If you’re a small business owner, it’s likely that you’ve never had to deal with a change in the VAT rate before and don’t know where to start to get your systems and processes VAT-ready, without impacting your cash flow and operations.
Here are a few tips to get your small business VAT-ready, come 1 April:
Test your operation
If you are a small business that still uses manual processes like spreadsheets to calculate and record VAT, consider creating dummy sheets and invoices to ensure you are processing the additional VAT correctly and that you can process transactions at 14% on 31 March and 15% on 1 April.
Also consider that, if a customer returns a product on 1 April that they bought on 31 March, it will need to be refunded at the old VAT rate.
NOTE: From 1 April, all receipts, invoices, quotes, adverts, credit and debit notes must reflect the new rate, so test your systems beforehand to make sure there aren’t any errors.
Understand time of supply
The transaction date, or time of supply, is probably the biggest consideration for businesses when applying VAT to sales. The VAT Act stipulates that the time of supply will be either when an invoice is issued or when payment is received – whichever happens first.
For example, if you invoice for a sale on 31 March but are only paid on 2 April, the VAT rate of 14% will apply. If you receive payment on 1 April but have not yet invoiced for the sale, then VAT should be charged at 15%.
NOTE: Consult the VAT Act for rate-specific rules applicable to contracts and supplies starting before and ending on or after 1 April.
Automate where possible
Cloud-based, automated accounting solutions, like Sage One, will be VAT ready, come 1 April. Businesses using these solutions don’t have to worry about staying on top of the different VAT rates because the system will automatically generate the correct VAT invoice, quote and debit or credit note.
NOTE: All transactions are stored and readily accessible in the cloud, from anywhere, ensuring businesses are compliant with SARS and VAT laws.
Educate your colleagues
It’s crucial that your team members know how to raise invoices and credit notes that are processed before and after 1 April, and how to process refunds for sales that occurred before this date, as these will attract different VAT rates.
Adjust your pricing
The VAT Act states that displayed pricing and adverts must include VAT (unless the product is zero-rated). Some small businesses might want to close shop for the day to adjust their shelf and online pricing to reflect the new rate in time for the new business week on Monday.
However, those that are unable to do this can display a notice at the till point, stating that prices do not include VAT at the new rate and will be adjusted at the tills.
NOTE: This grace period is only in place until 31 May, after which all pricing must include the new rate.
Check your own quotes and invoices
Any quote or invoice you receive for stock purchased after 1 April should reflect the new VAT rate. You’ll need to submit this documentation when claiming input tax. If your supplier does not calculate VAT correctly, you will be liable for the shortfall, which could impact your cash flow.
NOTE: You will also incur penalties if you under- or over-declare VAT on your VAT201 return – another reason why automating the accounting process is a good idea.
Get reporting ready
The next VAT201 return you submit to SARS will be more complicated because you will need to calculate input and output tax at different rates, not to mention the apportionment rate that will need to be calculated for contracts and services taking place before and after 1 April.
NOTE: Again, automated solutions can take care of this for you but, if you’re using manual processes, you might need to consult an accountant to make sure you’re not over or under reporting VAT on your reconciliations.
Complying with the new VAT rate is a massive administrative task for businesses of all sizes – and they don’t have much time to prepare. To find out how Sage can help your business with compliance, click here.
Reimagine The Use Of Technology
The phenomenon of ‘big data’ is rapidly catching up with the world of tax.
Sage Reports On How Payroll Compliance Is To Come Under Scrutiny
Expect the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to clamp down on non-compliant business and personal taxpayers as government struggles to fill a large budget deficit says Rob Cooper, tax expert and Director of Legislation at Sage.
Ensure that your payroll is fully compliant with the laws and regulations around collection of PAYE, as government looks to plug revenue holes.
While you may have previously gotten away with non-compliance, whether unwittingly or otherwise, the law is tightening around payroll compliance and you need to be prepared. Government is focused on acquiring funding for infrastructure investment and social spending, but what does this mean for your business?
