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Tax Incentives For Small Businesses – Give The Little Guy A (Tax) Break

Government has recognised that is unrealistic to expect small businesses to pay the same level of taxes as more established businesses. This led to the introduction of two favourable tax regimes available to certain small businesses.





Entrepreneurs and small businesses play an important role in our economy, particularly to combat unemployment. Government has recognised that is unrealistic to expect small businesses to pay the same level of taxes as more established businesses. This led to the introduction of two favourable tax regimes available to certain small businesses. 

Small business corporations 

The more well-known of the two regimes is the “small business corporation” (commonly abbreviated as “SBC”) as defined in the Income Tax Act. An SBC benefits from a reduced income tax liability through reduced income tax rates and accelerated depreciation allowance for movable assets. 

Most companies pay income tax at a flat tax rate of 28% on their taxable income. SBCs, on the other hand, can benefit from a reduced tax liability if their taxable income does not exceed R550 000 in a year of assessment. For 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, qualifying SBCs will not pay tax on the first R75 750 taxable income. Thereafter, the SBC will pay tax at a progressive rate starting at 7%, 21% of taxable income exceeding R365 000 and 28% on taxable income exceeding R550 000. SBCs may also qualify for accelerated depreciation allowances against taxable income.

Related: 7 Top Tax Tips For SMEs

If a qualifying SBC owns plant or material and uses it directly in a process of manufacture or similar process, the SBC may reduce its taxable income by the full cost of the plant or machinery in the year of assessment in which it is brought into use for the first time.

An SBC may elect to apply accelerated deprecation rates to other movable assets, which would ordinarily have been regarded as wear and tear or depreciation. An SBC may choose to reduce its taxable income by 50% of the cost of the asset in the first year of assessment during which the asset is first brought into use, 30% of the cost in the second year, and 20% in the third year.

Not all small businesses qualify as SBCs. The following entities may qualify as an SBC: a close corporation, a co-operative, a private company and a personal liability company, if at all times during the year of assessment all of the shareholders or members of that entity were natural persons.

Additional requirements that must all be met to be regarded as a SBC, include:

  1. The entity’s gross income may not exceed R20 million for the year of assessment
  2. No member or shareholder of the entity may, at any time during the year of assessment, hold any shares or have any interest in the equity of another company, other than certain specific exceptions which include listed companies, collective investment schemes and others
  3. Not more than 20% of the total receipts or accruals and capital gains of the entity may consist collectively of “investment income” and income from the rendering of a “personal service”
  4. The entity may not constitute a “personal service provider” as defined for tax purposes.

The term “personal service”, for purposes of the SBC regime, is defined to include a wide array of professions, including:

  • any service in the field of accounting, actuarial science, architecture, auctioneering, auditing, broadcasting, consulting, draftsmanship, education, engineering, financial service broking, health, information technology, journalism, law, management, real estate broking, research, sport, surveying, translation, valuation or veterinary science, if
    • that service is performed personally by a person who holds an interest in the entity; and
    • that entity does not throughout the year of assessment employ three or more full-time employees (other than a shareholder or member or a connected person in relation to a shareholder or member) who are on a full-time basis involved in the business of the entity of rendering that service.

If an entity (in a year of assessment) employs three or more full-time employees (other than a shareholder or member or a connected person in relation to a shareholder or member) who are on a full-time basis involved in the business of the entity of rendering that service, it will not be regarded as rendering a “personal service” and will not be regarded as a “personal service provider”.

Related: What Should I Know About Dealing With Tax When It Comes To My Business?

A company, co-operative, close corporation or personal liability company should therefore carefully consider compliance with the requirements and, if so, take advantage of this favourable tax regime.   

Turnover tax payable by registered micro businesses


Businesses are not only burdened by their actual income tax liability, but also by their tax compliance obligations in this regard. This led to the introduction of an optional simplified tax system for registered micro businesses in terms of the Income Tax Act, known as the turnover tax regime.

The turnover tax regime allows qualifying micro businesses to register for and pay a single tax known as turnover tax instead of various other taxes. The turnover tax replaces income tax (including provisional taxes and capital gains tax) and to an extent dividends tax. A micro business is still required to withhold payroll taxes and VAT (if voluntarily registered as a VAT vendor). 

