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#Budget2017: Where To From Here For The National Minimum Wage?

Rob Cooper, Tax Expert and Director of Legislation at Sage, gives his expert opinion on the matter of the National Minimum Wage, as the Deputy President signed a National Minimum Wage Agreement into existence on 8 February this year. Rob looks forward to what Minister Pravin Gordhan will have to say on the matter.

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  • Event: South African Budget Speech 2017
  • Date: Wednesday, 22 February

We’ll be watching Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, closely this week in the run up to presenting his Budget for the 2017/8 tax year, on Wednesday, 22 February. One of the issues we hope the Minister will provide clarity on in his statement is the implementation of the National Minimum Wage. 

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a National Minimum Wage Agreement into existence on 8 February this year – the culmination of years of debate between labour, business, government and economists. 

The arguments about whether a National Minimum Wage Agreement will close the wage gap and stimulate the economy or rather lead to job losses can be set aside. We should now focus on what needs to be done to ensure that it is a success for workers and businesses alike.

Related: Will Minimum Wage Increase Boost Economic Growth In South Africa?

With implementation set to begin in May 2018, government is proceeding with caution. Many details in the agreement still needs to be fleshed out as government creates draft legislation for the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) discussions and public comment before promulgating an Act.

Minimum Wage Value

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The success of the National Minimum Wage will depend on setting the minimum wage at a high enough level to close the wage gap, yet not so high that businesses can’t afford it or decide to automate rather than hire. Government has taken a cautious stance, setting the initial National Minimum Wage at R20 per hour. 

This is a practical approach, aimed at limiting the potential economic damage of an unrealistically high minimum. It was not the intention (and it is not financially possible) to pay a minimum wage at the level of a ‘living wage’. The National Minimum Wage is not meant to be a wage that an individual can live on – it is designed to move people out of poverty and gradually close the ‘wage gap’. 

Specifying hourly rates as the base value is a pragmatic decision.  It is the only realistic way in which to monitor compliance since different industries have different ordinary hours of work and since working months vary between four and five weeks.

Minimum Working Hours

Parties to National Minimum Wage Agreement all accept that it should not be possible for employers to drastically reduce working hours to reduce the total wage cost. 

There appears to be general agreement that a minimum number of ordinary hours of work must be set, though labour and business differ about the minimum working hours.  

The panel favours a minimum of four hours per day; Cosatu wants a minimum of six hours which amounts to a minimum wage of R120 per day.  A morning-only job is five hours per day, so perhaps this could be a practical number to compromise on.

‘Casualisation’ is another matter for discussion.  To prevent permanent labour being replaced by casuals, premium rates of pay i.e. more than R20 per hour, and minimum working hours per day are on the table.

Related: #Budget2017: 5 Areas Where Businesses Are Seeking Clarity From The 2017 Budget Speech

Increases to the National Minimum Wage

Labour would like the National Minimum Wage to be increased substantially every year to overcome what it perceives to be a very low starting value, while business will argue for more moderate increases. The plan is to set a medium-term target, and then work progressively towards that.

Introduction of the National Minimum Wage

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When the National Minimum Wage is implemented from May 2018, businesses that are unable to afford the minimum wage will be able to apply for an exemption of up to 12 months. Farmworkers will phase in at 90% of the National Minimum Wage, and domestic workers at 75%.

All current wage regulating measures will have to be changed to bring their levels, if lower, up to the National Minimum Wage level by May 2018.  The National Minimum Wage will set the rock-bottom wage value across the length and breadth of the country, and across all industry sectors.

Employment Tax Incentive

To qualify for The Employment Tax Incentive (ETI), an employee must pass a minimum wage test, which involves comparing the employee’s wage paid to that of the sector’s wage regulating measure.

If there is no wage regulating measure, the monthly wage paid must be at least R2 000, with no option for a weekly or hourly minimum. The ETI legislation will need to be amended to be based on the National Minimum Wage’s hourly rate.

Related: Why Tax Law Changes Could Threaten The Uptake Of The Employment Tax Incentive

National Minimum Wage and Child Support Grants

The monthly national minimum wage of R3 500 (based on a 40-hour week) equates to an annual income of R42 000, which is the current maximum income ceiling for parents to qualify for child support grants.

If worker’s wages were today increased to the R3 500 monthly minimum, those who are parents would no longer qualify to receive child support grants. One assumes that this will be addressed by the relevant authorities.

Is the agreement going to assist Workers?

At 2016 values, over 6 million workers would benefit from being paid at R20 per hour. Even though the R20 will be eroded by inflation by May 2018 and even though it is being phased in for farm and domestic workers, approximately 4 million workers will still benefit from the National Minimum Wage when it is implemented. 

We are coming off a base of high levels of unemployment (27.1% of the workforce), and according to recent surveys, we have the worst wage inequality in the world. To estimate the countrywide cost of introducing the National Minimum Wage, assume an average wage of R1 per hour per worker for 4 million workers for a 160-hour month and do the sums. 