Tax compliance ruled with a firmer hand
Accounting for more than a third of tax revenue, personal income tax is the single largest contributor to fiscal revenue. SARS has done a good job over the years of bringing employers into the tax net and catching those that don’t comply with the tax regulations and legislation.
Those few companies that are not in full compliance can expect to see the tax authority take an even more robust approach to enforcing compliance.
Timely and accurate submissions keep you in the clear
To remain compliant, businesses must ensure that they register all employees for tax, declare the correct earnings for all employees and include correct calculations of other earnings, deductions (such as PAYE and UIF), and contributions (such as retirement funding or UIF contributions) in their payroll. They must also make sure that annual returns are filed and submitted promptly and accurately.
The risks of getting it wrong include:
- Interest or fines by authorities (SARS, department of labour, a labour court etc.)
- Imprisonment in cases of fraud or extreme negligence.
What’s more, compliance is complicated by annual changes in payroll legislative requirements.
Automation solves compliance challenges
Because compliance is complex and the risks of non-compliance are high, even smaller South African businesses can no longer rely on spreadsheets and other manual methods to do their payroll calculations and file returns.
Automated solutions are becoming more essential for keeping reliable records and performing accurate payroll calculations.
Payroll automation software — with solutions available for businesses from start-ups to medium-sized companies and larger enterprises — takes care of calculating the complex formulas for the various deductions, generating compliance reports, and keeping accurate records.
That makes it easier to perform accurate calculations, file submissions on time and generate reports and electronic payslips.
Eliminate manual paperwork
Payroll software takes the pain out of compliance, allowing you to focus your energy on strategy, customers, and employee engagement rather than on red-tape.
While mistakes in record keeping and compliance can result in punitive penalties and hurt the company’s brand, an efficient payroll system enhances staff morale, helps to reduce the risks of fraud, and boosts an organisation’s reputation.
It is a worthwhile investment in the business and a foundational element of good governance and sound financial control.
What Should I Know About Dealing With Tax When It Comes To My Business?
If you want your business to comply with tax legislation and avoid a visit from SARS, consider implementing the information in this comprehensive guide on tax for your small business.
Content in This Guide
- Should Your Registered Business Submit A Tax Return?
- Different Types Of Businesses
- Different Forms Of Business Tax
- Small Business & Tax
- Tax For Part-Time & Contract Workers
What is business tax?
Business tax refers to a tax levied by the South African Revenue Services (SARS) on the profits made by companies. Small Businesses are required to follow the same tax processes as medium or large businesses, but, small businesses often experience the tax process as stressful.
The complex and strict nature of tax returns is often intimidating and quite a burden to small business.
The information in this guide is aimed at alleviating tax-related stress for you and your small business.
Should Your Registered Business Submit A Tax Return?
The Small Business Corporation (SBC) tax rates for the financial years ending on any date between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017 are as follows:
- 0 – 75 000 – 0% of taxable income
- 75 001 – 365 000 – 7% of taxable income above 75 000
- 365 001 – 550 000 – 20 300 + 21% of taxable income above 365 000
- 550 001 and above – 59 150 + 28% of taxable income above 550 000.
If your business is not yet generating an income, you must still register your business as a tax payer and submit a zero return.
Related: Entrepreneurs And Tax: 101
Different Types Of Business Entities
There are various types of business entities all of which will have a unique way of dealing with tax; here are the main types:
1. Sole Proprietor
A sole proprietorship, also known as a sole trader, is a type of business entity which is owned and run by one individual and where there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The sole proprietor accepts all risks and rewards of the business, occasionally having to supplement the business’s profits with personal funds.
However, the SARS recommend that you register your business as a tax payer. Businesses with a turnover of under R100 000 usually do not pay tax, but it should still be registered with SARS.
A partnership is the business relationship that exists between two or more people who have come together to carry out a trade, business or a profession. A partnership is also not considered a separate legal person or taxpayer, which means each partner, is taxed on their portion of the profits.
3. Close Corporation (CC)
A CC is similar to a private company and is a legal entity, which means it is a taxpayer in its own right. The minimum number of people in a CC is one and the maximum is 10. From a tax perspective, SARS treats a CC like a company.
