Tag Archives: Director

Interest free loans to directors

It is very often the case that a company extends an interest free or low interest loan to a director. This manifests either as a true incentive or benefit to that director (mostly the case in larger corporate environments) or in a small business environment in lieu of salaries paid. The latter is especially the case for example where a spouse or family trust would hold the shares in the company running the family business, but which business is conducted through the efforts of the individual to whom a loan is granted from time to time.

In terms of the Seventh Schedule to the Income Tax Act[1] a director of a company is also considered an “employee”.[2] This is significant, since directors can therefore also be bound by the fringe benefit tax regime applicable to employees generally.

Paragraph (i) of the definition of “gross income” in the Income Tax Act[3] specifically includes as an amount subject to income tax “the cash equivalent, as determined under the provisions of the Seventh Schedule, of the value during the year of assessment of any benefit … granted in respect of employment or to the holder of any office…”

Clearly, benefits received by a director of a company would therefore rank for taxation in terms of this provision. The question remains therefore whether loans provided to such directors by the companies where they serve in this capacity would amount to such a taxable benefit, and further how such benefit should be quantified.

Paragraph 2(f) of the Seventh Schedule is unequivocal in its approach that a taxable fringe benefit exists where “… a debt … has been incurred by the employee [read director], whether in favour of the employer or in favour of any other person by arrangement with the employer or any associated institution in relation to the employer, and either-

(i)            no interest is payable by the employee in respect of such debt; or

(ii)           interest is payable by the employee in respect thereof at a rate of lower than the official rate                of interest…”

Paragraph 11 in turn seeks to quantify the amount of the taxable fringe benefit to be included in the gross income of the director. Essentially, the taxable fringe benefit would be equal to so much of interest that would have been payable on the loan at the prime interest rate less 2.5%, less any interest actually paid on the loan. The benefit therefore does not only arise on interest-free loans, but also on loans carrying interest at less than the prescribed interest rate.

It is necessary to note that a fringe benefit otherwise arising will not be a taxable benefit if the loan amount is less than R3,000, or if it is provided to the director to further his/her studies.

[1] 58 of 1962
[2] Paragraph 1 of the Seventh Schedule, paragraph (g) of the definition of “employee”
[3] See section 1

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)

Removing directors of a company

The Companies Act, 71 of 2008, requires that the business and affairs of any company be managed by or under the direction of its board, which has the authority to exercise all of the powers and perform any of the functions of the company, except to the extent that the Companies Act or the company’s Memorandum of Incorporation provides otherwise (section 66(1)). The Companies Act further requires that a company must have at least one director (section 66(2)), and further that only natural persons may serve in that capacity (section 69(7)(a)).

Those individuals occupying the position of directors of a company are therefore responsible for managing the affairs of the company and they do so as custodians on the shareholders behalf. It should be remembered that the directors do not own the company: the company rather is owned by the shareholders and the directors serve therefore to promote the interests of the company, and indirectly therefore the economic interests of the shareholders.

Quite often, in the case of private companies, the directors and shareholders may be the same individuals. However, where the directors have no or limited shareholding interest in the company itself, it may happen that the shareholders may wish to move to have certain directors removed and replaced on the company’s board if e.g. the company’s financial performance or operations otherwise are not satisfactorily conducted according to the shareholders’ liking.

Naturally, a director may be requested to resign under amicable circumstances. However, where a director refuses to resign (and may perhaps have the backing of other shareholders), the question becomes what remedies the aggrieved shareholders still have? It is possible to have these matters regulated in terms of the company’s Memorandum of Incorporation specifically to dictate under which circumstances a director may be removed from the board of a company. It could also be agreed with the director initially by way of a clause in the appointment contract.

Irrespective of whether the Memorandum of Incorporation or an appointment contract addresses the matter specifically, a director may always be removed by way of a majority vote at an ordinary shareholders’ meeting (section 77(1)). Before the shareholders of a company may consider such a resolution though, the director concerned must be given notice of the meeting and the resolution, and be afforded a reasonable opportunity to make a presentation, in person or through a representative, to the meeting, before the resolution is put to a vote (section 77(2)). In terms of procedures not entirely different from that as applied to shareholders, the directors may among themselves too resolve to remove a director from the board of a company (sections 77(3) & (4)).

It is important for directors to realise that they serve at the pleasure of shareholders. It is likewise necessary for shareholders to know that they have remedies against directors who do not deliver on their mandate, and that keeping directors in check amounts to good corporate governance.

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).