Turnover tax is calculated by applying the relevant turnover tax rates to the taxable turnover of the micro business as determined. For any year of assessment ending on or within the 12-month period before 28 February 2018, registered micro businesses will pay no turnover tax on a taxable turnover not exceeding R335 000.

A turnover tax will apply to 1% of the taxable turnover exceeding R335 000, 2% of the taxable turnover exceeding R500 000, and 3% of the taxable turnover exceeding R750 000. 

Registered micro businesses also benefit from reduced record-keeping requirements and only need to retain information relating to the following:

  1. Amounts received during a year of assessment;
  2. Dividends declared during a year of assessment;
  3. An asset with a cost of more than R10 000 at the end of a year of assessment; and
  4. A liability that exceeded R10 000 at the end of a year of assessment.

As with SBCs, micro businesses are subject to strict requirements of registration. The turnover tax is available to individuals (sole proprietors or partners in a partnership), close corporations, co-operatives or private companies, if their qualifying turnover (as determined) does not exceed R1 million in a year of assessment.

Related: Payroll Tax: 6 Things Small Business Owners Should Know

Certain persons are disqualified as micro businesses, including:

  1. Persons holding shares or having any interest in the equity of a company, other than certain specific exceptions which include listed companies, collective investment schemes and others;
  2. If more than 20% of the total receipts during a year of assessment consists of income from the rendering of a “professional service” (for natural persons) or the aggregate of “investment income” and income from the rendering of a “professional service” (for companies);
  3. If the proceeds from the sale of certain capital assets used mainly for business purposes exceed R1,5 million over a three-year period;
  4. Companies with a year-end other than the last day of February;
  5. If any of the partners, members or holders of shares are not natural persons in a year of assessment;
  6. Personal service providers and certain labour brokers;
  7. Public benefit organisations, recreational clubs, associations and small business funding entities; and
  8. Special rules apply to partnerships.

The term “professional service”, for purposes of turnover tax, includes the same array of professions as for the SBC regime, for example a service in the field of accounting, actuarial science, etc. However, for turnover tax, no exception applies for businesses rendering professional services that employ three or more full-time employees.

Businesses rendering professional services, although they will not qualify for turnover tax, may possibly qualify for the SBC regime, provided they employ three or more full-time employees in addition to meeting the other criteria of qualifying as a SBC.

The turnover tax regime does seem to significantly reduce the tax compliance burden of certain small businesses. It may not be the best option for every small business as it imposes tax on a turnover basis as opposed to a taxable income basis – thus affording lower tax rates but without taking into account exemptions or deductions that would otherwise have reduced taxable income.

We understand that very few businesses are registered as micro businesses on the turnover tax system. This could be ascribed to the determination of whether a business meets the registration requirements.

Author: Esther van Schalkwyk

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Entrepreneur Today

Inspiring A New Generation Of Learning – Education As A Basic Human Right

Access to education isn’t a privilege, it’s a basic human right – Mzwandile inspires a new generation of learners.





Raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents passed away at a young age, Mzwandile Harmans attended a poor school in Cala, the heart of the rural Eastern Cape.  It was his matric year; but with limited resources at Masikhuthale Public Secondary school, the pass rate was low and the learning environment less than ideal for conscientious learners.

Then one day a teacher came round to talk about Engen’s Maths and Science Schools (EMSS) programme, and everything changed for this talented young man who was determined to realise his full potential.

“We were given a chance to take a test to qualify for the EMSS Cala programme. The programme offered supplementary classes in maths, science and English, which ran every Saturday morning, but was 25 kilometres away,” remembers Mzwandile. “Fortunately, I took it seriously and I got in.”

Making the long round trip every weekend to attend the programme saw a steady improvement in Mzwandile’s  maths, chemistry, and physics marks, so much so that he was awarded a full Engen scholarship to study Chemical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Mzwandile later impressed with his tertiary studies and after two-years was offered a one-year internship at the Engen Refinery in Durban, which he passed with distinction. On graduating from CPUT, he landed a two-year employment contract with Engen, as part of the company’s graduate development programme.

Today, Mzwandile is permanently employed as an Environmental Technician at the Engen Refinery.  “I am so grateful to Engen for all of this,” says Mzwandile. “I never thought it could happen to me.”

Engen’s Head of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, Unathi Magida says access to education is a fundamental human right.  “This resonates particularly with Engen as a company, as we believe in the value of education and know how important it is to ensure that young people have the opportunity to realise their full potential.”