4. Private Company
SARS treats a private company as a separate legal entity and it must be registered as a taxpayer in its own right. It has separate rights and duties from its owners. The owners of this type of business are shareholders and they don’t necessarily have to manage the company, in order to own it.
A ‘co-operative’ is defined as any association of persons registered under Section 27 of the Co-operatives Act 91 of 1981 or Section 7 of the Co-operatives Act 14 of 2005.
Related: Tax Basics For Business Owners
Different Forms of Business Tax
Small Business Tax
Small Business Tax is typically the best route for a smaller company, as it’s frequently taxed on the basis of a progressive rate system.
This means that tax is calculated at a rate of 0% on the first R 75 000 of taxable income, 7% on taxable income in excess of R 75 000, 20 300 + 21% of taxable income above 365 000 and a rate of 59 150 + 28% of taxable income above 550 000.
Corporate Income Tax
Corporate Income Tax is a tax implemented on businesses resident, incorporated under the law and managed in the Republic of South Africa. The rate for Corporate Income Tax is 28%.
Micro businesses with a turnover of less than R1 million per annum qualify for Turnover Tax, which reduces and simplifies its tax compliance and administrative procedures.
To do a quick test to see if you qualify for turnover tax, click here.
For more information on turnover tax, click here.
Dividends Tax is a tax charged at 15% on shareholders when dividends are paid to them. For more information on Dividends Tax, please visit here.
Small Business & Tax
How to Register For Income Tax
Once you, as a taxpayer, launch your business you should register with your local SARS office in order to receive an income tax reference number.
Income tax requires registration with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Once you’ve registered for income tax you can then register for Value-Added Tax (VAT) or Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), without going through a lengthy registration process. Registering for income taxes allows you to access eFiling.
Corporate Income Tax was recently refreshed, offering you a new Income Tax Return for Companies (ITR14), which aims to improve efficiency and compliance. To find out more about the new enhanced ITR14 and what you must do, click here.
Employers are required to deduct employees’ tax (Pay-As-You-Earn) from the earnings of employees and pay it over to SARS on a monthly basis. A business that pays salaries, wages and other remuneration to any of its employees above the tax thresholds (R54 200 for individuals under the age of 65 and R84 200 for individuals aged 65 or older) must register with SARS for employees’ tax purposes. This is done by completing an EMP 101 form and submitting it to SARS.
Once registered, the employer will receive a monthly return (EMP 201) that must be completed and submitted together with the deducted employees’ tax within seven days of the month following the month for which the tax was deducted. Further information about the deduction of PAYE can be found in the Guide for employers in respect of employee’s tax on the SARS website.
SITE (Standard Income Tax on Employees) is merely a method that means employees who earn less than a certain amount, pay income tax as a full and final liability on the information to the specific employer. SITE applies to individuals:
- Whose net remuneration does not exceed R120 000 annually
- Whom do not receive a travel allowance
- Whom do not receive any other income
Sole Proprietor & Tax
What Expenses Can A Sole Proprietor Claim Against Income?
A sole proprietor can claim all typical business expenses. The sole proprietorship itself is not separately taxed on its income. Instead, the sole proprietor reports business income and expenses on his or her own tax return.
What Are Considered As Business Expenses?
Business expenses, also referred to as operating expenses, are the ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in the operation of the business. Don’t forget expenditure must be ‘in the production of income’.
Typical overheads could include:
- Accounting and bookkeeping costs.
- Internet: Costs to run and maintain the system.
- Insurance costs.
- Licences: Those that apply to the business.
- Legal fees: Costs incurred when obtaining legal advice.
- Maintenance and repairs.
- Motor vehicle costs: Maintenance, repairs and licences (costs should be allocated separately from personal running expenses).
- Postage including stamps and mailing expenses.
- Printing and stationery: Letterheads, business cards.
- Delivery and freight.
- Depreciation: For business assets that lose value while in use by a business.
