THE CALCULATION OF INTEREST DUE BETWEEN TAXPAYERS AND SARS

a4bThe Tax Administration Act (TAA) introduces general principles to be applied when calculating interest due to or due by SARS. The aim is to create a fairer, more uniform calculation of interest for both the taxpayers and SARS. As with most things in life, there are exceptions. This article will discuss the general interest rules and some of their exceptions.
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The following general concepts are laid down for the calculation of interest due between taxpayers and SARS:

  1. Interest is compensation for the lost opportunity to use money.
  2. Interest will be calculated daily on the outstanding balance and compounded monthly.
  3. Interest accrues from the effective payment date until the actual payment date of an outstanding amount. The effective payment date is the date when a tax becomes due and payable under a tax Act.

The following section explains four of the exceptions to the general concepts above:

Refunds due by SARS

If SARS must refund a taxpayer, interest on the refund is calculated from the date that SARS receives the excess amount which must be refunded to the date that SARS pays the refund to the taxpayer.

Where SARS sets off a refund against other tax owing by a taxpayer, the deemed date of payment of the refund is the set off date.

Provisional tax

In the case of the compulsory first provisional tax payment the effective date is the last business day of the sixth month after the end of the tax year. Interest will be calculated from the effective date, until the payment date or the effective date of the second provisional tax payment, whichever of the latter two comes first.

For the second provisional tax payment (also compulsory) the effective date is the last business day of the tax year. Interest is calculated from the effective payment date until the earlier of the actual payment date or the effective date (as prescribed) of the optional third provisional tax payment.

Delayed VAT refunds

No interest will be calculated on the refund for the period of the delay if the delay is caused by the taxpayer. The period of the delay is determined from the date that the taxpayer was required to submit information to SARS (e.g. bank details for the account into which SARS must pay the refund) until the date by which the taxpayer actually submitted the requested information.

Amounts refunded by mistake

If SARS refunds a taxpayer by mistake, the refund is deemed to be tax due and payable by the taxpayer. Interest will be calculated on the refund from the refund date until the date that the taxpayer pays the refund back to SARS.

A senior SARS official may remit imposed interest if he/she is satisfied that the interest was imposed as a result of circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control. There are only three cases where circumstances might be regarded as beyond the control of the taxpayer: serious illness or accident, natural or man-made disaster, or civil disturbance or disruption of services.

The TA Act strives to provide for an equal number of days to be used for calculating any interest due between taxpayers and SARS, and to create an opportunity to apply the same rules for the calculation of interest on all the different types of tax administered by SARS.

Reference List:

  • Accessed on 21 June 2015:
  • SARS Short Guide to the Tax Administration Act, 2011 (Act No. 28 of 2011), Chapter12

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)

DIRE PROVISIONAL TAX PENALTIES ON UNDERESTIMATION OF INCOME

a3bProvisional taxpayers are generally those taxpayers who earn income from sources other than a salary. In other words, PAYE is not deducted from these other sources of income on a monthly basis and paid over to SARS. As is the case with PAYE, provisional tax presents a cash flow mechanism to National Treasury through which to gather prepayments of an ultimate tax liability throughout a tax year on income which is not subject to the PAYE regime and which would otherwise only have been paid some time later when an annual income tax return is ultimately submitted. This can be as much as a year later.

To this end, provisional taxpayers are required to submit an estimate of their annual taxable income on a six-monthly basis. In the case of natural persons, provisional tax estimates are required to be submitted to SARS by way of a provisional tax return at the end of August each year, and again by the end of February. Legal persons similarly are required to submit estimates of taxable income at the end of the first 6 months of their financial years and again on the final day of the financial year.

For the first sixth-month estimate to be submitted an estimate is required to be made by the taxpayer of the estimated amount of taxable income that will be earned for the full year of assessment: half the amount of tax due on that estimated amount is required to be paid over to SARS at that date already, albeit after taking into account any amounts of PAYE also already deducted, where salary income is also earned. For the second provisional tax return, an estimate should again be submitted, and the tax on such estimate again be paid over (after taking into account any amounts of PAYE already deducted during the year as well as the first provisional tax payment already made).

The potential for manipulation by taxpayers is obvious and a legislated remedy is required to ensure that provisional taxpayers do not simply always submit an estimate of Rnil, thereby delaying the payment of amounts to SARS until the tax return for the applicable year itself is ultimately submitted. To this end, the Fourth Schedule to the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962, makes provision for penalties to be levied where it appears at ultimate assessment date that a taxpayer has underestimated its taxable income for provisional tax purposes. For taxpayers earning more than R1 million in taxable income, taxpayers are allowed some leeway in that an estimate should at least have been 80% of the actual taxable income ultimately determined. This recognises that taxpayers are unlikely at year end to be able to accurately estimate their actual taxable income for the year already. However, if the estimated taxable income proves to be less than 80% of the actual taxable income, a 20% penalty is levied on the difference between the tax payable on 80% of the actual taxable income and the tax payable on the estimated amount returned by the taxpayer.

Similarly, taxpayers earning less than R1 million taxable income are subject to the same 20% penalty, but within a 90% margin of accuracy instead of 80%. These taxpayers are afforded additional relief though in that they are permitted to submit as an estimate a factor of their last assessed taxable income without running the risk of incurring a penalty, even if this amount ultimately is less than 90% of the actual taxable income determined.

