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Budget 2018/9: 3 Key Tax Areas To Look Out For In The Speech

High political drama in the opening weeks of Parliament aside, most South African business and personal taxpayers are expecting tax hikes across the board from the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech on 21 February.

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As we approach #Budget2018 day, Rob Cooper (tax expert and Director of Legislation at Sage, and chairman of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa)has a few thoughts about what the Minister could clarify in his statement.

Government already faces a yawning budget deficit, aggravated by the need to find billions of rand to fund a new and unbudgeted-for commitment to free tertiary education.

While some spending cuts could help to release funds, we can expect a one to two percentage point increase in VAT, steep hikes to fuel levies and sin taxes, higher capital gains taxes, and perhaps even personal income tax hikes for high income earners.  We’re also likely to get more info on new taxes such as the carbon tax.

Personal taxpayers, with the exception of low-income earners, should probably not expect the Finance Minister to adjust personal income tax brackets and rebates to fully cater for the effect of inflation. In other words, even if your salary is worth less as a result of inflation, you should probably not be hoping for your effective tax rate to come down to compensate.

Here are three other things I’m looking out for in this year’s budget, each of which will have a major effect for employees and employers alike:

1. National Health Insurance

One of the big will-he-or-won’t-he questions the Finance Minister faces this year is whether to do away with the modest tax credit taxpayers receive for their medical aid payments. Government is eyeing an estimated R25 billion in funds from scrapping these tax credits, to be used to fund the incoming National Health Insurance scheme.

Many of us expected Minister Malusi Gigaba to announce this move in his Mid-Term Budget Speech in October 2017, but he held back. The move is likely to be contentious since a National Treasury analysis shows that 56% of the total credits claimed in 2014-2015 accrued to around 1.9 million taxpayers with a taxable income below R300,000.

In other words, the medical aid credit makes decent healthcare affordable to millions of people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Taking it away could have dire consequences for the health of millions of lower income South Africans and put even more strain on an already pressurised public healthcare system.

Related: Budget Speech: The Impact on SMEs

2. Travel reimbursements and allowances

Travel reimbursements have long been a pain point for many employers and employees. Up to 28 February 2018, a portion of an employee’s travel costs was treated as remuneration when:

  • The per-kilometre rate used to calculate the travel reimbursement was greater than the SARS-prescribed rate per kilometre.
  • An employee is reimbursed for more than 12,000 business kilometres are reimbursed during the tax year.
  • The reimbursement value was greater than the prescribed maximum number of business km (12 000 km for 2018) multiplied by the prescribed rate per kilometre (R3,55 for 2018).

The result was that skills development levies and UIF contributions were added to something that should be considered as an operational cost rather than a payroll cost. This in turn increased the employer’s cost of employment. These levies and contributions were not assessed at the end of the tax year, so employers could not claim a refund.

We have long argued this regulation should be changed to be fairer to employers and employees alike. As a first step in the right direction, SARS has announced a simplification of the travel allowance and the travel reimbursement provisions, with effect from 1 March 2018.

Under this change, only the portion of the value of the travel expenses reimbursed at a rate above the ‘prescribed’ rate per kilometre will be treated as remuneration.  However, in future, we would like to see SARS handle travel reimbursements in the same way as it treats subsistence allowances for employees when they travel.

The excess portion of the subsistence allowance will be taxed on assessment, but it is not remuneration for the purposes of Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), skills development levies and UIF.

3. Employment Tax Incentive

I’m a fan of the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) as an innovation geared towards addressing South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis, and the decision to extend the programme until the end of the 2019 tax year is welcome. However, administration of the scheme has always been complex for SARS and employers alike, a factor that has made some companies hesitate to take advantage of it.

Though SARS and the National Treasury have tweaked the ETI over the years, I would welcome further simplification of the definitions and calculations. That said, I don’t expect much news about the ETI this year, apart from alignment with the National Minimum Wage expected to be introduced from 1 May 2018.

Follow us on @SageGroupZA on 21 Feb for LIVE expert insights from the annual Budget Speech.

For more information about Sage’s annual tax seminars, please visit: http://go.sage.com/NPS_18Q1_C4L_ZA_EVCU_HR0310_20thAnnualPayrollTaxSeminarLP

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Digital Learning Challenge Crowns 2018 Winners

AGEC proves that digital learning is an effective way to grow and develop a culture of entrepreneurship among SA’s youth.

