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Budget 2017 – Brace Yourself For Tax Increases All Round

Against a challenging global and South African fiscal backdrop, the Minister of Finance articulated a balanced budget which maintains the country’s spending commitments whilst at the same time, supporting its long-term fiscal sustainability.

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Against a challenging global and South African fiscal backdrop, the Minister of Finance articulated a balanced budget which maintains the country’s spending commitments whilst at the same time, supporting its long-term fiscal sustainability.

For the first time since 2009/10, tax revenue growth has not matched economic growth – R28 billion additional taxes need to be raised and collectively, the tax proposals announced in Budget 2017 are aimed at achieving just that.   

Overall, the Budget contains a significant amount of tax proposals and underlying these proposals, are two of the fundamental principles of our tax system, namely:

  • Equity (namely, taxpayers with the same level of income should pay the same level of tax and our tax system should be progressive and ensure that those with higher incomes bear a higher proportion of the tax burden); and
  • Efficiency (namely, SA should collect all the taxes which are rightfully due to it and revenue should be raised in a manner that does not deter economic growth, investment and job creation).

Related: 7 Top Tax Tips For SMEs

The main tax proposals include the following:

Increases in taxes for individuals and trusts 

As expected, higher-income earners will pay higher taxes, come the new tax year. A new top personal income tax rate of 45% will apply to taxpayers with taxable income above R1.5million per tax year. Approximately, 100 000 taxpayers will be affected by the new bracket.

The tax rebates and the levels of all the taxable income brackets, will be increased by 1% from 1 March 2017. However, since the increase is below the expected level of inflation, this provides limited real relief to taxpayers. 

The combined effect of all these adjustments is that individuals at higher-income levels will be paying more tax. This is in line with the expectation that an equitable and progressive tax system should impose a similar tax burden on individuals at similar income levels (i.e. those with higher income, should pay higher taxes).

These increases of course also increase the effective capital gains tax rate.

Increase in dividends tax rate from 15% to 20%

Increasing the top marginal tax rate without concurrently increasing the dividend withholding tax rate would create tax arbitrage opportunity for some individuals (i.e. to earn their income in the form of dividends rather than salaries). It is for this reason, that it is proposed to increase the dividend withholding tax rate from 15% to 20%. 

Medical aid tax credit increase 

medical-aid-tax

The medical tax credit will be increased in line with inflation. It was however cautioned that this tax credit may possibly be reduced in future as part of the funding framework for National Health Insurance. 

Transfer duty

Transfer duty relief to be provided in the affordable housing market by increasing the threshold at which transfer duty becomes payable from R750 000 to R900 000. This proposal eliminates transfer duty on properties below R900 000.

Related: Ways To Save More Tax

Increase in annual allowance for tax free savings accounts from R30 000 to R33 000

These tax free savings accounts were introduced on 1 March 2015 with an initial annual allowance of R30 000 and it was planned that this annual allowance would increase with inflation. It is accordingly proposed that the annual allowance increases to R33 000 per annum. 

Increase in the general fuel levy and the Road Accident Fund levy 

Another increase which will hit the pockets of the man on the street directly is the proposed increases in the fuel levies. 

These increases will be two-fold, namely (1) an increase in the general fuel levy of 30 cents/litre and (2) an increase in the RAF levy of 9 cents/litre (this comes after a large increase in the fuel levy last during 2015/16).

Increase in excise duties for alcohol and tobacco, of between 6% and 10%. 

Sugar tax to be implemented

Sugar tax

Further consultations are currently taking place on the tax on sugary beverages. It is expected that the tax will be implemented later this year once details are finalised and the legislation is passed. 

Employees’ tax proposals 

Tax deduction for retirement fund contributions – applying the R350 000 cap for PAYE purposesThe much-anticipated changes to the retirement fund tax regime became effective on 1 March 2016. In particular, the new regime places a maximum limit on the tax deduction which taxpayers may claim in respect of contributions made by them to retirement funds (i.e. the deduction is limited to 27.5% of the higher of the individual’s remuneration; or taxable income, but capped at R350 000 per annum).  

