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2018 National Budget: What To expect?

The South African economy has experienced undue economic pressure and decreasing investor confidence. 

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Pressure was undoubtedly on the South African National Treasury to take active steps to address short-comings and enable growth within the local economy.

“The anticipation of 2018/2019 Annual Budget Speech is growing; with the hope that it will bring improvement in the economy, address key challenges and create tangible solutions for consumers and businesses alike,” says Hugo van Zyl: FNB Fiduciary Specialist.

With the upcoming Budget Speech on the 21st of February; we looked to the past year and highlight a few key financial key points that may still affect consumers this year:

Personal Income Tax

In 2017, minor adjustments were made to this tax bracket last year; with 45% for taxable income above R1.5 million being introduced. This increase in taxes payable for income earners above the R1.5 million income thresholds saw significant pressure on tax payers having to manage an existing budget with lower disposable income.

We foresee that the Personal income tax rate will remain the same for this financial year.  With this in mind we encourage tax payers to avoid incurring unnecessary debt and ensure that one’s debt to income ratio is minimized at all costs.

Higher Education

Last year, an additional R5 billion was added to the previously announced R32 billion. Approximately 30% of South African parents save for their child’s education on a yearly basis. With the cost of education rising by about 10% each year, parents are encouraged to continue making provision for their children’s future. In addition, the recent funding announcement for free university education to students from poor households in South Africa will be announced in the upcoming budget together with possible tax increases.

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Exercise duty rates for tobacco and alcoholic products

The Sin Tax has increased previously between 6.1% and 9.1%. We anticipate this to also increase as is the case every year. We advise that consumers should consider reducing their consumption to ease budget constraints on their wallets and more importantly, improve their health.

Tax-free Savings Accounts

The annual Tax Free Savings limit increased from R30 000 to R33 000 last year. This was great news for investors and we predict that this will remain the same this year.

The financial year ends on the 28th of February 2018. South Africans still have an opportunity to take advantage of tax free savings, encompassed in the benefit of exemption from taxes like dividends tax, capital gains tax etc. The benefits will give a huge boost to your investment over time. The key to investing is to invest early, stay invested and in time you will reap the rewards, regardless of how much you invest per month.

Dividend Withholding Tax

The rate increased from 15% to 20%, which was put into effect 22 February 2017, and any dividends incurred on or after this date attracted the increased rate. We do not foresee any further change during this Budget speech.

VAT Increase

We predict a possible increase in the VAT rate as it can raise large amounts of revenue. Between 2015 and 2017, the general fuel levy increased by 30c/l. We expect an increase in the fuel levy; but the extent of the increase will depend on whether the VAT rate is increased.

Capital Gains Tax

An increase in the annual inclusion for individuals and special trusts is expected.

Investment overview

Chantal Marx; Head of research FNB Securities says that, “The MTBPS painted a very negative picture of the South African fiscus in October last year, and from an investment perspective, we will be very focused on how government plans to make up what is expected to be a significant revenue shortfall. However, the expenditure component will be equally important.”

Possibilities to increase revenue:

  • Disposing of assets like government’s share in Telkom.
  • Increased taxes:
    • A possible increase in VAT. If this is the case, there could however be some relief for grant recipients through higher grant increases as well as the zero rating of certain items.
    • Fiscal drag (not adjusting tax brackets to compensate for inflation).
    • A possibility of a further increase in the marginal tax rate for the highest income earners.
  • Given the stronger rand, treasury could use the opportunity to raise the fuel levy.

On the expenditure side, the line is even finer and there is very little government can do to limit the states’ spending bill. The wage bill is expected to grow a little ahead of inflation and grant payments could increase to provide relief for possible VAT hikes. Capital expenditure growth is anticipated to remain negative in real terms.

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We anticipate an improvement in deficit targets relative to the MTBPS on the back of revenue raising measures. This will signal a return to fiscal consolidation which is likely to be bond friendly, particularly if enough is done to avert a Moody’s downgrade.

Of course, equities tend to be a bit of a balancing act. On the one side higher tax rates and continued pressure on fixed investment expenditure from government could have a near term dampening growth impact. On the other side however there are a number of underpins for equities. Valuations may be supported by lower risk-free rates (government bond yields) and if South Africa avoids a downgrade from Moody’s, the SARB may feel confident to cut interest rates.

“Given potentially higher business and consumer confidence flowing from fiscal discipline, the longer term growth outlook for the economy is likely to improve and this will ultimately filter through to a better corporate earnings outlook,” concludes Marx.

Agriculture

Comment by Paul Makube, Senior Agricultural Economist at FNB Business says that “the current budget speech comes on the backdrop of renewed pressure on the agriculture industry to accelerate transformation as well as severe drought that is currently ravaging the Western Cape. Confidence in the sector nose-dived last year and further investment has been subdued.”