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Shriyaa Sooklal, from Maris Stella High School in KwaZulu-Natal, has been crowned the champion of SA’s leading digital learning challenge – the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge (AGEC), conceptualised specifically to develop the minds of young would-be entrepreneurs and coach them on how best to think like entrepreneurs. The results were announced at the AGEC grand finale at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg last night.

AGEC was established by long-term investment company Allan Gray and developed by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation – a foundation committed to investing in the education and development of individuals with entrepreneurial potential in Southern Africa. The Challenge was designed to develop a culture of entrepreneurship in the minds of grades 8-12 using digital learning and gamification.

Currently in its second year, the Challenge seeks to inspire learners on how to influence change in their community, their country and the world. Learners were required to complete weekly micro-challenges that further exposed them to a variety of entrepreneurial skills, which were then applied to real-world scenarios.

During weeks one to three, learners began their entrepreneurial journey by exploring local challenges and opportunities in the areas of social entrepreneurship, transportation and healthcare. In weeks four to six the competition shifted focus to global themes of climate change, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. Last night’s event wrapped-up six weeks of inter-school and inter-pupil participation across the country.

According to Anthony Selley, AGEC’s Head of Gameplay, entry participation doubled for the 2018 season, from 4 000 in 2017 to more than 8 000 in 2018. In addition, more than 600 schools across the country participated in this year’s Challenge.

“We are incredibly proud of every participant, and for the second consecutive year this Challenge proved that web-based experimental learning is an effective way to foster a culture of entrepreneurship among our country’s young folk,” Selley says.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

The AGEC top five candidates include:

  • 1st place: Shriyaa Sooklal – Maris Stella High School
  • 2nd place: Sara Gopel – Riebeek College Girls High School
  • 3rd place: Saheel Rajnarain – Crawford College
  • 4th place: Kai Parsons – Cedar House School
  • 5th place: Tahir Omar Carrim – Sutherland High School

Selley says the Challenge seeks to directly address the country’s alarming levels of unemployment using entrepreneurship as the main vehicle for change. The competition focussed on developing five overarching ‘habits of thought’, identified through academic research as key components of an entrepreneurial mindset. These include: intellectual imagination (innovation); personal initiative (initiative); courageous commitment (resilience); spirit of significance (change maker) and achievement excellence (drive).

Generation Schools Hermanus is the challenge’s top performing school with Glenwood House in second place, followed by Maris Stella, Kloof High School, Somerset College, in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

“It’s been a phenomenal season, candidates have demonstrated impeccable skill and they’ve proved that they have what it takes to think like entrepreneurs. The success of this year’s event means we’re already in planning phase for a bigger and better 2019 season,” Selley says.

For more on the top 20 AGEC learners and schools, click here.

Related: Funding And Resources For Young SA Entrepreneurs

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Creating Jobs Is Team Work

It takes stakeholders from across the business sector to cooperate in building businesses that can create jobs, says Cash Converters CEO Richard Mukheibir.

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The franchise sector continues to grow healthily, according to the survey results recently released by the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA). That sounds as if we should be in a good position to answer the President’s call to create jobs – but, as the saying goes, the truth is rarely simple.

The sector’s estimated turnover was R721 billion in 2017, growing its healthy contribution to GDP from 13.3 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017. International investors have clearly been impressed by the SA franchise sector’s track record and are confident about its prospects. The number of international franchise brands in SA more than doubled from 12 percent in 2016 to 27 percent in 2017.

We saw employment rise in the franchise sector last year by 7.6 percent as 26 254 jobs were created in contrast to shrinking employment in other parts of the formal sector and in agriculture. At Cash Converters, for instance, we also responded to the Youth Employment Service, launched in June this year, by creating and training a roving stock-take team of first-time employees.

We would love to say we are expecting more of the same results this year – but that would disregard the economic and legislative environment where we try to make this happen. We congratulate multinational corporates such as Coco-Cola and SA Breweries who have committed to greater job creation and support among emerging farmers and local suppliers. In some senses, this is what the franchise industry does and wants to continue doing.

Of the 369 573 people employed in SA’s franchise sector last year, according to FASA, only 25 586 – or 6.9 percent – are employed by the franchisors to manage and operate their brands. The bulk of those employed in the sector – 343 987 people, or 93.1 percent – are employed by the individual franchisees.

Related: Be Your Neighbourhood’s Best Buddy

In other words, they are employed by small business people balancing the risk of their own capital investment in uncertain economic times against the benefits of operating within the support structure of a franchise brand. We need more of these bold souls to take on the challenge of becoming franchisees if we are going to be able to continue expanding the sector and creating new jobs.