It is currently not clear how the overall annual cap of R350 000 on contributions to pension, provident and retirement annuity funds should be applied when determining monthly employees’ tax. It is proposed that the amount of R350 000 be spread over the tax year, which is a more prudent approach. 

  • Employees’ tax and reimbursement of travel expensesTo simplify the calculation and administration of employees’ tax, it is proposed that only the portion of the travel expenses reimbursed by an employer that exceeds the rate or distance fixed by the Minister of Finance by notice in the Gazette in terms of the current law, should be regarded as “remuneration” and hence be subject to employees’ tax.
  • Increasing the fringe-benefit exemption for employer-provided bursariesCurrently, if an employee earns income (referred to as a “remuneration proxy”) of less than R400 000 per tax year and his/her employer provides a bursary to his/her relative, the value of the bursary, up to a limit, will not be taxable in the hands of the employee. It is proposed to increase this remuneration proxy figure for employees from R400 000 to R600 000 per annum, and to increase the monetary limits for such bursaries from R15 000 to R20 000 for education below NQF level 7, and from R40 000 to R60 000 for qualifications at NQF level 7 and above.
  • Limiting the tax exemption for foreign employment income earned by South African tax residents –  Currently, if a South African resident works in a foreign country for more than 183 days a year, foreign employment income earned is exempt from tax, provided certain conditions are met.  It has been noted that this exemption for foreign employment income appears to be excessively generous and that it may result in the SA resident not paying any tax on that foreign employment in South Africa or any other jurisdiction. Accordingly, it is proposed that this exemption be amended so that foreign employment income will only be exempt from tax if it is subject to tax in the foreign country.

Related: Tax Basics For Business Owners

Corporate tax changes

Combatting base erosion and profit-shifting 

Over the last few years, many governments have co-operated and collaborated to deal with tax transparency and information sharing to combat significant financial leakages in the economy through the erosion of the tax base, profit-shifting and illicit money flows. 

The Minister again highlighted the fact multinational corporations continue to use inconsistencies in global tax rules to avoid tax liabilities and that to combat this, South Africa will be signing a multilateral instrument this year which will assist in the updating of treaties and will reduce the scope for aggressive tax avoidance activities. 

The automatic exchange of information between tax authorities will also come into operation this year.

Carbon tax 

The proposed carbon tax and its date of implementation will be considered further in Parliament this year.

Curbing tax avoidance through the use of trusts 

Currently, an anti-avoidance measure exists which is aimed at curbing the tax-free transfer of wealth to trusts through the use of low-interest or interest-free loans. Where such low-interest or interest-free loans are made, the anti-avoidance measure deems the “foregone” interest on the loan to be a donation that is subject to donations tax at a rate of 20%. 

However, it was noted that this anti-avoidance measure is being circumvented by certain taxpayers who are now making these low-interest or interest-free loans to companies owned by a trust. To counter this abuse, it is proposed that the scope of this anti-avoidance measure be extended to cover these avoidance schemes. In addition, it is proposed that the anti-avoidance rules should not apply to trusts that are not used for estate planning, for example, employee share scheme trusts and certain trading trusts.

It is also proposed that the tax rate for trusts (other than special trusts) be increased to 45%.

Related: Entrepreneurs And Tax: 101

Tax incentives 

  • The learnership tax incentive which supports training and skills development will be extended until 2022.
  • The employment tax incentive will be extended until 2019 to allow for further assessment of the impact of this incentive. It was noted that during the period 1 January 2014 to 31 January 2017, more than 50 000 firms utilised the employment tax incentive, however, it has had a limited positive impact on the employment of youth employment (whilst no notable negative impacts were identified).
  • The tax incentive for qualifying industrial policy projects comes to an end this year and it is noted that government will review the programme before taking a decision on its future.
  • A tax review of the diesel refund scheme, specifically to ensure that all taxpayers who should benefit from the scheme, benefit on a more equitable basis. It was also proposed that the diesel refund scheme be delinked from the VAT system and the creation of a standalone diesel refund administration. A discussion paper outlining the options for a simplified administration system was published for public comment on 15 February 2017. The legislative amendments to give effect to the separation of the diesel refund system will be developed following public consultations.

