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Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Pulls Off A Balancing Act

Budget Speech 2017/18 cushions the blows of a weak economy for the poor and asks the wealthy to pay more.

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Rob Cooper, Tax expert and Director of Legislation at Sage, comments on the Budget Speech delivered by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. 

With South African government facing a R28 billion shortfall in tax revenue collection, Budget Speech 2017/8 was never going to have much good news for consumers and business builders. Even so, our Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, has once again made the best of a difficult situation, proposing a Budget that is mostly fair and pragmatic.

As expected, Minister Gordhan has announced some relatively tough tax measures to raise the cash government needs for spending on social services, infrastructure, safety, healthcare and education. 

Three measures account for the bulk of the additional tax revenue collection: A new top marginal income tax rate, a higher dividend withholding tax, and steeper fuel levies and sin taxes. 

Related: #Budget2017: Commentary From Rob Cooper At Sage

New personal income tax bracket for top earners

I am not surprised by the addition of a new top marginal income tax rate at 45% for individuals earning more than R1.5 million a year. As a form of wealth tax, it’s more politically acceptable than a VAT increase; and like the National Minimum Wage, it also has a redistributive effect that could help reduce inequality. 

Increasing income tax in this politically popular way is an easy win for the Treasury as the extra revenue comes flowing into the coffers as soon as payrolls incorporate the new tax tables in the March wage and pay runs. Personal income tax hikes plus the partial relief for fiscal drag will yield an extra R16.5 billion for government this year. 

That said, given that high-income earners in South Africa already carry a heavy tax burden, government should be cautious about adding too much more to it in the next Budget Speech.

There is a balance to be struck between collecting a fair share from the wealthy and taxing them so heavily that tax avoidance or moving overseas becomes attractive options to them.

Related: Tax Basics For Business Owners

SARS and the government are rightly proud of improved compliance over the past two decades – it would be a shame if this trend were to be reversed. 

Outside of low income earners, Minister Gordhan hasn’t compensated much for inflation in the new tax tables. Most middle and high income earners will also be paying slightly more in tax in real terms, once you take the effect of fiscal drag into account. 

Increase in dividends tax

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The increase in withholding tax on dividends from 15% to 20% is significant since it will raise a further R6.8 billion for the fiscus. While it’s a relatively equitable tax increase in an environment with little room for manoeuvre, it could also negatively affect pensioners who depend on income from dividends as well as discourage people from saving and investment. 

Also noteworthy is a change to the law that includes three categories of dividends in remuneration from 1 March 2017. 

This means that these dividends can be potentially taxed at up to 45% – reducing the arbitrage opportunity for people who paid dividends tax at 15%. These categories relate to dividends on various forms of staff share incentive schemes — it seems fair that this loophole is being closed. 

Related: Tax Basics For Business Owners

Fuel levies and sin taxes

It’s not surprising that fuel levies are going up, though the increase of 30c more per litre of petrol in addition to a 9c increase in the Road Accident Fund are relatively modest.

This is another quick win measure because it is easy to collect. Sin tax rises — 12c on a can of beer, R1,06 on a box of 30 cigarettes, and 30 centres a litre on wine — are as steep as expected. 

A redistributive Budget

Minister Gordhan’s Budget, along with the recent announcement of the National Minimum Wage Agreement, signals more focus from government on the challenges of inequality. Though this spells some pain for higher income earners, we need to be mindful of the growing social problems in South Africa and discontent among poorer communities. We need to focus on growth as well as redistribution if we are to tackle these challenges.

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Entrepreneur Today

Old Mutual Committed To Empowering South African Entrepreneurs

South African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to take their venture to the next level will get a chance to network with big business – such as the likes of Old Mutual – at Global Entrepreneurship Week, currently running from 12 – 16 November 2018 at the Enterprise Room in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

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Global Entrepreneurship Week is an annual celebration of the innovators and job creators, who launch start-ups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and social inclusivity.

According to the Banking Association of South Africa, SMEs have been identified as productive drivers of inclusive economic growth and development in South Africa, as well as globally. Some researchers have estimated that the local SME sector makes up 91% of formalised businesses. The sector also provides employment to an estimated 60% of the labour force and accounts for around 34% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in total economic output.

