THE VALIDITY OF TAX INVOICES: IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY

A3_bThe audits of Value-Added Tax (VAT) returns by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), have increased the focus on the validity of tax invoices for the purposes of VAT.

A VAT vendor submitting VAT returns is responsible for ensuring that all invoices included in the returns comply with the relevant legislation. If valid tax invoices cannot be provided at the time of a VAT audit, the vendor may lose up to 100% of the input tax being claimed on the invoice, even if an amended valid invoice can be provided subsequent to the audit. Furthermore, serious penalties, interest and other consequences may be imposed on the VAT vendor for errors, intentional omissions and fraud.

Section 20 of the Value-Added Tax Act, No 89 of 1991, together with the VAT404 Guide for Vendors as updated in March 2012, sets out the requirements for a valid tax invoice.

A VAT vendor must issue a tax invoice within 21 days of the supply having been made where the consideration for the supply exceeds R50, whether the purchaser has requested this or not. If the consideration for the supply is R50 or less, a tax invoice is not required. However, a document such as a till slip or sales docket indicating the VAT charged by the supplier, will be required to verify the input tax.

The requirements for tax invoices of which the consideration or taxable supply is more than R5 000 are:

  • the words “tax invoice” should be displayed
  • name, physical address and VAT registration number of the supplier name, physical address and VAT registration number of the recipient
  • original serial number of the tax invoice
  • the date of issue of the tax invoice
  • full and proper description of the goods sold and / or services rendered
  • quantity or volume of goods and / or services supplied
  • total amount of the invoice and VAT amount in South African currency (except for certain zero-rated supplies)

The requirements for tax invoices of less than R5 000 are:

  • the words “tax invoice” should be displayed
  • name, physical address and VAT registration number of the supplier
  • original serial number of the tax invoice
  • the date of issue of the tax invoice
  • full and proper description of the goods sold and / or services rendered
  • total amount of the invoice and VAT amount in South African currency (except for certain zero-rated supplies)

In the case of second-hand goods purchased from a non-vendor, the purchaser has to record the following information:

  • name, address and identity number of the supplier, confirmed by the person’s identity document or passport. (If the value of the supply is equal to or greater than R1 000, a copy of this document must be retained by the purchaser. If the non-vendor is a juristic person, a letterhead or similar document stating the name and registration number of the juristic person is required)
  • date of acquisition
  • quantity or volume of goods
  • description of the goods
  • total consideration paid for the supply
  • declaration by the supplier stating that the supply is not a taxable supply

If a vendor fails to deduct an input tax in respect of a particular tax period,that input tax may be deducted in a later tax period, but limited to a period of five years from the date that the particular supply was made. However, when a vendor becomes aware of an output tax not declared in the relevant period, a corrected VAT return for that specific period should be submitted.  It is not acceptable to declare the output tax in the next period and SARS may impose penalties and interest on the output VAT omitted.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

ASSET-FOR-SHARE TRANSACTIONS: TAX FREE RESTRUCTURE

A4_bThe Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962, contains several so-called ‘group relief’ provisions in terms whereof corporate restructures can take place on a tax neutral basis.  One of these is if a transaction comprises an ‘asset-for-share transaction’, or put simply:  where a company purchases an asset in exchange for which that company agrees to issue shares to the seller.

The term ‘group relief’ is somewhat of a misnomer in that not all of the group relief provisions necessarily involve groups of companies.  The ‘asset-for-share transaction’ is one such an example where company groups are not necessarily involved.  In fact, the concession (in section 42 of the Income Tax Act) is quite often used by individuals who are seeking to incorporate their businesses whereby they would transfer said business into a company in exchange for the latter issuing them with ordinary shares in that company.  Such a transaction would not give rise to any immediate income tax costs, nor to any ancillary taxes such as VAT, Securities Transfer Tax, Transfer Duty, etc. (on condition that the relevant required formalities are observed).

The effect of an ‘asset-for-share transaction’ is effectively that the cost of the assets transferred are ‘inherited’ by the company.  For example, assume Mr A has an asset with a base cost of R10 which is worth R100 today.  He is able to transfer that asset to the company in exchange for shares without incurring any tax liability, but the company will be deemed to have acquired that asset at R10, and likewise Mr A his shares at the same price.  The effect therefore is that when one day Mr A should sell his shares, or the company the asset, the capital gain on the original R10 cost would still be realised and consequently taxed at that stage.  The tax implications linked to the asset is therefore not avoided altogether, but merely postponed.

A few requirements to qualify for a section 42 transaction includes:

  • The person to whom the shares are issued (i.e. the person selling the asset) must hold a ‘qualifying interest’ in the company subsequent to the transaction being concluded (being most often at least a 10% interest held in the company);
  • The company and the person disposing of the asset must typically hold the asset with the same intent. In other words, if the company will hold the asset as trading stock, then so too must the person disposing thereof have held the asset as such; and
  • The asset must be worth more than its base cost at time of the transaction being concluded.

