The recent fuel and electricity price increases, and the planned levy on petrol and diesel, may force business owners back to the drawing board and present an opportunity to review their operational efficiencies, says Kobus Engelbrecht, marketing head of Sanlam Business Market.
The fuel price increased by 20 cents a litre this month, and the Road Accident Fund levy by 8 cents a litre, with further increases likely to follow, whereas Eskom tariffs will increase by 16% – not quite the 25,9% hike that was originally expected.
The impact of this will be felt by consumers and business owners alike, says Engelbrecht, and presents both a need and an opportunity for overburdened SMEs to take a good look at the nuts and bolts of costs in their business and consider ways to achieve increased efficiencies.
Operating in an uncertain environment
While the Eskom tariff increase is not necessarily as high as expected, it is never possible for business owners to predict fuel and electricity increases, as these are linked to economic and political factors beyond their control.
The way to operate in an uncertain environment, says Engelbrecht, is to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of your operational costs at all times, and to considering sensible ways to possibly reduce those costs.
“Business owners are mostly acutely aware of what happens in the economy and while they cannot control it, there is a risk to accepting and absorbing cost increases without critically stopping the bus and reviewing the way you do business.”
There are a number of operational issues which business owners may want to review when faced with the need to reflect on cost efficiency in their businesses.
These can include improved route planning, making cost-effective changes to a vehicle fleet or carefully considering the costs of utilizing postal services or courier services on certain delivery routes. “In some instances, business relocation may even be an option to reduce costs and build greater efficiency into operations.”
Engelbrecht says business owners, like consumers, often find it less stressful to continue business as usual than to make tough changes that require them to apply their minds to the detail.
Becoming a leaner organisation
The upside of going through this exercise, however, may surprise many. “The option of passing on fuel and electricity increases to clients should always be reviewed against what the business believes clients are prepared to pay for a product or service. Increasing your prices always means that clients will re-evaluate your value offering.”
He says businesses, particularly those that offer transportation or delivery services, may well avoid raising their prices due to higher fuel prices by charging their clients a fuel surcharge. The advantage of such a fee is that it makes it clear to customers that the fuel prices, not greed, are responsible for their having to pay more. The downside is that customers are still paying more. Only the business owner who thoroughly knows his or her clients will be able to judge whether such a tactic will work or not.
“First prize is probably to avoid passing costs on to your clients, and to consider ways in which to differentiate yourself based on price. Then again, a business has to carefully consider the impact of offering goods and services at such a discounted rate that clients may pull away based on their perceptions of inferior quality. It’s a challenging dilemma and one that requires careful consideration.”
Business owners, however, will forever be faced with the reality of unexpected price increases. Engelbrecht says the successful ones will be those who really know and understand the detail of their business, and have the ability to turn adversity into opportunity.
Bitcoin Family Of Coins – Who Will Win?
Off the back of 6 sold out live events, and after successfully hosting the biggest #Cryptocurrency event ever held in South Africa, the Matt Brown Show is holding a one-time exclusive learning and networking event in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 7 March (6pm – 8pm) we’ll be launching a deep dive series into alternative cryptocurrencies.
The interest around cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin being the most famous, has continued to capture headlines worldwide whilst regulators around the world are still struggling to formulate a plan to deal with it.
The Matt Brown Show #cryptokungfu is kicking off its first edition of a deep dive series will be looking at the bitcoin family of coins, what makes the coins different, their utility and the opportunities for traders and investors.
The Matt Brown Show has built a listenership and captive audience in over 100 countries around the world. #CryptoJHB was the first podcast event to trend in the #1 hashtag position on Twitter in the history of South African media.
The Matt Brown Show Johannesburg event taking place on Wednesday, 7 March 2018 from 18:00pm to 20:00pm, now being hosted at the Mesh Club in Rosebank will tap into THREE of the world’s leading experts for this first edition of a deep dive series focused masterclass.
The Masterclass will feature Tone Vays (via video conference) and Adam Meister from the United States, both regarded as world’s leading Bitcoin experts. Lorien Gamaroff, founder/CEO of Bankymoon, blockchain and cryptocurrency consultant will provide the local market perspective as a South African.
The masterclass has been engineered to provide a more focussed and intimate discussion on the landscape, which is one of the reasons the event was moved to the mesh club. To provide a more exclusive and engaging atmosphere for the attendees.
Matt Brown says, “these 3 experts have the uncanny ability to read the cryptocurrency market and are considered part of the top 100 most influential people in blockchain/cryptocurrency space in the world”.
“So we need to look beyond the recent surge in bitcoin investors across Africa, businesses have also started to embrace the cryptocurrency. It no longer a fad but a reality of the world we live in today” says Brown.
South Africa continues to lead the way, with businesses now starting to accept bitcoin payments.
Gamaroff says, “The global financial system is crumbling. People are seeking alternatives to fiat money. Cryptocurrencies will be their hedges against the cataclysm that is coming.”
Related: Embracing Technology For Business
“The reality is that Bitcoin is here to stay and, with many seeing a good return on their investment in cryptocurrencies, they now want to use this digital cash to invest in their future” says Brown
“Today, South Africans are using the ease of online trading to make money that they can then reinvest in a future beyond the world of forex. Which is why we continue to see the demand for events like this, being attended by a mixture of cryptocurrency enthusiasts and/or people simply interested in learning more about this space.” Concludes Brown.
The Workspace And MiWay Announce Entrepreneur Competition
To celebrate their collaboration at Village Road, The Workspace and MiWay are launching a competition for South Africa’s entrepreneurs that will see the winner/s given a major advantage to further grow their business.
Space solutions and coworking specialist, The Workspace, and insurance company, MiWay, recently joined forces at The Workspace’s premises in Village Road, Selby where they have launched an entrepreneurial hub and business development programme in the Johannesburg CBD.
The competition is open to entrepreneurs based in South Africa who have valid identification documents, who run a business with four or less employees and are making an impact in their industry.
“We have always believed in assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners who are members of The Workspace community in whatever way we can. This entrepreneur competition takes it to the next level, giving a voice to our belief in entrepreneurship and its ability to create jobs,” says Mari Schourie, CEO of The Workspace.
Morné Stoltz, head of Business Insurance at MiWay, says both companies are committed to upliftment initiatives and economic development. “The entrepreneur competition is a call to action to those vibrant entrepreneurs out there. Start-ups always need a bit of a hand-up and the winner of this one will have a serious advantage once the competition has gone through its paces,” he said.
Schourie and Stoltz agree they’re looking for an entrepreneur who has reinvented the way business is done in his/her industry. “Someone who has been innovative in the product or service being offered to the market,” says Schourie.
“We are looking for an entrepreneur who has or is busy creating a special environment where employees can flourish, and in the process, potentially creating more jobs,” Stoltz adds. “An entrepreneur who makes an impression on the judges due to aspects such as the business’ social impact, attitude, positive entrepreneurial outlook and a good business mind”.
The prize on offer – worth over R230 000 – will help set-up the winning entrepreneur for a period of 12 months, giving them a boost to help build their business.
All information on the Entrepreneur Competition is available on The Workspace website, including criteria, terms and conditions, and of course, the prizes.
For queries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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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