Monthly Archives: April 2017

UFS Sport day

Thank you to the Newtons staff for assisting at the annual UFS Sport day. Four hundred students participated in this fun event. The idea behind this is to give companies exclusive time with the students and the opportunity to present to the students a little of the culture of the companies.

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VAT and Common Law Theft

A recent decision has created some interest in whether the taxpayers failing to pay over the correct amounts of VAT can be charged – in addition to other statutory crimes prescribed by the VAT Act, 89 of 1991 – with the common law crime of theft.

In Director of Public Prosecutions, Western Cape v Parker[1] the Director of Public Prosecutions (“DPP”) appealed a decision by the Western Cape High Court that Parker, in his capacity as sole representative of a close corporation, had not committed common law theft in relation to the misappropriation of VAT due and payable by the close corporation to SARS. (Parker had been convicted of common law theft earlier in the Bellville Regional Court and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which conviction he appealed to the High Court.)

The Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by the DPP as related to the charge of common law theft levied against Parker as related to the misappropriation of VAT amounts, due and payable to SARS. Essentially to succeed, the DPP had to show that the monies not paid over to SARS were in law monies received and held effectively by VAT vendors as agents or in trust on behalf of SARS, i.e. that SARS had established ownership over such funds even before it having being paid over. The court directed that no relationship could be established whereby VAT amounts due were received and held by VAT vendors prior to payment thereof over to SARS. In other words, the DPP could not show that Parker had misappropriated property which belonged to another – an essential element of common law theft that had to be present to secure a conviction.

VAT remains a tax in the proper sense of the word: monies received from customers were that of the taxpayer. Only once monies were paid over to SARS did it become SARS’ property. Even when the VAT in question became payable, such obligation did not per se create a right of ownership over the funds for SARS. Admittedly SARS has a legal claim against the taxpayer for an amount of tax, but it cannot be said to have established right of ownership over any specific funds held by the taxpayer.

It should be noted that Parker only appealed his conviction of common law theft. He was also convicted in the Regional Court of those crimes provided for in the VAT Act (section 28(1)(b) read with section 58(d)) which he did not appeal. His sentence in this regard was maintained, being either a fine of R10,000 of two years’ imprisonment, suspended for four years.

[1] [2015] 1 All SA 525 (SCA)

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)

Apportionment of VAT input claims

Generally speaking, the VAT portion of expenditure incurred by a VAT vendor in carrying on its enterprise may be claimed back from SARS when the VAT vendor submits is VAT returns on a periodical basis. Typically, these input tax claims are set off against the output tax liability that the VAT vendor may have. However, it is also often the case that the total input tax claims for a certain period may exceed the total output tax amount payable, resulting in a net refund amount due to the vendor for that particular period.

Section 17 of the VAT Act, 89 of 1991, governs the circumstances and the extent to which a registered VAT vendor may claim input tax to be set off against the output tax due to SARS. It specifically addresses those circumstances when goods or services are acquired partly for use as part of the VAT vendor’s enterprise, and partly for purposes of making VAT exempt or personal supplies. In such instances section 17(1) limits the amount of input tax to be claimed to “… an amount which bears to the full amount of such tax or amount, as the case may be, the same ratio (as determined by the Commissioner in accordance with a ruling …) as the intended use of such goods or services in the course of making taxable supplies bears to the total intended use of such goods or services”.

The ruling referred to in section 17(1) (Binding General Ruling 16, Issue 2) sets out the formula as:

y = a / (a + b + c) x 100

Where:
“y” =      the apportionment ratio/percentage;
“a” =    the value of all taxable supplies (including deemed taxable supplies) made during
the period;
“b” =      the value of all exempt supplies made during the period; and
“c” =    the sum of any other amounts not included in “a” or “b” in the formula, which were received or which accrued during the period (whether in respect of a supply or not).

In other words, the calculation referred to aims to limit the input tax deduction to the extent that the expenditure item in question is incurred in the furtherance of the VAT enterprise only.

The calculation assumes that expenditure would be incurred by the VAT vendor generally proportionate to the total taxable supplies made by the enterprise vis-à-vis non-taxable supplies. It may very well be that that this assumption is inapplicable based on the facts of the VAT vendor. For example, where a company extends interest bearing loans to customers (thus exempt supplies) while also providing consulting services (a standard rate taxable supply), the above formula may very well be applicable to apportion the portion of input tax claimable on e.g. rent paid on offices and used both to earn interest and consulting income. However, where expenditure is incurred e.g. towards training for employees linked directly to the consulting business only, said expenditure would not be partly incurred for making taxable supplies and partly not, but wholly for the furtherance of the VAT enterprise and thus rank wholly as a claim for input tax.

BGR16 itself provides for an alternative basis of apportionment to be applied if a more appropriate basis exists. It should be borne in mind that section 17(1) also only comes into play if there is an apportionment to be made whatsoever.

We have noted that SARS is applying BGR16 strictly as part of VAT audits in recent months and even if it may be inappropriate to do so where it is to the disadvantage of taxpayers. Such instances should be monitored and pointed out to your tax advisors when applicable to take up with the SARS auditors timeously.

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)

Bracket creep, VAT and the 2017 Budget

Year on year the personal income tax tables are adjusted and based on which individuals are taxed based on an increasing sliding scale based on their income earned and therefore into which tax bracket they would fall. The annual adjustments are partly to provide for tax relief or an additional burden on certain salary earners, and partly to provide for the effect of inflation.

Consider for example the primary rebate of 2015/2016 (R13,257) compared to that of the 2016/2017 tax year (R13,500). This has now been increased to R13,635 for the 2018 fiscal year. Applying the lowest tax threshold of 18% thereto, this translates into the annual income tax free receipts of R73,650 in 2016 being increased to R75,000 in 2017, and to R75,750 subsequently for 2018.

This means that the threshold at which individuals are taxed increased by 1.8% and 1% effectively over the past two years. In non-real terms therefore tax relief was effected for those individuals earning at the lower end of the tax bracket: where a salary of R6,138 per month would have been income tax free in 2016, this amount in 2018 is now R6,313.

Taking into account that inflation is considered to have averaged between 5% to 7% over this period though, in real terms therefore even those on the lower end of the income are paying more taxes on income in real terms in 2018 than would have been the case in 2016. The effect of so-called “bracket creep” (whereby taxes are effectively increased through the effect of tax brackets not being adjusted sufficiently to cater for inflation) is a phenomenon acutely effecting not only the rich, but the poor too, and especially so over the past two years.

The observation above is relevant in the context of the debate surrounding the potential change in the VAT rate. VAT is considered to represent a regressive tax system whereby everyone, rich or poor, pays the same amount of tax based on consumption of goods (subject to certain basic goods that are exempted). The personal income tax regime in contrast represents a progressive tax system whereby the rich are taxed proportionately more and at increased rates based on their respective income levels. The political dynamics therefore dictate that a pro-poor tax system be focussed more heavily on income tax with increasing tax brackets rather than a flat VAT rate applied to everyone across the board. It is for this exact same reason why there is so much rhetoric and political noise in the media opposing an increase in the VAT rate, especially where the pro-poor movements such as the trade union movement and the SACP are involved.

What the above effect of bracket creep illustrates though is that Treasury is nevertheless, in an indirect manner, systematically also increasing the tax burden on the poor through bracket creep, yet in a more subtle manner whereby it is at the same time avoiding getting involved in the political quagmire that is the VAT rate. An implicit acknowledgement perhaps from Treasury that the wealthy alone cannot absorb increased tax burdens?

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)