Other tax proposals

Special Voluntary Disclosure Programme It was noted that this programme has commenced and that SARS had already received disclosures of R3.8 billion in foreign assets, which would yield revenue of approximately R600 million. The programme will be available until August 2017. 

Graduate tax  Government will continue to work on a sustainable method for funding higher education, taking into account budget constraints. It was noted that several groups have suggested that this be funded through the introduction of a graduate tax – to be levied directly on all university graduates. The idea offers several potential advantages, however, is unlikely to raise the levels of revenue required to fund universities.

Transfers from a retirement fund to a retirement annuity fund – Currently, once an individual elects to retire, the tax legislation does not cater for the tax efficient transfer of lump sum benefits from one retirement fund to another. It is proposed that transfers of retirement interests be allowed from a retirement fund to a retirement annuity fund, subject to the fund rules.

Withholding tax on immovable property sales – To align with the increased effective capital gains tax rate, it is proposed that the withholding tax on the disposal of immovable property by non-residents be increased from 5% to 7.5% for individuals, 7.5% to 10% for companies and 10% to 15% for trusts. 

Tax relief for small businesses 

Qualifying micro businesses with turnover up to R1 million a year and small business corporations (SBC) with turnover of less than R20 million a year are eligible for preferential corporate income tax rates. Micro business pay tax on their turnover and SBC are taxed on their taxable income at preferential rates.

There are however no transitional measures for “micro business” to migrate into the “SBC” tax regime which can result in unforeseen tax liabilities and administrative penalties. It is not proposed to reduce associated administrative penalties so that businesses can transition smoothly. 

Whilst SARS has achieved steady successes in broadening the tax base and bringing small businesses into the tax net, the progress bringing small businesses operating in the informal sector into the South African tax net, has been slow. 

In South Africa and globally, it is extremely difficult to broaden the tax base in the informal sector and a large part of this sector continues to slip through the noose of tax authorities – even as governments continue to grapple with the complex problem of how to avoid this. 

The proposed changes to the small business tax regime, could be a first step to bringing a greater percentage of the informal sector into the tax net. 

In conclusion, it was noted that the efficiency of SARS is one of South Africa’s institutional strengths and that this tax administration body plays a critical role in ensuring that expected levels of revenue are collected to fund the country’s spending programmes.  

Accordingly, it was noted that SARS will continue to develop the skills and capacity needed to enforce legislation and will also continue to enhance its relationships with taxpayers as this is key to our fiscal health. In this regard, the Davis Tax Committee would be called on for advice on how best to ensure that SARS remains a robust and effective tax collection agency.

Featured image credit: humanaction.co.za

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FNB Sets Its Sights On Growing Female Entrepreneurs In South Africa

First National Bank looks to grow women entrepreneurship in South Africa.

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FNB has set its sights on growing women owned and led businesses in South Africa, a commitment that has seen the bank enter into partnerships to facilitate mentorship for some of the most promising enterprises.

The bank has a good foundation to build on, as 38% of all new business accounts opened with FNB Business are either led or owned by women, highlighting an already established entrepreneurial momentum.

“We are cognisant of the fact that neither government nor corporate South Africa are going to be the sole sources of job creation. We therefore have an obligation to support and grow entrepreneurship. Partnerships such as the one entered into with International Finance Corporation (IFC) enables us to assist in developing women owned business,” says Michelle Geraghty, Head of Women in Business at FNB Business.