Old Mutual has been actively working to empower SMEs for more than a decade through structured programmes and vehicles designed to provide both the financial – and non-financial – support that is critical for success. This focus on creating both business and societal value means that the company continues to invest in creating opportunities for all South Africans.

The company’s innovative Enterprise and Supplier Development Fund works to create opportunities for small businesses to become integrated into Old Mutual’s supply chain, creating sustainable partnerships of mutual benefit. In addition, Old Mutual’s Masisizane Fund offers SMEs operating in the manufacturing, franchising and agricultural arenas a mix of grants, loans and technical support, to enable them to gain vital market access and create jobs.

Collectively, these two small business empowerment funds have approved over R750-million in funding to small businesses across the country, having already disbursed close to R600-million, while creating more than 8330 job opportunities in the process.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

Old Mutual recognises that funding alone is not the key catalyst for growth where SME development is concerned, which is why it also offers a range of non-financial support option to SMEs both pre and post investment. This includes SME training in financial education, as well as business support in the form of technical mentorship, financial management tools and advice, as well as bespoke accounting services.

Old Mutual will be hosting a special session at Global Entrepreneurship Week on Wednesday 14 November 2018 titled “Doing Business with Old Mutual” at which SMEs looking to connect with the company can get more information on its unique empowerment and development programmes.

Entrepreneurs can get more information on Old Mutual’s small business empowerment programmes here:

Enterprise and Supplier Development Programme:

Supplierdevelopment@oldmutual.com or 011 217 1000

Masisizane Fund:

Via the Old Mutual Website at www.oldmutual.co.za/masisizane

Email: MasisizaneEnquiries@oldmutual.com or call 011 217 1000

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Getting Maximum Value This Black Friday

Here are Toni Wilkinson’s, Chief Marketing Officer at PriceCheck, top six tips for getting the best deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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Black Friday is almost here! Around South Africa, eager shoppers are double-checking their budgets and making wish-lists! Black Friday is now so well-entrenched, everyone’s getting in on the action. With discounts of as much as 80%, thousands of bargain hunters will flood SA’s online retailers when the clock strikes midnight.

With a number of lead-up sales also soon to be underway, many shoppers have already begun to flex their bargain-grabbing muscles. But is there an art to shopping safely and wisely when the real madness strikes? The answer is yes.

Toni Wilkinson, Chief Marketing Officer at PriceCheck, South Africa’s number one product discovery and comparison platform, and a Silvertree Internet Holdings company, shares her thoughts.

Here are Toni’s top six tips for getting the best deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

  1. Have a plan. Know what you want, need and can afford before you get enticed by all the offers in front of you.
  2. Choose a secure way to pay. Credit card payment methods that ask you for a supplementary one-time PIN such as Verified by Visa, Snapscan and PayPal are all good options.
  3. Take note of the delivery and return details. Will you get the purchase when you need it? And, if you need to return it, will you end up paying more on delivery costs?
  4. Look out for hidden costs or additional purchases you might need to make.
  5. Compare deals. Similar deals might be packaged slightly differently, so make sure you are comparing apples with apples.
  6. Only buy from reputable retailers so you can be sure you will receive authentic products.

“Our Black Friday deals run for an entire week on PriceCheck.” Toni explains, “starting 19 November and running through until Cyber Monday 26 November 2018.”

Related: Black Friday Automated Marketing: 7 Must-Do’s

In 2017, PriceCheck witnessed a huge increase in site traffic at midnight on Black Friday compared to the average day – almost 3 times the normal number of users logged on – showing that SA’s online shoppers stand ready and waiting for Black Friday deals to break.

To help them prepare for the increased demand, PriceCheck has been working closely with its merchants over the last 4 weeks to curate their product offerings. ‘From a customer demand side, we’ve also been upscaling and testing our servers to accommodate the increased traffic to our site, to ensure we have no downtime,’ Toni explains. ‘We’ll also have our developers on standby for the full 24 hours. We experienced no downtime last year, and are confident we can replicate this again this year.’

On Black Friday, PriceCheck will have a dedicated list of curated Black Friday deals, encompassing all site-wide deals either above 30% or equal to R2 000 or more in saving.  ‘Global research shows that there is limited consumer pre-planning for Black Friday 2018, which is a great opportunity for consumers to use a comparison service such as PriceCheck to see all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals in one place and click-through directly to get the deal before it sells out,’ Toni explains.