Interestingly, no underestimation penalty exists for first provisional tax estimates, however SARS may query estimates submitted and require taxpayers to submit revised first provisional tax estimates. Where second provisional tax estimates are concerned though, taxpayers should take care in preparing estimated taxable incomes which are to be submitted for provisional tax purposes as failure to do so could lead to a significantly increased tax charge when the tax year is ultimately assessed by SARS.

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)

OFFSHORE COMPANIES AND DOING BUSINESS IN SOUTH AFRICA: A COMPANIES ACT PERSPECTIVE

a2bAccording to the most recent statistics released by the South African Revenue Service, South Africa remains a net importer of goods and services. Put differently, one could say that South Africans are more often clients in cross-border transactions than they would be the service provider. Many of our clients operate in this space, including foreign incorporated companies which are doing business in South Africa. This article is aimed at those specific clients of ours: those clients doing business in South Africa through companies incorporated outside of South Africa.

Section 23 of the Companies Act, 71 of 2008, regulates when foreign companies are required to register as “external companies” in South Africa. In terms of that section an external company must register with CIPC within 20 business days after it first begins to conduct business, or non-profit activities, in South Africa. The question is then when will the company in question be considered to be conducting business here?

A foreign company is, by virtue of the provisions of the Companies Act, regarded as conducting business in South Africa if either it is a party to at least one employment contract in South Africa, or if it is conducting such activities for a 6-month period “as would lead a person to reasonably conclude that the company intended to continually engage in business or non-profit activities within the Republic.” (section 23(2)(b)) Therefore, having even one employee in South Africa requires a company to register.

Certain exclusions may apply and where the Act is explicit that certain activities should not be considered to establish sufficient enough a presence in South Africa to deem the company to be one conducting business here (and therefore required to register with the relevant authorities). However, these exclusions are illuminating in the sense that it presents a rather low bar of activity (such as having shareholders’ meetings here or maintaining a bank account), therefore potentially hinting that the bar for being considered to conduct business in South Africa and therefore required to register as an external company may not be very high.

In terms of section 23, any foreign company required to register as an external company in South Africa must maintain an office in this country. Moreover, failure to adhere to the requisite registration requirements may ultimately lead to a company being notified that it is no longer allowed to carry on business operations in South Africa. Although this article does not consider the implications of registering as external company, we also wish to alert affected clients thereto that this legislative registration requirement may have certain tax and exchange control related implications inherent to them, and on which advice should be taken to manage these requirements in a sensible and responsible manner.

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)

TAX IMPLICATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL BRANCHES

a1bIrrespective of whether a South African company is expanding its business offshore, or whether international businesses set up shop in South Africa, companies trading internationally are often confronted with the complex tax implications for doing so. This article explores the tax implications linked to international branches of a company specifically; it does not consider the scenario where a corporate group would operate through separate companies set up in each of the various jurisdictions in which it operates. With a branch, it is contemplated therefore that a company tax resident in one country carries on operations in another country either by selling trading stock in that other country or rendering services there.

Two main tax implications arise for trading activities conducted through international branches, these being that so-called “permanent establishments” are being created, and secondly that transfer pricing principles would apply also to these permanent establishments.

Dependent on the level of activities involved, for income tax purposes where a non-tax resident company carries on business in another country that company will be considered to have a branch in that other country (known as a “permanent establishment”). Typically, permanent establishments are treated as separate taxpayers by the countries in which these are situated, thus able to earn taxable income of its own in that country. This may potentially give rise to double taxation. For example, A (Pty) Ltd is tax resident in country X, and carries on a business in country Y through a branch there and with sufficient activities to constitute a “permanent establishment”. By virtue of the level of activities in Y, that country will seek to tax the profits of the branch in that country. However, A is a tax resident in country X and which would likewise want to tax all the income of its residents. In this instance, double taxation will arise, and A will be taxed in both countries X and Y on the income of its branch in Y, unless there is a double tax treaty in place (and which will typically allocate taxing rights to country Y exclusively).

Whether a permanent establishment exists or not therefore may involve a matter of planning: dependent on the various income tax rates in countries X and Y above, it may be beneficial for A to ensure that sufficient substance is present in country Y to have a permanent establishment recognised in that country if that country for example has more beneficial tax rates than country X.

The further tax consequence linked to permanent establishments relates to that of transfer pricing. In its simplest form transfer pricing would involve ensuring the cross-border charges between related parties are conducted on an arm’s length basis. Transfer pricing adjustments would kick in where a company in a higher income tax jurisdiction were to inflate its deductible expenditure by paying amounts over to a related tax resident situated in another country. In this manner, profits are artificially shifted within the same group to jurisdictions with the lowest tax rates.

The same abuse could potentially apply where permanent establishments are concerned. Take the example of A above carrying on business through a branch in country Y. Transfer pricing legislation (contained in section 31 of the South African Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962) dictates that an arm’s length amount of expenditure be allocated to the branch – no more and no less. Where for example therefore a group company of A would lend money to A’s branch in country X, one would need to interrogate what the interest rate would have been on the debt had a third party provided the debt financing. If the interest payable on the loan between the group company and branch be anything else, transfer pricing legislation would become applicable to adjust any interest paid (or not paid) to arm’s length values.

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)