since the VAT-claiming vendor under these circumstances could not have had its VAT number appear on the invoice of another vendor which supplied goods or services to it, simply since the vendor would not have had a VAT number at that stage, yet is perfectly eligible to submit a VAT input claim in terms of the provisions of section 18(4). We would argue that SARS’ approach is contradictory to the wording of section 20(4)(c) of the VAT Act which requires the following to appear on invoices submitted by vendors in support of an input tax claim:

“… the name, address and, where the recipient is a registered vendor, the VAT registration number of the recipient”.

Clearly, where a vendor submits an invoice to claim input VAT on “pre-enterprise” expenditure incurred, that vendor will not have been a registered vendor at that time, therefore in our view highly arguably not required to have its own VAT number on an invoice in order to support a claim for input VAT on “pre-enterprise” expenditure.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MSI Global Alliance adds legal member in Switzerland

MSI Global Alliance, one of the world’s leading international associations of independent legal and accounting firms, is delighted to announce its new legal member firm Watt law in Switzerland.

Based in Geneva, Watt law provides comprehensive legal services in corporate and commercial matters as well global dispute resolution and advisory services to clients in Switzerland and worldwide.

Tim Wilson, chief executive of MSI, comments, “I welcome Watt law to MSI. The firm is new and dynamic and located in the key location of Geneva. The firm has already built a good reputation and I very much look forward to MSI assisting them with their growth and international engagement”.

Vincent Tattini, founder of Watt law, comments, “We are very proud to join MSI Global Alliance, which will enable us to provide our clients with the expertise and the specialised know-how of all MSI members”.

Watt law joins MSI Global Alliance with six lawyers.

For further information please contact

MSI Global Alliance
Pauline Rottstock, Marketing and Business Development Manager
Tel: +44 20 7583 7000
Email: prottstock@msiglobal.org

About MSI Global Alliance

MSI is one of the world’s leading international associations of independent legal and accounting firms with over 250 carefully selected member firms in more than 100 countries. MSI was formed in 1990 in response to the growing need for cross-border co-operation between professional services firms.

MSI members worldwide work closely together to provide integrated, multidisciplinary services to meet each client’s legal and regulatory obligations and growth ambitions. MSI is ranked among the Top 20 international accounting and legal networks, associations & alliances.

Visit our website: www.msiglobal.org

Deductibility of SED and ED expenditure

The South African Revenue Service (“SARS”) recently issued a binding private ruling (“BPR”) in which the income tax consequences of expenditure in respect of socio-economic development (“SED”) and enterprise development (“ED”) obligations were considered.

The applicant in this case is a company that owns and operates a wind farm that generates electricity. In terms of the applicant’s electricity generation agreement and licence entered into with the South African government and the relevant regulator, it must commit a specified percentage of its annual revenue to SED and ED expenditure. Failure to incur these expenses could result in the electricity generation agreement being terminated. In order to meet these obligations, the applicant established a trust to undertake specific SED and ED projects directly, or to provide funding to other organisations that are approved by SARS as public benefit organisations in terms of section 30(3) which will undertake such projects. The applicant made contributions to this trust to fund its SED and ED projects.

Expenditure and losses will qualify for the general income tax deduction in section 11(a) and read with section 23(g) of the Income Tax Act to the extent that it is actually incurred in the production of the income, laid out or expensed for purposes of the taxpayer’s trade and such expenditure and losses are not of a capital nature. It is furthermore important to note that a donation for Donations Tax purposes include any gratuitous disposal of property including any gratuitous waiver or renunciation of a right (section 55(1) of the Income Tax Act). Any disposal of property for a consideration which, in the opinion of the Commissioner for SARS, is not an adequate consideration, is also deemed to be a donation (section 58 of the Income Tax Act).

Based on the facts set out above, SARS confirmed in the ruling that the contributions to the trust by the applicant in respect of the SED and ED commitments will be deductible under section 11(a) read with section 23(g). The income tax deduction in each year of assessment will be equal to the specified percentage of the applicant’s revenue (as defined in the agreement) earned in that year of assessment. The ruling also states that the contributions to the trust will not be a donation as defined in section 55(1) nor a deemed donation, as contemplated in section 58.

While binding private rulings are not binding on other taxpayers, it does however clarify how SARS would interpret and apply the provisions of the tax laws relating to a specific proposed transaction.

The take away is that taxpayers should consider the potential income tax deductibility of SED and ED expenses carefully, especially in instances where they are obliged in terms of an agreement to incur these costs.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MSI wins ‘Rising Star Association’ and ‘Communications Campaign’ awards

MSI Global Alliance, one of the world’s leading international associations of independent legal and accounting firms, has won two awards in the prestigious International Accounting Bulletin Forum & Awards.

MSI Global Alliance is delighted to have received the two awards: ‘Rising Star Association of the Year’ and ‘Communications Campaign of the Year’ at the annual International Accounting Bulletin Forum & Awards judged by an independent panel of accounting experts.