PriceCheck’s Black Friday deals will run from 19 November – 26 November, with category specials running daily in the build-up to Black Friday.

‘Consumers can look out for offers from the following categories in the build-up week to Black Friday,’ says Wilkinson. ‘Deals will cover Fashion & Beauty on Monday, Home on Tuesday, Toys & Gadgets on Wednesday, and Electronics on Thursday, with every category of course available on Black Friday itself. Deals will also run across all categories and brands.’

What are some of the brands to watch out for this year? Toni highlights some of 2017’s top performers: ‘The most popular brands last year were Samsung, Apple and Hisense. In general, our top products included cell phones, TVs, smart watches, laptops and multimedia players. Last year the most popular category was tech by far, followed by fashion, toys and baby.’

On the question of whether Black Friday is profitable for businesses, Toni explains that volume and demand are key. ‘Global research shows that consumers are planning to spend even more on purchases in 2018 compared to previous years, reaffirming Black Friday as one of the most significant revenue-generating opportunities in the retail calendar. Retailers may experience a slow start to sales in November, due to the high demand for deep discounts over the Black Friday week. During Black Friday week itself, retailers generally experience a spike in sales, relying on high sales volumes to compensate for low margins. They also use the event to mark the start of the shopping season.’

Related: #BlackFriday: The Small Business Guide

To help shoppers find the best Black Friday deals, PriceCheck uses a powerful, intelligent search function. ‘We want to be the first site South Africans head to on Black Friday,’ Toni emphasises. ‘We aggregate products from all the reputable retailers, saving consumers time when searching for the products they want.’

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It’s Never Too Late To Start A Business

Entrepreneurship at any age is key to minimising unemployment in SA.

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Whilst the country continues to battle a high unemployment rate – which increased to 27,5 percent, according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the Third Quarter of 2018 – the narrative of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice should be widely promoted and encouraged across all generations.

However, according to Anton Roelofse, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTERS), the recently released 2018 Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey, compiled by Seed Academy and Old Mutual, revealed that 80 percent of entrepreneurs in South Africa are under the age of 45, with the majority of entrepreneurs reported to be between the ages of 25 and 34.

“In light of the high prevalence of unemployment, there is no reason that entrepreneurship should be reserved for the younger generation. Considering that only 20 percent of entrepreneurs are over 45, it is now more important than ever for older aspiring entrepreneurs to realise that the country needs them and it is never too late to start a business,” he says.

Delving into the reasons for this low rate of entrepreneurship among older generations in South Africa, Roelofse refers to the 2016-2017 Senior Entrepreneurship Report. “According to the report, older individuals have the lowest confidence in their ability to start and run their own businesses, and many believe that entrepreneurship is a young person’s occupation because the majority of entrepreneurs are young.”

Related: How To Start A Business With No Money

In contrast to these beliefs, Roelofse says that it has actually been shown that older entrepreneurs are more adept at building resilient businesses, which is especially crucial during times of slow economic growth.

“If more older entrepreneurs follow their entrepreneurial dreams, not only will more jobs be created, but the idea of entrepreneurship will become more socially accepted for all ages and hopefully have a ripple effect.”

As such, it is vital for older aspiring entrepreneurs to realise that they are more equipped than they think to start and run a business, says Roelofse, who lists three pointers to boost older aspiring entrepreneurs’ confidence:

  1. Work experience: Starting a business at a later age means that the entrepreneur will have a lot more work experience. This will be extremely beneficial as it will contribute to the entrepreneur’s leadership skills, business management and acumen, problem solving skills, and industry experience, should the entrepreneur decide to open a business in the same industry.
  2. Personal networks: It is often said that it’s not what you know, but who you know, and as one grows in age, so do their personal and professional networks. Older entrepreneurs will therefore be more likely to know other established professionals who they can turn to for advice, collaboration, and offer their services to.
  3. An established passion: Older entrepreneurs tend to be less restless in their pursuits, as they have had more time to figure out what they are most passionate about, which can often be a driving force to start a business as well as motivate their success in the future.

These are just a few of the reasons supporting the notion that more older aspiring entrepreneurs should start their own businesses and contribute to increasing employment opportunities in the country, says Roelofse. “Age should be seen as an added strength, not a hindrance, when it comes to entrepreneurship. And aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of their age, should be encouraged and supported to contribute economically,” he concludes.

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