Chwayita Mareka, Engen’s Head of Human Resources, says the company’s investment in young talent has focused on the Maths and Science Saturday Schools because they understand the bigger country agenda.

“As Engen, we try and play our part in helping to develop South African’s talent pool, as there is a scarcity of Science, Maths and Engineering skills. We offer bursaries for students to go to universities in these fields and we look after them, especially if they are from disadvantaged communities,” says Mareka.

“Later, they come into Engen as graduate trainees as part of our graduate development programme wherein we assign them a mentor that exposes them to the real business,” she adds.

Mzwandile’s journey is just one of many inspirational Engen stories that will be shared as part of a new TV series that aims to create a positive narrative around South Africa’s success stories.  The SA INC. TV series which launches on 7 April is a partnership between Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Brand South Africa and producers, Regency Global.

“At Engen, we strongly believe that a country which is educated is a country that will prosper. We are pleased to play a part in helping to develop South Africa talent, especially our young learners based in rural areas,” says Magida

To watch Mzwandile’s story please visit the website: and the following hashtags: #JourneyWithEngen #BusinessBelieves #SAINC #humanrightsday #awesomesouthafrica #sustainability #livesouthafrica #weheartsa.

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Entrepreneur Today

How SMEs Can Stand Out From The Crowd

A recently released SME Landscape Report: An Assessment of South Africa’s SME Landscape: Challenges, Opportunities, Risks & Next Steps’ 2018/2019, revealed that 40 percent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) find that the industry that they operate in is extremely competitive. It also states that considering the low growth environment, this is likely to continue further into the future.





To assist struggling entrepreneurs, Byron Jeacocks, Regional General Manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), says that it is imperative for SME owners who find themselves in this predicament to determine and implement tactics to remain competitive in saturated industries. “A good example of how to do this, is Business Partners Limited’s client, Prashun Sharma, owner-manager of glass and aluminium company, Aluminium Doctor, who was faced with an overtraded industry teeming with informal operators when he started his business seven years ago.”

“This was because the glass and aluminium industry suffered a contraction following the Soccer World Cup construction boom in 2010, and as a result, many tradespeople were retrenched and subsequently started up their own informal glass and aluminium installation operations to make ends meet,” Jeacocks adds.

Explaining how he ensured a competitive edge in his business, Sharma, who was also retrenched from his senior management position at a large aluminium company, says that when he started his company he decided to make it formal, compliant and professional. “I wanted to incorporate my corporate and managerial experience to differentiate my business, and to elevate this, I enrolled in a business management degree.”

“My degree covered everything from strategic management, supply management, first-line management to directorship and it touched on everything from listing on the stock exchange down to conflict management and change management. This really prepared me for business and I believe it was a key ingredient to my business’s success,” he points out.

However, Sharma says that when starting their businesses in a saturated industry, entrepreneurs should not feel despondent if the process is slow at the beginning. “At first in my journey, there seemed to be no difference between Aluminium Doctor and the rest of the informal businesses in the industry, but I continued to lay a formal foundation, whilst consulting with my lawyer and accountant to make sure these foundations were sound. I also started to develop professionally made marketing material, a website, formal email addresses and a fixed phone line.”

Aluminium Doctor’s breakthrough came a year and a half into the business, when it won a substantial contract with the building of the Durban ice rink, says Sharma. “This is when I knew that it was time to formalise my business premises and I found a 1000 square metre factory in Brairdene, Durban.”

However, in order to purchase the building, I needed to obtain funding and I believed that it was clear from the financials that the company could afford to buy the building, but the banks were not sure whether our fast growth was sustainable. “I was then introduced to Business Partners Limited which considers finance applications based on the potential of the business, and also on the capabilities of the entrepreneur rather than just on the balance sheet and age of the business.”

Commenting on this, Jeacocks says that Sharma’s management style and his commitment to furthering himself as an entrepreneur by studying business management was also a contributing factor to the approval of his business’s property finance loan,” comments Jeacocks.

“Today, seven years since he started, Sharma’s careful attention to his business’s formal foundations is still paying off. Just in the last twelve months, in an extremely challenging economy, Aluminium Doctor grew by 35 percent, and the business now has a presence in KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng where it will soon establish a permanent sales office in an expansion that is only possible for a formal, well run organisation,” Jeacocks concludes.