Makube expects further details on financing models that are envisaged in partnership with the Banking sector as well as the increased allocations for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (DAFF) and the Department of Land and Rural Development (DLRD) for agriculture support and fast racking land reform. The ruling party has prioritised land reform through its resolution on expropriation and it is therefore expected that this will be a bigger focus for the budget.

The quantum is difficult to predict given the tight fiscal situation.

SME’s

Jesse Weinberg, Head of the SME Customer Segment at FNB Business says “Ideally we would want to see continued focus on supporting and growing SME’s in South Africa with funding and reducing compliance requirements, as we have seen in previous budgets.

“Ideally we will see a continued effective channelling of funds through to government programmes, and an increased emphasis on the various programmes and departments working together to deploy these funds. Another theme that we are hoping to see coming through is the focus on reducing regulatory and administrative burdens on small businesses which often presents obstacles that hamper their ability to operate and grow. These include both tax and government compliance requirements,” shares Weinberg.

Please visit the FNB Blog to view the 2018 Budget preview from the FNB Economics team: https://blog.fnb.co.za/2018/02/2018-budget-preview

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3 Stealthy Tax Hikes Payroll Managers And Employees Need To Take Note Of

By Rob Cooper, tax expert at Sage, and chairman of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa

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“Dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.” 

The adage summarises the difficult decisions government and the Finance Minister faced when balancing the country’s books, rescuing state-owned enterprises, and reviving the growth of our economy. Given the economic pressure that most taxpayers are facing, government ideally needed to achieve all of that without direct increases to personal income tax in the most recent Budget Speech.

Personal income tax has comprised at least a third of South Africa’s total tax revenue in recent tax years, despite growing unemployment. The 2019 Budget, presented in February, forecasts that personal income tax will account for nearly 39% of tax collected during the upcoming (2019/20) tax year. Given that we are in an election year and that the tax base is fragile, it’s not surprising that the Finance Minister and the National Treasury avoided direct increases to the statutory tax tables used to calculate PAYE for employees in the budget.

Nonetheless, government has made inflation work in its favour to impose some tax increases by stealth. Here are three ways government is raising more revenue without direct tax increases:

1. Bracket creep

The statutory tax tables used by payrolls and employers have not been changed for 2019/20, nor have the brackets been adjusted for inflation. This effectively amounts to an indirect tax increase that will yield a revenue saving of approximately R12.8 billion for government’s coffers.

It is not unusual for government to use ‘bracket creep’ to effectively raise more revenue. But unlike previous tax years, even low- and middle-income earners are not getting much relief. Rebates and the tax threshold are being increased by small amounts to allow some relief, but many people this year will feel the pain as inflationary salary increases push them into a higher tax bracket.

2. Medical aid credit not adjusted for inflation 

As proposed in the 2018 Budget, the Finance Minister did not apply an inflationary increase to the Medical Tax Credit, which allowed him to raise an extra R1 billion in revenue for the year. Surprisingly, these funds will be allocated to general tax revenue rather than ring-fenced for healthcare. In previous tax years, revenue generated from below-inflation increases on medical scheme credits was used to fund National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot projects.

There is still no clarity on how the NHI is going to be funded except for a general statement that the funding model is a problem for the National Treasury to solve, and that the principles of cross-subsidisation will apply. One wonders if any real progress will be made soon, given the fiscal constraints government faces.

3. Business travel deduction left untouched

The Budget leaves the per-kilometre cost rates used to determine tax deductions for business travel untouched. By not increasing travel rates to account for inflation, government effectively increases income tax collection at the cost of the taxpayer. This will be a blow for people who need to claim from their employers for business travel in their personal vehicles. This change has slipped through largely unnoticed and the budget does not provide numbers for the expected increase in tax revenue.

Closing words

Amid political turmoil and uncertainty, the Finance Minister presented a balanced budget for 2019/20 that offers hope for the future along with some tough love. With government taking steps to accelerate economic growth and improve revenue collection, we should hopefully see a steady improvement in government finances, which will translate into less pressure on the taxpayer in future years.

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Entrepreneur Today

SMEs: Staying On The Right Side Of The Taxman

Remaining SARS compliant can be a constant challenge for small- to medium-enterprises (SMEs), especially when they are trying to focus on growing their businesses and streamlining their operations.

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EasyBiz Managing Director, Gary Epstein, says submitting taxes can be a seamless process that does not have to take up more time than is necessary. “If business owners understand what is required of them and they put a few processes into place to deal with their tax submissions properly, their lives will be so much easier.”

What are the top three considerations for SMEs when submitting tax returns?