- Entertainment: Expenses – normally food and beverages paid for by the business to entertaining people important to the business, such as customers and suppliers.
- Electricity and water: Costs associated with the business’s premises and the equipment use.
- Rent/Rates and taxes: For leasing your business’s premises.
- Rent: For any leased equipment, signage used by the business.
- Research and Development.
- Security: Costs for security services such as alarm monitoring, armed response, armed guards.
- Subcontractors: Other parties that have provided services for your business related to the product, services and sales.
- Telephone and Fax/Communication: Fixed line and cellular phone costs.
Working From Home
You can claim all your business expenses but there are specific requirements for claiming a deduction for occupying a portion of your home for the purposes of trade. This means that a portion of your home must be specifically equipped to accommodate and support your specific trade and must be used regularly and exclusively to run the business. Your duties must also be mainly performed in that portion of your home.
What Are ‘Home Office Expenses’?
Typical home office expenses include:
- Rent on the premises
- Interest on the mortgage bond
- The cost of repairs to the premises
- Electricity, water, rates and taxes
- Cleaning costs
When you claim a deduction for these expenses, they need to be in proportion to the floor area of your home office against the total floor area of your home. Keep an accurate record of all expenses, as SARS may want to check the information.
Related: Ways To Save More Tax
Tax For Part-Time & Contract Workers
Tax For Part-Time Workers
As long as the company who contracts you issues an IRP5 at the end of each financial year, you do not need a pay slip. But, you must invoice them each month and obviously keep a record of each invoice payment that you receive.
The invoice acts as your ‘payslip’. As you work only for one client, even though you work on a contractual basis, you are not considered an independent contractor as you do not have multiple clients.
Usually, employers are not liable to pay employees’ tax to the South African Revenue Services (SARS) in respect of payments made to independent contractors. But, due to the breadth of the SARS definition of an independent contractor, employers may find that they are liable for employees’ tax payable in respect of independent contractors, and for the interest and penalties associated with the failure to pay over employees’ tax, so it is easier for the employer to pay tax on the contractor’s behalf.
If employees’ tax is deducted, then it is mandatory for the contractor to be issued with an IRP5 certificate at the end of the tax year. But, what is extremely important is that the gross income paid to the independent contractor must be disclosed under code 3616 (independent contractors), and not 3601 (income – taxable).
If A Sole Proprietor Is Employed On A Contract Basis For Three Months, Do I Have To Pay PAYE And UIF On Their Behalf?
Most employers are clear about their responsibility to deduct PAYE from their permanent staff, but the waters tend to get a little muddy when it comes to contractors and casual or part-time staff:
How To Tax An Independent Contractor Or Sole Proprietor
An independent contractor should have a contract of service in place stating that he/she is an independent contractor committed to delivering a specific end-product or service. This means that they are then exempt from PAYE deductions. However, if the contractor is paid on a regular basis (weekly or monthly for example), or works in a regulated environment in terms of fixed hours and supervision, he/she is then excluded and PAYE needs to be deducted from their income.
If you have independent contractors working for you under subcontractor agreements, they can be made responsible for their own tax payments, thus relieving you of the hassle of having to send in monthly PAYE for people who work for you on a contract basis. But, make sure that you have proper contract agreements in place before you wash your hands off the responsibility of contractors’ PAYE.
SARS can still query why you haven’t paid PAYE for these contractors, if it becomes evident that they haven’t been paying tax themselves; it pays to have all the paperwork in place.
It’s also a good idea to ask short-term contractors to include their tax registration number on their invoice as an additional measure to ensure that they are indeed registered for, and pay, tax.
From a casual or part-time employee point of view, bear in mind that you have to deduct 25% tax from casual workers if you pay them more than R65 a day.
As an employer of staff, SARS requires that you register for your employees’ tax. Effectively, this makes you, the employer, an agent of Government, deducting from the earnings of your employees and paying this tax over to SARS each month.
This functions as credit that is set off against the final tax liability of your employees, which is determined once a year. Employee tax includes SITE (Standard Income Tax for Employees) and PAYE.
