Monthly Archives: February 2018

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)

Capital Gains Tax exit charge

In terms of section 1 of the Income Tax Act a natural person will be a “resident” for tax purposes if that person is ordinarily resident in the Republic of South Africa (“the Republic”). Persons who are not at any time during the relevant year of assessment ordinarily resident in the Republic, will also qualify as “residents” if they meet the so-called physical presence test. The definition of “resident” furthermore specifically excludes any person who is deemed to be exclusively resident of another country for purposes of the application of any double tax agreement entered into between South Africa and that other country.

When leaving the Republic to go work and live in another country, it may therefore result in such person ceasing to be a “resident”. In these circumstances, careful consideration should be given to the possible capital gains tax (“CGT”) consequences which may arise.

Section 9H of the Income Tax Act provides that where a person ceases to be a resident for tax purposes, the person must be treated as having disposed of his/her assets for an amount equal to the market value of such assets (the so-called “CGT exit charge”), in other words, a price which would be obtained between a willing buyer and a willing seller on an arm’s length basis. This disposal is deemed to take place the day immediately before the individual ceases to be a tax resident. The person is furthermore deemed to immediately reacquire such assets at a cost equal to this same market value, which expenditure must be treated as an amount of expenditure actually incurred for the purposes of paragraph 20(1)(a) of the Eighth Schedule. In other words, the market value of the assets at the time of the exit will be treated as the base cost of such assets in the future.

The CGT exit charge does not apply to immovable property situated in the Republic held by that person or any asset which after cessation of residence becomes attributable to a permanent establishment of that person in the Republic. Also excluded are certain qualifying equity shares received in terms of broad-based employee share plans, as well as qualifying equity instruments or rights to acquire certain “marketable securities”.

Persons leaving the Republic either permanently or for extended periods should therefore consider whether or not they cease to be residents in the Republic for tax purposes and whether the CGT exit charges may apply to them.

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)