Monthly Archives: April 2016

Triathlon World Event

Nicholas Newman took part in the Triathlon World Event on the 20th March 2016. This event was held in Port Elizabeth at Orient Beach. There were over 60 athletes from 13 countries competing. Nicholas finished in 13th Position. Well done Nick on this awesome achievement.

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So what is the future of trusts?

One of the questions that we are most confronted with by our clients is what the future of trusts are in South Africa. Some questions even point to the misconception that the trust instrument itself as legal form is on the verge of being scrapped in South Africa altogether!

The current debate raging is not at all that dramatic, although the consequences for taxpayers potentially may be. The “crystal ball” gazing exercise which we are so often requested to undertake stems from repeated warnings (some less subtle than other) by the Minister of Finance that the use of trusts as a tool to minimize tax exposure, be it in the form of income tax or estate duty, is being revisited by National Treasury to try and find a solution to the perceived abuse thereof. As recently as in the 2016 budget, the following statement is made:

“Some taxpayers use trusts to avoid paying estate duty and donations tax. For example, if the founder of a trust sells his or her assets to the trust, and grants the trust an interest-free loan as payment, donations tax is not triggered and the assets are not included in his or her estate at death. To limit taxpayers’ ability to transfer wealth without being taxed, government proposes to ensure that the assets transferred through a loan to a trust are included in the estate of the founder at death, and to categorise interest-free loans to trusts as donations. Further measures to limit the use of discretionary trusts for income-splitting and other tax benefits will also be considered.”

This alludes both to how trusts are commonly used to minimize tax obligations, as well as how Treasury intends to (what could be considered a more focused) approach to trusts in future, while also hinting at what may be expected going forward.

As a first comment, trusts are popular estate duty planning instruments. Without going into too much detail, typically an individual will sell his/her assets to a trust on interest free loan account. In the coming years, the value of the assets will increase in the trust, while the value of the loan account will remain the same in the hands of the individual.

Secondly, trusts are potentially useful for income tax planning purposes as they allow for income to be distributed to individuals that are subject to tax at rates more beneficial than that of the trust (which involves ‘income-splitting’ referred to by Treasury above). Typically, these distributions often contain a fictitious element through distributions made on interest free loan account only (with no real intention that such distributions should vest in the beneficiaries).

It would appear as though Treasury is no longer considering an ‘out-and-out’ onslaught on the taxation of trusts (although this is only speculation). However, the recent budget perhaps betrays what may be expected and that anti-avoidance legislation is to be introduced that will focus only on abusive practices involving trusts. For both estate duty and income tax structures involving trusts, it is not far fetched to expect to see provisions introduced into tax legislation which will ensure that loan accounts with trusts all bear interest. The significance of this? Interest receipts are subject to income tax.

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).

Financial assistance to directors

A company lending money to its directors may not be as simple a process as it may initially appear to be – not even in the case of so-called “one-man” companies. There are various requirements in the Companies Act, 71 of 2008, to be adhered to, as well as certain potential pitfalls in the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962, that one should be aware of.

Section 45 of the Companies Act regulates the lending of money by companies to their directors. The scope of the provision also extends much further than a loan itself: it covers any form of “financial assistance” to directors, which specifically includes “lending money, guaranteeing a loan or other obligation, and securing any debt or obligation”.

The board of directors of a company must authorise the financial assistance to be provided to a director, and the board resolution to this effect must be circulated to all shareholders as well as trade unions representing employees of the company. The company’s board must further be satisfied that the financial assistance is fair and reasonable to the company, and further that the company will be solvent and liquid thereafter. They must also ensure that this is not in contravention of the company’s Memorandum of Incorporation. If in breach of any of these conditions, the directors may potentially be held personally liable for any damages.

From a tax perspective, a director of a company is by definition also an employee of that company. This means that the director may be liable for tax on a fringe benefit if a loan is extended to him or her which does not bear market-related interest rates. For purposes of the Income Tax Act, this will be the case where the loan bears interest at less than the repo rate plus 100 basis points (see paragraph 11(1) of the Seventh Schedule to the Income Tax Act). The value of any such fringe benefit will be included in the director’s gross income for tax purposes and taxed accordingly.

Fringe benefits are not the only potential tax concern for companies with loan accounts in favour of themselves against a director. Quite often directors are also shareholders in a company (which is especially the case for small and medium-sized companies). In this case, an interest free loan, or one with interest below the repo rate plus 100 basis points, will give rise to a deemed dividend in the hands of the director-shareholder. Effectively, the deemed dividend will be the interest charged too little. This amount will be calculated on an annual basis, and attract dividends tax at 15% (section 64E(4) of the Income Tax Act) which will be for the director’s account.

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).

Request for suspension of payment

The ‘pay now, argue later’ rule contained in section 164 of the Tax Administration Act, 28 of 2011, requires taxpayers to pay any tax debts due in terms of an assessment, irrespective thereof that the assessment in question may be disputed by the taxpayer. In other words – and as the name suggests – even where SARS has issued a taxpayer with an assessment in error, a taxpayer is still required to pay the tax reflected in that assessment irrespective, and will have to claim a refund for that amount only once the error has been corrected. This is obviously quite onerous to taxpayers, and may adversely affect cash flows even where a taxpayer is at no fault whatsoever, or where there is a misunderstanding of the relevant facts on SARS’ side.

Section 164 does offer a limited form of reprieve though, and taxpayers may request the suspension of payment of a tax liability pending the resolution of a dispute. The provision provides that the payment of tax may be suspended by SARS after considering the following factors:

  • l whether the recovery of the disputed tax will be in jeopardy or there will be a risk of dissipation of assets;
  • l the compliance history of the taxpayer with SARS;
  • l whether fraud is prima facie involved in the origin of the dispute;
  • l whether payment will result in irreparable hardship to the taxpayer not justified by the prejudice to SARS or the fiscus if the disputed tax is not paid or recovered; or
  • l whether the taxpayer has tendered adequate security for the payment of the disputed tax and accepting it is in the interest of SARS or the fiscus.
  • Notwithstanding the above, SARS may deny a request for suspension of payment of tax, or revoke a decision to suspend payment, if it is satisfied that:
  • l after the lodging of the objection or appeal, the objection or appeal is frivolous or vexatious;
  • l the taxpayer is employing dilatory tactics in conducting the objection or appeal;
  • l on further consideration of the factors referred to above, the suspension should not have been given; or
  • l there is a material change in any of the factors upon which the decision to suspend payment of the amount involved was based.

What few people know is that merely by virtue of submitting an application to suspend the payment of tax, SARS is prohibited from instituting proceedings to recover the amount in dispute until it has duly considered the application to suspend payment of tax (which applications are typically considered by a designated committee within SARS). Only once such an application has been considered and denied may SARS institute recovery proceedings within 10 business days after the decision not to grant the relevant request. Therefore, suspension of payment is effectively achieved by submission of an application, and the status quo only affected once the taxpayer has been advised otherwise by SARS after it has duly considered the application and applied its mind thereto.

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).