Over the last few years, FNB has, through a partnership with the Vumela Fund, assisted businesses such asSAIL, a leading skills and training institute that offers a range of qualifications to the public sector, and Toni Glass who produce a collection of world class tea, to not only scale effectively, but to bolster each of the business’s offering to market.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

“Our approach is to, much like we have done with the likes of Sail and Tony Glass, enable qualifying women owned businesses in their growth curve by offering help that includes transact, lending, investing and insuring solutions. This will include facilitating the registration of the business online via the FNB registrations system which links to CIPC, to Instant accounting and payroll solutions aimed at reducing operating costs for the business. This will also extend to support in the incubation stage of selected businesses through Vumela. We will carry this right through to private equity funding,” explains Geraghty.

Vumela was established as an innovative model that is aimed at filling the gaps in the current SME funding and support landscape. While Vumela is an SME growth fund, it also functions as the bank’s primary Enterprise Development and Supply Development vehicle, able to fulfil both SME funding and growth needs, and corporate ESD requirements, avenues that FNB will be making use of.

FNB also intends on tracking jobs created through these initiatives to ensure a trickledown effect that not only benefits the business owner but also increases the overall number of women participating in business in South Africa.

“The need to grow the number of women in business is one that if done correctly, can address many of the disparities and anguish that women continuously face. Access to fair opportunities to grow their businesses and in turn make a real impact on the South African economy,” concludes Geraghty.

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Great Bunch Of Entrepreneurs Make Top 10 In The Workspace/MiWay Competition

The top 10 in The Workspace/MiWay entrepreneur competition have been selected.

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After an intense four-month process, the top 10 contenders in The Workspace/MiWay Entrepreneur competition have been notified that they’re through to the next round. These entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses to the judges, who will then whittle down the number of contenders to five, from which the winner will be chosen.

“There has been great excitement over the past four months. As every single new entry came in, we would clap our hands and cheer,” said Mari Schourie, CEO of The Workspace. It was a tough job judging all the entries to reach the top 20 submissions, she said, before having to find the top 10.

“We’ve had really strong entries submitted by people with good business knowledge,” said Schourie. “You can see the willingness to work hard and the great amount of effort they have put into their initiatives.”

Schourie said judges saw “wonderful ideas and fabulous business minds and quality people with big dreams shine through the entries”.

The top 10 are:

  1. Loyal 1
  2. Dwyka Mining Services
  3. Minatlou Trading 251
  4. Sindis Best for all
  5. Convergence Three
  6. Zinde Zinde
  7. Matla Risk Management
  8. Artsort Trading
  9. Iconic Talent Agency
  10. Nthedikgwadi Transport Services

Related: How to Name (Or In Some Cases, Rename) Your Company

Schourie said she wished she could tell President Cyril Ramaphosa, who supports the growth of small business as an economic driver, “the ideas and the passion that these business owners have is inspiring and should be focused on more”.

The prize on offer – worth over R350 000 – will help set-up the winning entrepreneur for a period of 12 months, giving them a boost to help build their business.

Morné Stoltz, Head of Business Insurance at MiWay, said the theme that ran throughout the entries was that entrepreneurs wanted to make a difference and contribute to positive change in South Africa. “Many of the submissions focused on technical and developmental fields,” he said.

“Entrepreneurs recognise gaps in the market and see the potential for growth. Getting into the top 10 was not at all easy.”

Stoltz said South Africa had a “great bunch of entrepreneurs” and that standing together to give them a platform to launch was an exciting opportunity. “To grow our economy we need to help with skills development and give whatever assistance we can,” he said.

Part of the finalists’ road to the top includes a skills development programme for the top 10 entrants ahead of their important date to pitch their business plans to the judges.

As Schourie pointed out, it is vital to encourage South African citizens to act on their dreams and passions because “it can be a great success; they just need make that leap”.