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Entrepreneur Today

Celebrating The Best Of The Best In Black Business

The 2019 Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Awards, held at Emperor’s Palace on Friday, 15 March 2019, celebrated the champions of transformation of the South African economy.





Established in 2002, the BBQ Awards 2019 honoured the best of the best in black business. South Africa’s top black business owners and rising stars arrived to the red carpet for a night full of glitz and glamour. Celebrity TV presenter, socialite, radio personality and Idols SA judge Somizi Mhlongo led the festivities as the evening’s programme director. He was joined on stage by A-list celebrities and prominent politicians.

Jeff Radebe, Minister of the Department of Energy, celebrated 25 years of South Africa’s democracy in his opening keynote address and emphasised the importance of transformation.

“Transformation is well recognised as a change management strategy, which aligns people, which aligns processes and technology initiatives, irrespective of the industry you come from, in order to survive and evolve in this business environment. Changing the structure of the South African economy will result in it being more inclusive, more sustainable… with opportunities for all, integrated value chains, and less barriers to entry. In South Africa, the transformation agenda is very critical in all our endeavours and all our decisions.”

Radebe congratulated the winners of the 15 transformation categories on this recognition of their inspiring dedication:

  • Platinum Award: Dr Nobuhle Judy Dlamini, founding chairman of Mbekani Group, is an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. Her passion for creating and adding value to society and humanity provided her with the overall platinum award for the evening, as well as the Comair Outstanding Woman of the Year Award.
  • Hennessy XO Businessman of the Year Award: Sthembiso Elton Nkomo, CEO of Abalandi Risk Management, was recognised as a professionally qualified, dedicated, and respected professional in the forensic investigation and security services environment.
  • The Innovation Hub New and Innovative Business Award: AET Africa, a manufacturer and supplier of energy efficient and clean technology products, developed various products targeting the commercial and residential sectors.
  • Emperors Palace Community Builder of the Year Award: Emmanel Bonoko, Founder of EBonoko Holdings and a social entrepreneur. He founded EBonoko at the age of 21 with the aim of serving others and fostering leadership, youth empowerment, and entrepreneurship.
  • Dormehl Phalane Property Group Transformation Champion of the Year Award: ICT-Works, an organisation that provides innovative technology solutions. At its core it also enhances the lives of millions of people.
  • Best Employer of the Year Award: Maredi Technologies CC, an 100% black owned ICT infrastructure solutions provider for the private and public sector.
  • Trade & Investment KZN Young Business Achiever Award: Pravashen Naidoo, Founder and CEO of e-Waste Africa, established Africa’s first light bulb recycling business at the age of 30.
  • Bentley South Africa Public Sector Visionary Award: Dr Ayanda Vilakazi, CEO of Lama Marketing and Advertising (Pty) Ltd. He published numerous articles on how to improve services and operations in South Africa. As a seasoned Executive he has expertise in corporate governance, financial management and budgeting, enterprise risk management and strategic development.
  • BET New Entrepreneur Award: Ms Thobile Nyawo, Director of Nyawo Civil construction. The 19-year-old construction entrepreneur founded her company in 2015 with no start-up capital.
  • CSI Ubuntu Award: Vukani-Ubuntu Community Development Projects, a non-profit organisation that is the largest mineral-beneficiation organisation in the jewellery sector in South Africa and a network off grassroots development projects across the country.
  • NHBRC Iqhawe Mentorship Award: Musa Zulu, Creative Director of Valhalla Arts, as well as published author, international artist, celebrated motivational speaker, and prominent disability activist in South Africa.
  • NYDA Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Muhammad Simjee, Founder and CEO of A2D24 with a passion for building gadgets and writing software.
  • Nedbank Group Individual Transformation in Leadership Award: Karen Rademeyer, Fundraiser and Communications Manager at Go for Gold, having worked in the non-profit sector for 17 years She is passionate about education: Go for Gold as a dynamic Education-to-Employment programme that recruits school students from some of South Africa’s poorest communities and transforms them into technically qualified graduates.
  • LTE Holdings Best Established Black Business Award: Thata uBeke Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd, which offers turnkey solutions by designing, developing, manufacturing and assembling electronic and electro mechanical components for a variety of applications including aerospace, telecommunications, mining, commercial, and military specifications.

The BBQ Awards continue to be South Africa’s most prestigious transformation awards. For more information on the 2019 BBQ Awards, visit or follow them on Facebook (@BBQAwards) and Twitter (@BBQ_Awards).

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