Admittedly, this may be quite complex.  To make matters worse, the provisions of section 42 apply automatically if its prerequisites are met and taxpayers are required to specifically elect out of its provisions if it does not want it to apply.  All the more reason why any restructure would be incomplete without a review by a tax expert first before implementation thereof.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE BY COMPANIES TO ISSUE SHARES

Section 38 of the Companies Act, 61 of 1973 (now repealed) contained a prohibition against companies issuing shares to prospective shareholders on loan account.  This was identified as one of the hurdles in the way of BEE empowerment deals specifically (which quite often involves BEE participants requiring funding to be able to subscribe for shares in a company).  Consequently, this was addressed in the Companies Act, 71 of 2008, through the introduction of section 44 which now specifically provides for new share issues to be undertaken on loan account, subject thereto that this is not prohibited by the company’s memorandum of incorporation.

The board of directors of a company may now authorise financial assistance to be provided by the company by way of a loan, guarantee or the provision of security to any person for the purpose of subscribing for shares issued in that company.  However, and despite any provision of a company’s memorandum of incorporation, the company’s directors may not authorise any financial assistance unless the financial assistance is for either an employee share scheme, or has been authorised through a special resolution by the shareholders of the company.  (A special resolution involves a resolution adopted with the support of at least 75% of the voting rights exercised on the resolution, or a different percentage which may potentially be allowed for in the company’s memorandum of incorporation.)  In addition, the company’s directors must be satisfied that the terms of the loan (or other form of financial assistance) is fair and reasonable to the company, and that the company would, after providing the financial assistance, still be both solvent and liquid.  If the company’s memorandum of incorporation specifically imposes certain further conditions on the company granting financial assistance for the issuing of its shares, these requirements too need to be adhered to.

Any agreement to provide financial assistance which would be contrary to the requirements set out above in terms of either section 44 of the Companies Act, or the memorandum of incorporation of a company, would be void.  Directors in breach of this may be held personally liable for damages caused.

The new regime in the ‘new’ Companies Act is enabling for business, but directors should caution against applying this without due consideration to the above requirements.  Of specific relevance would be if for example the recoverability of a loan granted to enable the borrower to subscribe for shares is doubtful.  If this is the case, the duty of care of the directors towards the company may be called into question by other shareholders prejudiced as a result, potentially leading to delictual claims against the directors in personal capacity for not displaying the statutory required duty of care towards the company.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

SO WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF TRUSTS?

A1_bOne of the questions that we are most confronted with by our clients is what the future of trusts are in South Africa.  Some questions even point to the misconception that the trust instrument itself as legal form is on the verge of being scrapped in South Africa altogether!

The current debate raging is not at all that dramatic, although the consequences for taxpayers potentially may be.  The “crystal ball” gazing exercise which we are so often requested to undertake stems from repeated warnings (some less subtle than other) by the Minister of Finance that the use of trusts as a tool to minimise tax exposure, be it in the form of income tax or estate duty, is being revisited by National Treasury to try and find a solution to the perceived abuse thereof.  As recently as in the 2016 budget, the following statement is made:

“Some taxpayers use trusts to avoid paying estate duty and donations tax. For example, if the founder of a trust sells his or her assets to the trust, and grants the trust an interest-free loan as payment, donations tax is not triggered and the assets are not included in his or her estate at death. To limit taxpayers’ ability to transfer wealth without being taxed, government proposes to ensure that the assets transferred through a loan to a trust are included in the estate of the founder at death, and to categorise interest-free loans to trusts as donations. Further measures to limit the use of discretionary trusts for income-splitting and other tax benefits will also be considered.”

This alludes both to how trusts are commonly used to minimise tax obligations, as well as how Treasury intends to (what could be considered a more focused) approach to trusts in future, while also hinting at what may be expected going forward.

As a first comment, trusts are popular estate duty planning instruments.  Without going into too much detail, typically an individual will sell his/her assets to a trust on interest free loan account.  In the coming years, the value of the assets will increase in the trust, while the value of the loan account will remain the same in the hands of the individual.

Secondly, trusts are potentially useful for income tax planning purposes as they allow for income to be distributed to individuals that are subject to tax at rates more beneficial than that of the trust (which involves ‘income-splitting’ referred to by Treasury above).  Typically these distributions often contains a fictitious element through distributions made on interest free loan account only (with no real intention that such distributions should vest in the beneficiaries).

It would appear as though Treasury is no longer considering an ‘out-and-out’ onslaught on the taxation of trusts (although this is only speculation).  However, the recent budget perhaps betrays what may be expected and that anti-avoidance legislation is to be introduced that will focus only on abusive practices involving trusts.  For both estate duty and income tax structures involving trusts, it is not farfetched to expect to see provisions introduced into tax legislation which will ensure that loan accounts with trusts all bear interest.  The significance of this?  Interest receipts are subject to income tax.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)