You have to register as an employer for employee tax if you pay salaries that exceed the tax thresholds. In other words, your employees become liable for tax if their annual salary is R40 000 for individuals under 65 years and R65 000 for individuals 65 years and older, and need to be taxed accordingly.
Members And Directors Are Employees
Bear in mind that as a member and/or director of a company, you are classified as an employee. This means that your company needs to register for PAYE even if you are the only employee.
Failure to deduct and withhold PAYE on remuneration due to directors of companies will result in the imposition of penalties, currently imposed at a rate of 10%, as well as interest.
How To Register For Employee Tax
So, how do you go about registering for employee tax? Firstly, you need to complete an EMP101 form and submit it to SARS. This form is available at your local SARS office or online at www.sars.gov.za. In it, you need to include information relating to your name and the name(s) of your partners if you operate in sole proprietorship or partnership, or the name of your company. You will also need to submit your street and postal address, business telephone numbers and the number of people that you employ.
Registration as an employer is free. The Receiver will let you know when it has received the forms and may ask for additional information before registering you as an employer.
SARS will let you know which Revenue office you are registered with and provide you with the latest EMP 10 – Guidelines for Employers book, which contains the relevant tax tables for you to work out how much tax you need to deduct from each employee’s salary every month.
Once you are registered, SARS will send you a monthly return (an EMP201) and it now becomes your responsibility to complete and submit this form, every month, together with the amount of tax you deducted from employees’ salaries. You need to do this within seven days after the end of the relevant month.
SARS will send you a receipt, which you need to keep on file. Once a year, you will be required to add up all the PAYE tax paid and fill in an IRP501 form and submit this to SARS. At the end of February each year, you will need to give each employee an IRP5 form which shows how much tax they have paid in that year.
Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)
You will also need to register for UIF, whether or not you employ staff. It applies to all employers and workers (except those working less than 24 hours a month), learners, public servants, foreigners working on contract, workers who get a monthly State pension and workers who only earn commission.
The fund makes short-term provision for individuals who become unemployed, or are unable to work because of illness, maternity or adoption leave. It also provides financial relief to the dependants of deceased contributors.
Register For UIF
As an employer, it is your responsibility to register with UIF and make the monthly payments. These include a 1% payment from you (based on your employees’ individual salaries).
Each individual employee needs to make a further 1% payment, but it is your duty to deduct this amount from their salary and pay it to UIF, together with your contribution, on a monthly basis to SARS if you are registered for PAYE; or directly to the UIF if you are not.
Register your business by completing a UF8 form, and each new employee needs to be registered using a UI-19 form. You can obtain these forms from the Department of Labour.
SARS has provided guidelines in order to assist employers and independent contractors. These are available on the SARS website here: www.sars.gov.za under ‘Interpretation Notes/Income Tax’. If in doubt, it is almost certainly best to take advice from a tax consultant.
Related: Do You Know Your Taxpayer Rights?
When To Register To Pay VAT
Value-Added Tax (VAT) is an indirect tax, based on consumption of goods and services in the economy. Registered businesses pay VAT and charge VAT on all goods and services.
A self-assessment of your business will determine how you choose to charge, collect and pay VAT. This allows your business to determine its liability or refund of tax. It adopts a credit input method which allows businesses (vendors) to deduct the VAT incurred on business expenses (input tax) from the VAT collected on the supplies made by the business (output tax). In other words, the burden of the VAT is on the final consumer while maintaining neutrality in the business chain.
For smaller companies trying to attract business from big companies it’s advisable to register for VAT, as larger companies prefer to work with registered VAT users. The only way to obtain a VAT number is to register with SARS.
When Is VAT Compulsory?
You will be liable to register for VAT if you earn an income, through your business, from selling goods, or fees earned from services supplied, is more than R1 million in any consecutive period of 12 months, or will exceed that amount in terms of a contractual obligation in writing.
Non-resident suppliers of certain electronic services are also liable to register for VAT, if the fees earned from these electronic services exceeds R50 000.
If you do not receive a large number of VAT invoices and turnover is below the required amount, then it would be advisable not to register for VAT.