“Firstly,” says Epstein, “SARS returns must be accurate and submitted in terms of the relevant Act. Secondly, returns should be submitted and paid on time to avoid unnecessary penalties and interest, and thirdly, business owners must follow up on queries issued by SARS. “Do not ignore these queries, act on them as soon as possible”.

What are the major SARS submission deadlines for SMEs?

Epstein points out that small business owners need to adhere to various tax deadlines, each with their own particular dates for submission. “It is important that business owners diarise the dates (and set advance reminders for themselves) and/or enlist the services of an accountant or financial adviser to help them keep abreast of requirements.”

Value-added tax (VAT)

VAT payments need to be submitted in the VAT period allocated to the business, according to various categories and ending on the last day of a calendar month. This may mean making payments once a month, once every two months, once every six months or annually, depending on the category.

Provisional taxes

Provisional tax should be submitted at the end of August (first provisional) and at the end of February (second provisional) – for February year-end companies.

Employee taxes

In addition to submitting an annual reconciliation (EMP501) for the period 1 March to end of February for Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), Skills Development Levy (SDL) and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), employee tax, in the form of an EMP201 return, needs to be submitted by the seventh of every month.

When can SMEs get extensions and is it worth it?

Epstein says SMEs can apply for various extensions, but these are subject to the Income Tax Act and Tax Administration Act.

“It is best for SMEs to consult their tax professionals to get advice regarding extensions for their businesses.”

What is SARS not flexible about?

SARS is not flexible when it comes to late returns and late payments.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for SME owners to ensure their tax returns are submitted on time. In this way, they will avoid the inconvenience and expense of additional fines and interest,” notes Epstein.

What skills do SMEs need in their organisations to be able to submit to SARS efficiently?

Business owners often don’t have the time or expertise to deal with tax submissions throughout the year. If the business cannot afford to employ a full-time accountant or financial services expert, it would do well to outsource its tax requirements to a registered tax practitioner.

“I would recommend that even if they are not submitting the tax returns themselves, business owners should have a broad understanding of the tax regulations and what is expected of them. There is a lot of helpful information on the various Acts and tax requirements on SARS’ website,” says Epstein.

How does the right software help SMEs remain SARS compliant?

SME’s (and their accountants’) jobs can be made easier by using reliable accounting software to calculate accurate VAT reports. These reports are only as accurate as the data entered into them, which means care needs to be taken when inputting data into the accounting programme. Epstein says a good accounting software package must be reliable, easy to use and functional.

“SMEs need to check that the software has thorough reporting capabilities and can interface with other software solutions. Of course, it is also important to find out whether the software is locally supported by the vendor or not.”

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Entrepreneur Today

4 Dangers Of Business Under-insurance

A common short-term insurance peril that many SMEs face when submitting a claim following an insured event is the risk of being underinsured.

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Malesela Maupa, Head of Products and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, many small business owners mistakenly believe that by merely having a short-term insurance policy in place they are adequately protected against unforeseen events.

“This is technically correct provided that the business is covered for the full replacement value of the items insured. However, in circumstances where the sum insured does not cover the full replacement value or material loss of the item insured, the business is underinsured,” explains Maupa, as he unpacks the dangers of business underinsurance:

1. Financial loss

The most common risk is financial loss on the part of the business. If the business is underinsured or the indemnity period understated, the short-term insurance policy will only pay out the sum insured for the stated indemnity period as stated in the schedule, with the business owner having to provide for the shortfall. This often leads to cash flow challenges, impacting profit margins or rendering it difficult for the business to recover following the financial loss.

2. Reputational damage

Should an underinsured business not have sufficient funds to replace a key business activity or critical component following a loss, this may impact its ability to fulfil its contractual obligations, leading to a loss of business or market share, and irreparable reputational damage in the worst-case scenario.

3. Legal action

A small business also faces the risk of customers or clients taking legal action against it, should it fail to deliver on goods and services following a loss or be unable to honour its financial commitments that they committed to prior to the loss.

4. Survival of the business

A catastrophic event such as fire, which could result in the loss of stock or company equipment and documentation, could threaten the survival of a small business that is not yet fully established, if the business assets are not adequately insured.

Working with an experienced short-term insurance broker or insurer is essential when taking up short-term insurance to ensure that business contents are covered for their full replacement value.

Furthermore, depending on the nature of the business or item insured, the policy should be reviewed on a regular basis to avoid underinsurance as the value of items often change overtime due to fluctuations in economic activity. Where it’s necessary, evaluation certificates need to be kept up to date.

“Lastly, SMEs should ensure that the sum insured does not exceed the replacement value, which would lead to over insurance. Should a business submit a claim following a loss, the insurer would only pay out the replacement value, regardless of the higher sum insured,” concludes Maupa.

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