Dates to watch:

  • 21 June: Top 10 skills development programme
  • 3 July: Top 10 pitches
  • 6 July: Top 5 announcement
  • 20 July: Final five workshops
  • 10 August: Final five pitches
  • 13 September: Winner announced

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Top 22 Start-ups Chosen For Final Selection Days – Startupbootcamp Africa

After receiving 1,004 applications from all over the world, the SBC team in conjunction with the programme’s corporate sponsors have narrowed the applicants down to 22 top-tier tech start-ups that will be invited to the Final Selection Days on July 11th and 12th at PwC’s headquarters in Cape Town.

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SBC Africa received 1,004 total applications from 77 countries on 5 continents. The start-ups that applied were exceptionally impressive and have gained more traction in the market than the applicants for the 2017 cohort. The talent in Africa is phenomenal and the corporate sponsors and SBC team dedicated 2 weeks to narrow it down to the Top 22 to be invited to Final Selection Days.

“It’s been an intense process due to the exceptionally high calibre of start-ups applying to the programme from across the continent,” states Philip Kiracofe, co-founder and CEO of Startupbootcamp Africa. “From 1,004 applications we have managed to narrow down to 22 of the most creative teams tackling daunting African problems. One of the key differentiators for start-ups that participate in the SBC Accelerator is the opportunity to secure commercial contracts with our sponsors. In order to make it onto our Top 22, each start-up has been chosen by at least 2 sponsors for potential proof of concept projects. The 2018 cohort is already shaping up to be a milestone moment for Africa.”

Related: How to Name (Or In Some Cases, Rename) Your Company

Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Startupbootcamp Africa added, “The investment community across Africa is taking note of the significant traction and access to market that being an alumni of a global accelerator programme like ours provides. We are excited to further galvanize venture capital funding into tech startups through significant de-risking of business models and customer validation with our corporate partners globally.”

From the 22 teams that have been invited to the SBC Africa Final Selection Days, 10 will be selected to join the 2018 cohort. Over the span of the two Final Selection Days, the startups in attendance will have the opportunity to present their pitches to high-profile corporate sponsors, investors, thought leaders and industry experts and will have the chance to sit down with mentors and sponsors alike. At the end of Day Two, the Top 10 will be announced and will be welcomed to the Cape Town-based Accelerator that kicks off in August. During the 3-month period, they will have the opportunity to scale at an incredible pace and seal pilot and proof of concept deals with the corporate sponsors to the programme.

The SBC Africa Accelerator is anchored and endorsed by heavyweight corporate sponsors RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Nedbank, Old Mutual and PwC.

“We’ve seen an increase in the quality of start-ups applying to the programme. The awareness of the value of the programme has increased and the success of the first year of the bootcamp speaks for itself. More mature start-ups are also seeing the benefits of participating in Startupbootcamp Africa,” comments Stanley Gabriel, Head of Innovation at Old Mutual.

The Top 22 start-ups invited to the Final Selection Days come from 7 different countries. The numbers are as follows: 8 from Nigeria, 5 from South Africa, 3 from Uganda, 2 from the Ivory Coast, 2 from Kenya, 1 from Ghana and 1 from Ireland.

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

The names of the start-ups invited to Final Selection Days by country:

  • Nigeria: Bankly Technologies, Biyabot, CredPal, FriendsVow, Kudimoney Bank, Medikal HMS, NebulaPay, and ZEEZZ Planet Solutions.
  • South Africa: Brandbookalytics Big Data, ifileme, LÜLA, Prospa, and Akiba Digital
  • Uganda: CoinPesa Ltd, RoundBob Uganda, and Swipe 2 Pay
  • Ivory Coast: Digitech Group, and DISTRICASH
  • Kenya: Kakbima, and MPost
  • Ghana: Inclusive Financial Technologies
  • Ireland: Pago Payments

It has been an incredible 3-month scouting journey for SBC Africa and now that the Top 22 have been announced, the Final Selection Days is the only hurdle left before the Accelerator officially kicks off on 13 August 2018.

There are high expectations for the Top 10 of 2018 and if the quality of the start-ups at this stage is any indication, 2018 is set to be a great success for the African tech and innovation ecosystem.

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