REMOVING DIRECTORS OF A COMPANY

a4bThe Companies Act, 71 of 2008, requires that the business and affairs of any company be managed by or under the direction of its board, which has the authority to exercise all of the powers and perform any of the functions of the company, except to the extent that the Companies Act or the company’s Memorandum of Incorporation provides otherwise (section 66(1)). The Companies Act further requires that a company must have at least one director (section 66(2)), and further that only natural persons may serve in that capacity (section 69(7)(a)).

Those individuals occupying the position of directors of a company are therefore responsible for managing the affairs of the company and they do so as custodians on the shareholders behalf. It should be remembered that the directors do not own the company: the company rather is owned by the shareholders and the directors serve therefore to promote the interests of the company, and indirectly therefore the economic interests of the shareholders.

Quite often, in the case of private companies, the directors and shareholders may be the same individuals. However, where the directors have no or limited shareholding interest in the company itself, it may happen that the shareholders may wish to move to have certain directors removed and replaced on the company’s board if e.g. the company’s financial performance or operations otherwise are not satisfactorily conducted according to the shareholders’ liking.

Naturally, a director may be requested to resign under amicable circumstances. However, where a director refuses to resign (and may perhaps have the backing of other shareholders), the question becomes what remedies the aggrieved shareholders still have? It is possible to have these matters regulated in terms of the company’s Memorandum of Incorporation specifically to dictate under which circumstances a director may be removed from the board of a company. It could also be agreed with the director initially by way of a clause in the appointment contract.

Irrespective of whether the Memorandum of Incorporation or an appointment contract addresses the matter specifically, a director may always be removed by way of a majority vote at an ordinary shareholders’ meeting (section 77(1)). Before the shareholders of a company may consider such a resolution though, the director concerned must be given notice of the meeting and the resolution, and be afforded a reasonable opportunity to make a presentation, in person or through a representative, to the meeting, before the resolution is put to a vote (section 77(2)). In terms of procedures not entirely different from that as applied to shareholders, the directors may among themselves too resolve to remove a director from the board of a company (sections 77(3) & (4)).

It is important for directors to realise that they serve at the pleasure of shareholders. It is likewise necessary for shareholders to know that they have remedies against directors who do not deliver on their mandate, and that keeping directors in check amounts to good corporate governance.

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)

EXPLAINING ZERO RATED VAT

a3bValue-Added Tax, or VAT, is currently typically charged at 14% on all taxable supplies of goods or services rendered by registered VAT vendors. Taxable supplies exclude exempt supplies, such as providing financial services, residential accommodation or educational services (see section 12 of the Value-Added Tax Act, 89 of 1991). Where a VAT vendor makes exempt supplies, it may not levy VAT on invoices rendered for such goods or services provided to the vendor’s clients.

Taxable supplies include though the supply of goods or services at a VAT rate of zero percent. In other words, where a VAT vendor were to supply zero rated goods or services, it will levy VAT on the invoice at 0%, and not the standard rate of 14%. This may appear nonsensical at first, especially considering from an economic perspective when compared to exempt supplies: effectively no VAT is charged on an invoice whether the supply by the VAT vendor is exempt from VAT or charged at a rate of zero percent.

The significance lies therein that the exempt supplies are exempt from VAT altogether, while zero rated supplies still qualify as “taxable supplies” as defined in the VAT Act. VAT vendors may therefore claim input tax for expenditure incurred in order to render taxable supplies, even if zero rated. This will not be the case for VAT exempt supplies.

Put simply therefore: input tax may be claimed against expenditure incurred to the extent that the expenditure is used ultimately to make either zero or standard rated supplies. To the extent that the expenditure is applied to make VAT exempt supplies, no input VAT may be claimed.

To use an example: imagine a VAT vendor, A (Pty) Ltd, which renders services to an Australian based firm (and which is zero rated in terms of section 11(2)(l) of the VAT Act). The invoice to the Australian firm amounts to R100 VAT at zero percent (therefore R100). To render the services, A makes use of a subcontractor which invoices it an amount of R50 VAT at 14% (therefore R57). To the extent that the services of the subcontractor is used to further the enterprise of A in making taxable supplies (even if at zero percent) to the Australian customer, A is able to claim an input tax amount of R7, thereby realising a profit of R50.

Had the services rendered by A amounted to exempt supplies for VAT purposes though in terms of section 12 of the VAT Act (such as supplying financial services for example), A would have still only invoiced its customer an amount of R100, yet unable to claim the input tax amount of R7 on the basis that subcontractor fee is no longer paid in the furtherance of A’s enterprise in making taxable supplies. In this scenario where exempt supplies are made, a profit of only R43 would have been made.

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)

DIVIDENDS TAX COMPLIANCE

a2bOur clients will know that the dividends tax replaced the old Secondary Tax on Companies (“STC”) effectively 1 April 2012 already. Briefly, the STC was a tax on companies and calculated as a factor of dividends declared by that company. The regime was somewhat out of touch with international trends though (which also gave rise to certain anomalies when South Africa negotiated double tax agreements with other countries): the international norm is rather what we have in South Africa today too, being a tax on shareholders (as opposed to the dividend declaring company) and which tax is withheld from payment of dividends to the shareholders. The dividends tax is levied at 15%. By way of an example therefore, if a person (not exempt from the dividends tax) were to receive R100 in dividends from a South African company, that company will only pay R85 to the shareholder, and R15 would be withheld and paid to SARS on the shareholder’s behalf.

Although in our experience most of our clients exhibit an understanding of how the dividends tax regime operates, many of our corporate clients appear to be unaware of their filing obligations which go hand-in-hand with both dividend declarations as well as dividends received. Companies are required to file a dividend tax return when declaring a dividend (section 64K(1A)), but persons are also required to file a return if they receive a dividend exempt from the dividends tax. Since generally all South African tax resident companies are exempt from the dividends tax, this will effectively translate into South African tax resident companies having to file dividends tax returns for all South African dividends which they receive too.

The necessary dividends tax returns (the SARS DTR01 and DTR02 forms) are required to be filed by the end of the month following the month during which the relevant dividend was paid/received. The dividends tax payment (where relevant) should accompany said return.

Therefore, even if a company only pays and receives dividends none of which are subject to the dividends tax the exempt taxpayer is still obliged to file the requisite returns. The returns are also not the only compliance requirement to be observed: where a shareholder relies on a double tax agreement in terms of which a reduced dividends tax rate is to be applied (as opposed to the statutorily imposed 15% applicable domestically), or that person is exempt from the dividends tax altogether, that shareholder must inform the company of this status by way of a declaration made, together with an undertaking that the shareholder will inform the company should the status of the aforementioned change in future. In the absence of such a declaration, the company must still withhold dividends tax even if the shareholder is objectively speaking exempt from the dividends tax.

As one will no doubt realise, non-observation of the relevant dividends tax compliance requirements – even if they do appear to be somewhat trivial and admittedly not practically heavily policed by SARS – one ignores these requirements at one’s own peril. In this instance non-compliance may have a significant impact if a taxpayer is upon investigation found to be wanting in this regard.

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

a1bThe 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.
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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)