The principle is that in the process of employers paying an extra wage of R640 million every month to help uplift 4 million workers, that the R640 million will circulate back into and stimulate the economy. 

Follow @SageGroupZA on 22 Feb for LIVE expert insights from the annual Budget Speech. #Budget2017

Rob will be conducting the 2017 Annual Payroll Tax Seminars in different cities around South Africa, where he will discuss the 2017 Budget proposals. 

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5 Businesses You Should Start in 2019

Here’s the lowdown on consumer and technology opportunities in 2019 and beyond.

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Savvy entrepreneurs should keep a close watch on consumer and technology trends in 2019. This, according to Silvertree Internet Holdings Co-founder and MD, Manuel Koser. Having invested in and grown a number of highly successful South African brands (among them Faithful-to-Nature.co.za, UCOOK.co.za, Pricecheck.co.za, CompareGuru.co.za, Petheaven.co.za, Cybercellar.com, and CarZar.co.za). Silvertree’s management team sees several business opportunities set to grow exponentially over the coming decade.

Here’s the lowdown on consumer and technology opportunities in 2019 and beyond.

1. Indigenous and ethical: Personal and home care products

2019 Sees growing potential for personal care products – ‘Those with local and indigenous ingredients, ethical sourcing which is kind to nature and the body,’ Koser explains. ‘There is a lot of room to play in the African haircare market particularly, as it’s often overlooked by the major FMCG companies.’

The Silvertree MD also sees increasing room for innovative natural home cleaners as consumers become increasingly environmentally conscious. ‘Until now, it was all about the well-known cleaning products the major chemical manufacturers put on the shelves. Now, there’s increasing space for new, exciting entrants.’

2. New beverages

‘Locally-sourced ingredients and an earth-first mindset will also play an increasing role in the consumer beverage market. Add to this the fact that major soft drink manufacturers will struggle to produce drinks for increasingly health-conscious consumers. They’re often just not quick enough to adjust to changing consumer tastes – particularly the tastes of millennials. Think less about a standard fizzy drink, but rather one that’s kind to the body, with natural ingredients. Non-alcoholic: water plus, say, cucumber, or another indigenous ingredient. The market for this will grow.’

3. Ethical snacking

Plant-based, vegan, ancient grains, ethical, protein-rich snacks – these are just some of the trends Koser sees dominating in the snack segment in 2019 and beyond. It’s about unique, tasty, functional foods that cater to the modern, time-starved consumer, Koser explains.

4. Buy, sell and compare online

In the technology space, marketplaces, e-commerce sites and classifieds will all gain momentum in 2019 and beyond. This encompasses aggregators as well as more unusual online businesses, which are increasingly able to find and reach consumers interested in niche products and services.

‘Consider an online ice-cream business. Once, something like that would have been unthinkable,’ Koser explains. ‘But as consumers demand greater choice, room for niche products like this grows.’

Yet, dabble online and seamless execution and delivery become make-or-break factors. ‘Many South African consumers use services such as Google, Amazon, Uber and Spotify daily – world-class products that function on a global scale. You can call an Uber and wait for just two minutes before getting a ride,’ Koser explains. ‘It’s quick and totally seamless. Consumers have come to expect that level of service across the board. Aligned to this is the fact that the millennial wave is currently hitting Cape Town right now, and Joburg secondarily, meaning a number of opportunities are opening up. Go after products and services in the right space and consumers will follow.’

5. Reinvent the wheel – and make it better

The final type of business entrepreneurs should keep an eye on is those that currently have low Net Promoter Scores. ‘This means that very few people like them, or the services they provide are of very poor quality,’ Koser explains. ‘Think of postal service providers or telecoms companies. With any monopolistic or oligopolistic structures, the service is often terrible because the heavyweights hold so much power. There’s a huge gap here.’

An allied approach for entrepreneurs is to assess opportunities for automation, or cutting out the middleman with technology. ‘Once, many markets – such as real estate were opaque, meaning you needed a middleman to help you transact. However, as the capabilities of technology have grown, markets have become far more transparent – making it easier for buyers to match with sellers safely. Today, a lot of this is easy to automate services – think about connecting a homeowner to a prospective renter through a digital solution where renters can be qualified, for example, in terms of their finances, personal information and criminal records. Quick and simple. And no middleman.’

The biggest opportunities here centre around where consumers spend the greatest amounts of time and money, Koser notes. ‘Housing and rent are always major costs. In terms of where consumers spend their time, on the other hand, much of it is, on a mobile phone, or PC.’

However, entrepreneurial success is never down to any one magic formula, Koser emphasises. Nor does Silvertree invest in prospective entrepreneurs solely on the basis of the product or service they offer. ‘It’s about passion, perseverance and tenacity as much as it is about the quality of the product.’

Silvertree Internet Holdings is an investment growth partner who aims to understand, grow and scale business, consumer and digital brands to unlock the brands’ exponential growth.