But the economic picture in South Africa is still complex and difficult to read and we are seeing that having an impact on franchisee start-ups. On the one hand, we have had a good operational year with trading up by double figures across the Cash Converters group. On the other hand, we have had a slow year when it comes to franchisees opening new stores.

Everything from fuel and food prices to the exchange rate is shrouded in an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty. Would-be entrepreneurs have lost confidence. They are sitting tight in a safe position, not wanting to risk their capital at the moment by starting up a new venture or growing their established business further.

But job creation can be sustained only on the back of a growing economy. Instead, the doubt and uncertainty is being felt at many different levels across the financial ecosphere. Banks are communicating their own uncertainty at the future by slashing the risk they will take on SA’s business sector.

At Cash Converters, three out of four of our would-be franchisees normally succeed in securing the finance they need to get their new store off the ground, start employing staff and contributing to our country’s economy. This year, though, the situation has been reversed. Only one out of four would-be franchisees have seen their finance approved and been able to set up and start trading.

All the rest – who were prepared to step out of their comfort zone, to cope with rental escalations, to tackle the ever-mushrooming pile of official regulations that encircle business ventures and to take risks in a difficult economy – have been left by the wayside. And so have the people they might have employed and their families.

Each of our start-up stores employs an average of 12 people, usually expanding to about 20 over the first year or two as it begins to break even. But in too many cases, those jobs are not being created. As a result, for every would-be store that is not opened, up to 120 people are not being fed.

As we all reflect on this Jobs Summit, I invite SA business and our financial partners to consider how we can bridge this gap effectively and create the jobs that are waiting in the pipeline.

Trading and entrepreneurial instincts are key elements of the business DNA of Cash Converters Southern Africa co-founder and managing director Richard Mukheibir. He traces his family’s lineage in small business development back more than a century to his grandfather who founded Mukheibir Brothers in Barkly East in 1897. Mukheibir co-founded Cash Converters Southern Africa with Peter Forshaw in 1994 and has now been involved with franchising for nearly a quarter of a century, thriving on its energy and the people-driven environment.

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Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge (HACk) Returns, Seeking Digital Solutions To Local Healthcare Access Challenges

Despite major advances in modern medicine, universal access to healthcare remains the largest unmet medical need. Building on the inaugural Sandoz HACk, this year’s competition expands to seek broader digital solutions to local healthcare access challenges.

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Sandoz, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division, today announces the launch of the second Sandoz Healthcare Access Challenge (HACk).

The Sandoz HACk is a global competition that invites entrepreneurs and innovators in the field of digital technology to submit inspirational ideas with the potential to complement – or even positively disrupt – established approaches to driving access to healthcare. Sandoz HACk opened for entries on Friday, 4th October, closing on November 30, 2018.

Universal access to healthcare is still arguably the largest unmet medical need and, while great strides continue to be made globally, access challenges vary hugely across geographies and communities. Therefore, a major step towards improving healthcare access globally is to identify and understand the specific needs of local communities.

“There are still two billion people in this world not getting the medicines they need. This is why we are launching Sandoz HACk as we aim to inspire and embrace the brave and innovative thinking of entrepreneurs and visionaries to improve access to healthcare around the world”, said Richard Francis, Division Head and CEO of Sandoz.

Francis added: “Building on the inaugural Sandoz HACk, this year we are broadening the competition to anyone, anywhere, with an idea that uses digital technology to help address a local healthcare access challenge. By collaborating, we hope to create ambitious-yet-practical digital solutions that, with scale, could have a significant impact on people’s lives.”

Related: How do I Start a Primary Healthcare Business?

Digital innovation promises cost-effective and practical solutions with the power to transform access. Last year, Sandoz HACk focused on m-health (mobile health). This year’s theme is ‘Leveraging Digital Technologies to Solve Healthcare Access Challenges’: Encouraging ideas that can drive patient access or help healthcare providers to reach more people.

Three shortlisted entrants, to be announced in January 2019, will receive support from Sandoz experts to develop their ideas and transform potential into real impact. Our three finalists will travel to the world’s leading forward-focused gathering of creative minds, South by Southwest (SXSW; Austin, Texas) in March 2019, to explore, network and discover the latest innovative trends. Following in-person selection, one winner will be chosen and awarded seed funding and support from Sandoz, to help bring their idea to life.

For more details on how to enter the competition and terms and conditions, see here.

For further details visit www.sandoz.com/makingaccesshappen

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook using #SandozHACk.

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