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InnoCircle recently hosted a webinar with Dr Adriana Marais to discuss the link between the vision and mission of the Mars One project and the imminent Africa-first Aerospace Accelerator #Africa4Future. African innovators in the tech sector have 4 days left to apply.

Dr Adriana Marais is a theoretical physicist who has made it her life’s mission to embark on the one-way trip to Mars in order to establish life on the surface of another planet. As Head of Innovation at SAP Africa she is passionate about exploring innovative applications of emerging technologies to challenges facing the continent.

Mars One is a foundation that will establish permanent human life on Mars. Human settlement on Mars is possible today with existing technologies. The first footprint on Mars and lives of the crew thereon will captivate and inspire generations and it is this project that Marais is part of. She is one of 50 men and 50 women selected as part of the Mars 100, 100 people that have been chosen from a pool of 202,586 applicants to proceed to the next round and are one step closer to becoming the first humans on Mars.

The #Africa4Future Aerospace Accelerator is the first of its kind on the African continent and post the application deadline on 30 November, 10 startups will be selected to join the programme which kicks off on January 15th. Selected teams will receive access to industry-leading experts, feedback from top engineers, a showcase at the Paris International Airshow in 2019 and a potential opportunity to launch a collaboration project in partnership with key Airbus departments. The selected teams will also receive space within MEST Incubators across Africa during the programme.

InnoCircle spoke to Dr Adriana Marais on the link between the #Africa4Future initiative and the Mars mission.

“This is an era of rapid change but also an era that we should be extremely excited to be living in,” states Dr Adriana Marais, “With improved technology comes the capacity to do things that have never been done before. We are the group of humans that will witness the first journey of humans to Mars and the first establishment of an off-world settlement on the surface of the planet Mars before 2030.”

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

The Foundation for Space Development, where Dr Marais is Director, is planning an overwinter research expedition to Antarctica in 2020. Antarctica is the perfect simulation of a Martian habitat where explorers will experience real isolation and harsh living conditions. Each explorer will need to contribute to the research community. Projects will range from the kind of tech needed to survive in hostile environments and extend to research, wellness and entertainment. Technologies will involve the production of the basic human needs like power, air, water management systems, efficient food production in harsh conditions, drones to explore the environment and secure communication capabilities.

“Exploration drives innovation and that’s exactly what thinking around startup ideas in the Aerospace industry are going to simulate,” adds Dr Marais, “New knowledge, new growth and new ideas. We need the creative thinking borne of an idea of surviving in a harsh environment. This out-of-the-box thinking is exactly what we need to explore and also what we need to create a brighter future here on Earth.”

She adds: “The Indian Space Agency in 2015 launched a Mars orbital mission for $100 million, which involved a super drone that orbits around the planet, doing imaging of the atmosphere rather than the surface. In this way, developing countries are proving that we can do space cheaper and better than before.”

The perfect platform to test Aerospace ideas is, of course, the #Africa4Future Accelerator. This joint accelerator program betweenAirbus’ global aerospace accelerator BizLab and Make-IT in Africa, a programme by the German Agency for International Cooperation(GIZ), will be implemented by MEST and InnoCircle, two organisations with a significant presence and deep knowledge of entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa, this year.

For this second edition, the call is on African tech startups that are actively working on solutions related to unmanned logistics and remote sensing technology, including automation and drones, electrification, blockchain, artificial intelligence, data analytics and material composites and manufacturing.

“The multidisciplinary approach to identifying challenges and the recommended solutions in Africa – the combination of aerospace technology with agriculture, health or data analytics, opens the world for more cost-effective solutions to global problems in all sectors,” adds Karen Eksteen, co-founder of InnoCircle.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

“Our experience in working in the global tech startup scene in combination with a strong African network and a solid understanding of the African Tech ecosystem, is a good match for the objectives of Airbus Bizlab and the GIZ. They understand the potential of Africa as an emerging market for Aerospace technology and sought local implementation partners. Our unique value proposition in combination with the infrastructure of MEST Incubator, a ten-year-old Pan-African initiative, made us a perfect fit,” states Ellen Fischat, co-founder of InnoCircle.

“I look forward to following the progress of this programme, because I think it’s going to be an excellent way to have some insight into the amazing innovations in the Aerospace field happening around the continent. I look forward to seeing more of this,” concludes Dr Adriana Marais.

Startups can submit applications for the program until 30th November 2018 via https://www.airbus-bizlab.com/africa4future

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Entrepreneur Today

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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