Did You Know?
Businesses registered for VAT on a voluntary basis are referred to as vendors. As a vendor with a VAT number and if your business turnover is below the threshold, you must still submit a return, even if the VAT amount on the return is zero.
How To Register For VAT
It is very easy to register for a VAT online. Here are the steps to follow:
- Go to http://www.efiling.gov.za/
- Click on the red button on the top right hand corner that says, “Register”.
- Three options will appear in the middle of the page: For Individuals, For Tax Practitioners or For Organisations. Click on “For Organisations”.
The next screen will provide step-by-step instructions that will ask you to:
- Read the terms and conditions and accept it; before you are guided through the registration process.
- SARS will ask you about who you are (personal information).
- The website will request information about your business.
- You will have the opportunity to register for e-filing for specific tax returns. SARS accepts activation requests for VAT. Please make sure that you have the relevant tax reference numbers handy.
Once you have read and understood the terms and conditions and selected the box which accepts terms and conditions you will go to the next screen, which will request you to provide:
- Login (your login name will create a unique SARS e-Filing login name):
- Confirm the password
- Provide a password hint
- Security question – (such as what is your mother’s name)
- The answer to the security question
- Identification type – South African ID or passport
- Your ID number.
Related: Filing Your Annual Tax Return
Is Insurance Tax Deductible?
“The only insurance contributions that are tax deductible for the employee are RA’s (Retirement Annuity) or pension fund contributions. Dread disease cover, life insurance, disability and provident funds contributions are not tax deductible for the employee,” explains Lerato Slater, a consultant at SARS.
With regard to RA’s, the amount paid by a company is considered a fringe benefit. The contribution shown on the tax certificate issued by the RA provider to the employee is deductible within the limits set by SARS.
The employer’s contribution to the fund is tax deductible to a maximum of 20% of the total salary roll. The employee cannot claim any rebate from SARS on provident fund contributions. For details with regard to the tax deductions you can refer to the Income Tax Act, 1962 (Act 58 of 1962).
Are Marketing Expenses Tax Deductible?
“Marketing expenses pertaining to direct production of income are tax deductible as long as you have proof that the expense is connected to income. If you are paying commission to a third party this would also be tax deductible as it is considered an expense,” explains DJS Tax Specialists, director, David Smith.
In order for you to successfully claim an expense as a deduction for income tax purposes, there must have been a clear intention for this expense to have resulted in you earning taxable income from this expense.
Claiming of expenses is regulated by Section 11(a) of the Income Tax Act. The so-called “general deduction formula” is used to determine taxable income derived by any person who is trading.
A trade according to the Act includes every profession, trade, business, employment, calling, occupation or venture, including the letting of any property and the use of, or the grant of permission to use, any patent as defined in the Patents Act.
Use A Tax Specialist
You can also acquire the services of a tax specialist who can formulate an appropriate tax strategy that is aligned with your overall business strategy and the tax challenges facing your business.
SARS tax consultants (either at their offices or via the phone) can help you calculate your tax and answer any questions that you may have regarding your business. Large accounting companies or smaller firms can assist depending on your requirements, but will charge for their professional services. Contact the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants for more details.
Be sure to choose someone sufficiently qualified, and who won’t leave you in trouble with the taxman. Do not assume that because a practitioner is registered with SARS, they have enough experience to advise you. Call references to gauge service delivery or ask trusted associates for recommendations.
Do all businesses need to register for tax? If I have five employees earning ±R2 500, how do I handle my salaries and do I have to submit SITE and PAYE for myself and employees?
According to the SARS Tax Guide for Small Businesses as soon as you commence your business you are required to register with your local SARS office and obtain an income tax reference number. You should register within 60 days of commencing the business by completing an IT 77 form (available on the SARS website www.sars.gov.za).
The remuneration of directors of private companies is subject to employees’ tax. A formula is used to determine a deemed monthly remuneration upon which the company must deduct employees’ tax in the instance of the director’s remuneration only being determined late in the year of assessment or in the following year.
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