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What To Watch For In Tito Mboweni’s First Budget Speech

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

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Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, delivers his first Budget Speech on 20 February at a difficult time for the South African economy. Even though President Cyril Ramaphosa has done much to restore business confidence in his first year in office, GDP growth remains weak, government finances are in relatively poor shape, and renewed load shedding is hurting business confidence.

Judging from his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement in October last year, I expect Minister Mboweni — backed by the team in the National Treasury—to deliver a relatively cautious budget. Much of the focus will be on refinancing the state-owned enterprises and putting them back on to a sustainable footing.

We probably won’t see much in the way of radical thinking since the room for manoeuvre is so limited. Click each header below for an indepth video on the upcoming topics.

National Health Insurance (NHI)

Renewal of the country’s public healthcare system with a mandatory health insurance fund and free healthcare at the point of need has been the ANC government’s policy for years, but progress has been slow to date. There isn’t much money in the country’s coffers to fund something as ambitious as NHI, yet the government will want to show that it is advancing the concept ahead of the elections.

With an NHI bill to be tabled in Parliament soon, we could learn more about how NHI will be funded in this year’s Budget Speech — it’s still not clear whether we will pay for it through payroll taxes, VAT increases or other fundraising measures. As an initial step, we could see medical aid tax credits reduced (or at least not adjusted for inflation) to free up some funding for the NHI.

The Employment Tax Incentive (ETI)

The ETI Act came into effect on 1 January 2014; as a fan of this incentive, I was delighted that President Ramaphosa announced that it will be extended for 10 years another decade in his state of the nation address. However, I have also long argued that the scheme is not performing to its true potential because it is so complex for payroll managers to administer.

The introduction of the national minimum wage adds even more complexity— until and unless the ETI Act is amended, SARS is of the opinion that the National Minimum Wage will not qualify as a “wage regulating measure”. I hope the Budget Speech will announce steps to align the ETI with the national minimum wage and take other measures to simplify administration.

Tax hikes

I don’t expect any major increases to corporate or personal income tax this year since the taxpayer doesn’t have much more to give. I think the top 45% rate will remain unchanged, while tax bracket creep relief (to compensate for inflation) will be limited to lower income earners. It seems unlikely that the Minister will increase VAT again this year, given last year’s increase.

That means the Minister is likely to look at ‘moral’ taxes (sin and sugar taxes) to raise more money; we can expect another steep increase in the fuel levy. Perhaps we’ll also hear about efforts to improve SARS’ revenue collection after several years of under-performance. The agency seems ripe for a turnaround strategy, with high-powered team looking for a permanent chief to take the reins at SARS.

Follow us on @SageGroupZA on 20 February 2019 for LIVE expert insights from the annual Budget Speech.

For more information about Sage’s annual tax seminars, please visit: https://get.sage.com/PRL_19Q1_C4L_ZA_EVCU_NPS_AnnualPayrollTaxSeminar2019

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Top SA Entrepreneurial Competition Praises Sector Optimism And Calls For 2019 Entries

Entrepreneurs interested in entering the competition can enter online here.

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Even in the face of ongoing sluggish growth, exacerbated by widespread allegations of corruption and muted domestic economic activity, South African entrepreneurs remain overwhelmingly optimistic. This was revealed in the Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey 2018, which found that the vast majority of over 1000 business owners surveyed feel very positive about the business climate and outlook for the 12 months ahead.

It is these resilient individuals who will have their deserved time to shine in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson for the competition, who says entries for the renowned competition – now in its 31st year – are officially open.

Entrepreneurial competitions of this nature, however, serve a greater purpose than just celebrating South Africa’s spirited self-starters, notes Engelbrecht.

“Credible platforms such as the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition also act to inspire the next generation of budding entrepreneurs, who have the potential to drive real economic growth at a time where the country needs it most.”

Engelbrecht refers to the World Bank’s recent downward revision of South Africa’s projections for economic growth in 2019 to just 1.3% – 0.6% lower than the South African Reserve Bank’s earlier prediction of 1.9% in November.

“Despite these challenging economic conditions, year on year we still find exceptional entrepreneurs who continue to identify gaps in the market and transform these into viable businesses.

“It is our aim, through this long-standing competition platform, to continually recognise, encourage and support the hard-working entrepreneurs who continue to do well despite the challenges they are faced with. We use the competition to convey our appreciation for the role they play in inspiring others to venture into the world of business,” he says.

In addition to offering valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and national media exposure, Engelbrecht says that the2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, offers prizes valued at over R 2 million, which includes cash prizes of R 70 000 for each main category winner, and R200 000 for the overall winner.

“All South African businesses are eligible to enter this competition, and prizes will be awarded across six categories, namely: Overall Entrepreneur of the Year®; Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the Year®; Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year®; Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®; Job Creator of the Year; and Innovator of the Year.”

Entrepreneurs interested in entering the competition can download entry forms online at www.eoy.co.za as well as interact with fellow entrepreneurs and entrants on the competition’s social media platforms www.twitter.com/@EOY_SA and www.facebook.com/EOY.SA. The closing date for the competition is 31 May 2019.

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