The ‘Rising Star Association’ award recognises MSI’s highly effective Strategy for 2015-2018 and its successful implementation across the four priorities of growth, marketing, member services and member engagement. Separately, MSI’s innovative and engaging internal marketing campaign ‘MSI Month’ was selected as the ‘Communications Campaign of the year’.

Tim Wilson, chief executive of MSI, comments, “I am absolutely delighted to have received these two awards, which represent the hard work of our entire team and the engagement of our members worldwide. I am proud of MSI’s continued development and the strength of our association and I am excited by the future as we move forward into our next chapter.”

The International Accounting Bulletin is the leading authority of the global accounting industry and regularly analyses firm performance and best practices.

MSI was presented with the ‘Rising Star Association’ and ‘Communications Campaign’ awards during the gala dinner of The Digital Accountancy Forum & Awards 2017 in London on 4th October 2017.

For further information please contact

MSI Global Alliance
Pauline Rottstock, Marketing and Business Development Manager
Tel: +44 20 7583 7000
Email: prottstock@msiglobal.org

About MSI Global Alliance

MSI is one of the world’s leading international associations of independent legal and accounting firms with over 250 carefully selected member firms in more than 100 countries. MSI was formed in 1990 in response to the growing need for cross-border co-operation between professional services firms.

MSI members worldwide work closely together to provide integrated, multidisciplinary services to meet each client’s legal and regulatory obligations and growth ambitions. MSI is ranked among the Top 20 international accounting and legal networks, associations & alliances.

Visit our website: www.msiglobal.org

The importance of having a good accounting system

If your business doesn’t have an effective accounting system in place, you run the risk of making serious errors in your finances. Furthermore, a good accounting system simply makes life easier and allows you to focus more on growing your business. 

  • It helps you evaluate the performance of your business: A good accounting system gives you a thorough overview of the financial performance of your business. If you don’t have an accounting record, how will you know if your business is growing or shrinking? So, your account records help you know if your business is growing, stagnant or slowing down.
  • It helps you manage cash flow and meet deadlines: Cash flow management means knowing what you do with the cash that comes into the organisation. Your accounting system helps you know areas that need cash. For instance, cash may be needed to finance your debts, or make major renovations or order for new stocks, and it is your accounting system that will help you know this. In short, no business will growth further without a good cash management system. Also, your accounting books help you know when bills like your rent needs to be paid.
  • It’s needed for business goal setting: Cash flow management means knowing what you do with the cash that comes into the organisation. Your accounting system helps you know areas that need cash. For instance, cash may be needed to finance your debts, or make major renovations or order for new stocks, and it is your accounting system that will help you know this. In short, no business will growth further without a good cash management system. Also, your accounting books help you know when bills like your rent needs to be paid.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MSI Global Alliance appoints new accounting members in South Korea and Australia

MSI Global Alliance, one of the world’s leading international associations of independent legal and accounting firms, is delighted to announce the appointment of two new accounting members SEJUNG LLC in South Korea and Oreon Partners in Australia.

Headquartered in Seoul, with two further branches in Suwon and Daejeon, SEJUNG LLC is a leading CPA firm which provides comprehensive accounting and tax services as well as audit, assurance and financial advisory services. The firm’s team of 19 partners and over 30 professionals serves national and international clients from a wide range of industries and has particular expertise in advising foreign investment companies in Korea.

Sean Kang, managing partner of SEJUNG LLC, comments, ”It is my pleasure to join MSI, a great international accounting & legal association. Like other countries, Korea’s accounting market is very competitive and I would like to secure our competitive strength and pursue our business expansion through our membership with MSI.”

Accounting firm Oreon Partners, based in Adelaide (South Australia), joins MSI with five partners and 32 professionals. The firm provides accounting, taxation and financial planning services to businesses and private individuals. Oreon Partners prides itself on personalised advice and service as well as its advantageous use of technology to help achieve clients’ goals.

Ben Reynolds, partner at Oreon Partners, comments, “We are excited to be joining MSI Global Alliance and look forward to the opportunities that being a member of one of the world’s leading accounting and legal associations will bring to both our business and to our clients.”

The appointment of Oreon Partners adds to MSI’s representation in Australia and New Zealand, which now brings together 16 leading independent legal and accounting firms that provide specialist services to local and overseas businesses.

Tim Wilson, chief executive of MSI, comments, “I am very pleased that we have two strong firms joining our group in Asia Pacific. I know they will make a great contribution to our Asian and Australian representation and I welcome them to MSI very warmly.”

For further information please contact

MSI Global Alliance
Pauline Rottstock, Marketing and Business Development Manager
Tel: +44 20 7583 7000
Email: prottstock@msiglobal.org

About MSI Global Alliance

MSI is one of the world’s leading international associations of independent legal and accounting firms with over 250 carefully selected member firms in more than 100 countries. MSI was formed in 1990 in response to the growing need for cross-border co-operation between professional services firms.

MSI members worldwide work closely together to provide integrated, multidisciplinary services to meet each client’s legal and regulatory obligations and growth ambitions. MSI is ranked among the Top 20 international accounting and legal networks, associations & alliances.

Visit our website: www.msiglobal.org