Tag 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)

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 and cancelled sales

Many transactions in terms in which assets are sold are subject to suspensive conditions. In terms of such agreements, the sales transaction will only take place once all the suspensive conditions have been met.[1] Many other agreements may however be subject to a resolutive condition. A resolutive condition involves one whereby an agreement is cancelled if that condition is subsequently met. For example, where a person (A) sells a vehicle to B, subject to the condition that the agreement be cancelled if B is unable to obtain a driving license within a year, such a condition could be described as a resolutive condition. From a legal perspective, it is important to understand though that a valid agreement of sale had already been entered into between A and B, irrespective thereof that a year has not yet passed within which B is afforded the opportunity to obtain the contemplated driving license. This is also the case for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes. Only later, if the resolutive condition is met, is the agreement cancelled with retrospective effect.

Where a resolutive condition becomes operational, and a historic sale cancelled, this may give rise to practical problems for the seller from a CGT perspective. A CGT cost may already have been suffered in a previous year of assessment in relation to the asset disposed of. Now that the sale is cancelled, a taxpayer cannot revisit previous returns already submitted. The Income Tax Act only makes provision for a capital loss to be created in those instances,[2] but which in and of itself does not necessarily carry any value. Consider for example where future capital gains will not be realised again by the taxpayer and against which it can set-off the loss now created. It is possible therefore for a person to pay CGT on a transaction that was cancelled subsequently.

Such a scenario recently played itself out in the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in New Adventure Shelf 122 (Pty) Ltd v CSARS.[3] There the taxpayer had sold a property near Stilbaai in September 2006 and declared a capital gain of R9,746,875 to SARS. On this amount, a CGT cost of R1,413,007 arose. Due to financial problems on the side of the purchaser however, the agreement was cancelled in November 2011 and the property returned to the seller. The seller now sought to reopen its past assessments to correct the declaration of the capital gains declared that no longer could be said to have arisen for those years of assessment. SARS would not allow this, and the taxpayer unsuccessfully sought to initiate review proceedings against SARS in the High Court. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, the taxpayer was again unsuccessful.

The Court confirmed that tax was an annual event. “In summary, the cancellation of the sale did not entitle the appellant to have his tax liability for the 2007 year re-assessed.” And elsewhere the Court reminded again that “… even if in certain instances it may seem ‘unfair’ for a taxpayer to pay a tax which is payable under a statutory obligation to do so, there is nothing unjust about it. Payment of tax is what the law prescribes, and tax laws are not always regarded as ‘fair’. The tax statute must be applied even if in certain circumstances a taxpayer may feel aggrieved at the outcome.”

[1] Paragraph 13(1)(a) of the Eighth Schedule to the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962

[2] Paragraph 3 and 4 of the Eighth Schedule

[3] (310/2016) [2017] ZASCA 29 (28 March 2017)

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)

Crunching the numbers: Budget 2017

It is an astounding exercise to go through the numbers behind the annual national budget presented recently and to start to understand what it is that the various tax changes are aimed at achieving.

On 22 February 2017, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presented South Africa’s biggest budget yet, providing for budgeted Government expenditure over the 2017/2018 fiscal year of R1.6 trillion (or R1,563,300,000,000!) Of this, by far the most significant portion will be spent towards social services to be delivered in the form of education, healthcare, social protection (grants), and local development and infrastructure: R884bn, or 56.5%, to be exact. A further R198.7 billion is being allocated to defence and public safety, with agriculture and economic affairs receiving R241.6 bn. General administration (departments such as Treasury, Foreign Affairs and the various legislative organs) is to receive R70.7bn of the 2017 budget, while it is further notable that little over 10% is allocated to servicing Government debt.

On the income side, taxes remain Government’s primary source of revenue, and budgeted revenue in tax collections are estimated to be collected as follows:

Description ZAR bn %
Personal income tax 482.1 38.1
Corporate income tax 218.7 17.3
VAT 312.8 24.7
Customs and excise 96.1 7.6
Fuel levies 70.9 5.6
Other 84.9 6.7
Total 1,265.5 100

Direct income taxes, as have been the trend over the recent past, continues to be the major contributor to the Government purse at more than 55% and borne by those individuals economically active.

It was widely reported in the run-up to the budget speech that a shortfall in tax revenue of approximately R28bn would need to be provided for, and that the Minister would need to be creative in meeting this challenge and where he would raise taxes to cover this, especially considering that increased taxes inevitably acts as impediment to economic growth (estimated to reach 2.2% by 2019). The bulk of this additional R28bn to be collected will be received from the raising of the personal income tax and trust tax rate ceiling to 45% (R16.5bn), while the increased dividends tax rate raised from 15% to 20% is expected to raise a further R6.8bn.

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 2017

Following the annual national budget speech delivered by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on 22 February, we highlight some of the most significant matters arising below:

 A new tax bracket will be introduced targeting the wealthy as well as trusts. It is proposed that trusts will from now on be taxed at 45% on all taxable income, while individuals earning more than R1.5million per tax year will pay 45% income tax on such income (estimated to be around 103,000 individuals);

  • The dividends withholding tax rate is proposed to be increased from 15% to 20%. This is linked to the above increase in individual income tax rates to prevent wealthy individuals from exploiting the arbitrage opportunity that may exist in receiving fees in a company and having these paid out as a dividend;
  • The much debated VAT rate has been left unchanged, which was widely expected given the political sensitivity coupled with the effect that this may have on the poor;
  • Increase in withholding taxes on non-residents disposing of immovable property situated in SA;
  • The “duty free” threshold for transfer duty (tax levied on purchasers of immovable property) has been increased from R750,000 to R900,000;
  • The corporate income tax, donations tax and estate duty rates have been left unchanged;
  • The CGT inclusion rate (40% for individuals, 80% for companies or trusts) was left unchanged too;
  • The above and other most significant changes can be summed up as follows:
  WAS NOW
Top marginal PIT rate 41% 45%
Dividends tax 15% 20%
Tax rate for trusts 41% 45%
Estate duty abatement R3.5 m R3.5 m
CGT annual exclusion R40,000 R40,000
Primary rebate for individuals R13,500 R13,635

The Minister also alluded to the following matters which could expect legislative intervention or refinement during the course of the year:

  • Renewed focus on transfer pricing and cross-border tax avoidance schemes;
  • Further refinements to anti-avoidance legislation introduced in 2016 as applies to trusts;
  • Section 42 “asset-for-share” relief to be extended to also provide for the assumption of contingent liabilities (as opposed to only applying to the issuing of shares or the assumption of existing debt);
  • Share issue and buy-back transactions (commonly used as part of corporate restructurings whereby CGT is avoided) are to be addressed as part of an anti-avoidance effort;
  • The anti-avoidance provisions linked to “third-party back shares” (section 8EA) are to be relaxed;
  • Further refinement and relaxation of the VCC regime as relates to rules restricting such investments;
  • Measures will be introduced whereby foreign companies held by foreign trusts with SA beneficiaries will be drawn into the SA tax net under the “controlled foreign company” regime

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).

Using a Trust for Estate Duty purposes

A3Trusts are popular mechanisms through which individuals often structure their affairs to ensure efficient administration of their estates when they should one day die. One of the many advantages of using a trust is of course that it continues to ‘live on’ despite the fact that any one individual may have died. This in itself is a great benefit, especially when seen against the scenario where a person’s dependents are left in a state of financial limbo, and quite often financially distressed, but in anticipation of an estate being dealt with and divided in accordance with the law of succession by the appointed executor. This process can often take months, if not years.

Another factor rendering trusts so popular for estate planning purposes, is that it can also potentially be utilised as an effective estate duty planning tool. Bearing in mind that the first R3.5 million of one’s estate is exempt from estate duty (levied at 20%), an individual may be well advised to sell his/her estate to a trust when it is still relatively small.

For example, if Mr A has an estate of R1 million and he were to sell this on loan account to a trust of which his dependents and family members (and even he himself) are the beneficiaries, he will still own an asset of R1 million (being the loan claim) in his own hands in 20 years’ time when he dies. However, his erstwhile estate, consisting of property and share investments, are by now worth R5 million, albeit owned by the trust. Besides therefore that Mr A’s family is able to still access the investments through the trustees of the trust being mandated and obliged to care for their financial needs, Mr A has also saved on estate duty of R300,000 (being 20% of the amount in excess of R3.5 million).

The law of trusts is not open to abuse though, and it is important that appointed trustees of a trust act in the interests of the beneficiaries, as well as exhibit a degree of independence. Trustees who do not act independently and in the interest of the trust beneficiaries (and who are merely ‘puppets’ of an individual) will lead thereto that the trust in itself be disregarded and seen as a sham. The trust must therefore operate as a distinctly separate estate.

For estate planning purposes, as well as the proper administration of a trust (which can be fraught of potential pitfalls) it is best to seek the help of an advisor before embarking on any such exercise. One should further be mindful of the deliberations of the Davis Tax Committee, which is considering sweeping changes to the use of the trust instrument in specifically the estate duty context.

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).