FRINGE BENEFITS ON RESIDENTIAL ACCOMMODATION

A3bEmployees’ remuneration packages are often comprised of more than only a monthly cash salary component. Many employees also receive various other benefits from their employers, be it in the form of an interest free loan, use of an employer-owned vehicle, vouchers or gifts, or the provision of residential accommodation. These fringe benefits are all required to be quantified by the Seventh Schedule to the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962, and which benefits are required to be included in such recipient employees’ taxable income and subject to income tax (and PAYE).

The provision of residential accommodation to employees is at times controversial and complicated. This article seeks to focus on the calculation of this specific form of fringe benefit popularly provided to employees, and is especially relevant in certain specific industries such as mining and farming, although by no means limited thereto.

The standard approach prescribed by paragraph 9 of the Seventh Schedule to the Income Tax Act is to calculate the fringe benefit by applying the below formula and to arrive at the appropriate “rental value” to be placed on the accommodation supplied to the employee:

(A – B) x C/100 x D/12

A:  the “remuneration proxy” (typically, the remuneration paid to the employee by that employer during the previous tax year);

B:  an abatement of R75,000 (for 2017 specifically, which amount is linked to the annual primary rebate enjoyed by taxpayers who are individuals);

C:  an amount of 17 (increased to 18 if the accommodation consists of at least 4 rooms and either the accommodation is furnished or power is supplied by the employer, and increased further to 19 if the accommodation is both furnished and power is supplied at the cost of the employer); and

D:  the number of months that the employee was entitled to use the accommodation.

The value of the fringe benefit must be declared on the employee’s IRP5 under code 3805.

Where the employer has obtained the accommodation from an unconnected person to supply to its employee, the fringe benefit value adopted may be such actual cost to the employer if less than the fringe benefit value determined in terms of the above calculation. Any fringe benefit value should further be decreased by any amount contributed thereto at the employee’s own expense. Finally, it is worth noting that no fringe benefit arises if the employer is providing accommodation to an employee where necessary for the employee to spend time away from his usual place of residence to perform his/her duties.

It should be noted that the above is intended to serve as general guidance only. Several nuances and specific provisions exist where international considerations come into play, where the employee has a fixed or contingent interest in the property concerned or where the property is made available for holiday purposes only.

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)

ASSETS HELD AS SECURITY BY SARS WHEN A COMPANY IS BEING LIQUIDATED

A2bThe KwaZulu-Natal High Court previously granted an application brought by Van der Merwe and others (acting as liquidators) requiring the Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service to release certain assets held by him under his control in a customs warehouse. The assets in question were being held by the Commissioner as security for payment of outstanding Value-Added Tax and customs duty liabilities owed by the insolvent taxpayer involved. After losing in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, the Commissioner took the matter on appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal. This judgment is reported as CSARS v Van der Merwe NO (598/2015) [2016] ZASCA 138 (29 September 2016).

Van der Merwe and the other respondents were all liquidators of Pela Plant (Pty) Ltd, a company that became insolvent and for which Van der Merwe and his colleagues were appointed to act as liquidators. To this end, the liquidators endeavoured to have all the assets of the company sold to realise proceeds from which to repay the creditors of the company to the extent possible. The Commissioner was unwilling to release the assets held, as he contended that he was entitled to hold the assets until the requisite VAT and customs duty owed to him was settled. Only then, in terms of the VAT Act 89 of 1991 and the Customs and Excise Duty Act 91 of 1964, was he obliged to release the assets back to the liquidators. The liquidators on the other hand sought to have the assets released to them, and in spite of the outstanding VAT and customs duty owed to the Commissioner: they had an obligation to realise the company’s assets and to repay the insolvent company’s creditors to the extent possible in terms of the provisions of the Insolvency Act 24 of 1936 read with the 1973 Companies Act.

The Supreme Court of Appeal was therefore confronted with the question “[w]hether the law relating to insolvency in respect of the winding up of a company unable to pay its debts permits a liquidator of such a company to take possession of property of the company in the custody and/or under the control of… the Commissioner and to deal with such property as provided for in the law relating to insolvency even though duty has not been paid in respect of such property in terms of… the Customs and Excise Act… and/or value added tax has not been paid in respect of such property as required in terms of… the Value Added Tax Act…”

The judgment came down on the side of the liquidators yet again, and the court confirmed the judgment of the court a quo. When confronted with the question of whether the Commissioner was entitled to hold on to the assets in terms of the VAT and the Customs and Excise Duty Acts, as opposed to releasing them as required by the Insolvency Act, the court was clear in its direction:“When insolvency intervenes one turns to the Insolvency Act.”  This statute will therefore govern the process.

Nothing precludes the Commissioner though from proving a claim as part of the liquidation process. However, he is not permitted to act unilaterally and of his own volition to retain assets held as security by him in the satisfaction of a tax debt due to him.

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)

FINAL AND DILUTED LEGISLATION IN RELATION TO LOW INTEREST LOANS AND TRUST

A1bThe renewed focus by National Treasury on the taxation of trusts was widely anticipated and it came as little surprise earlier this year that the first version of the Draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill, 2016, introduced what will become the new section 7C of the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962.

Much has since been written about the new provision, and many commentators have debated its merits, essentially attributing onerous tax consequences to low interest loans provided to trusts. The final version of the new provision, due to become effective 1 March 2017, has now been published by Treasury, and which will be incorporated into the Income Tax Act as soon as passing through the relevant legislative processes.

The final version contains quite a few significant changes to the initial proposal, although the aim of section 7C is still focused on attacking interest free loans to trusts.

To recap: loans extended by persons to connected party trusts at less than prime – 2.5% are potentially deemed to have donated an amount to that trust equal to the difference between interest that was actually charged and the amount of interest that would have been charged at a rate of prime – 2.5%. It is unlikely that such deemed donations will have any direct income tax consequences for the trust, although indirectly donations to trusts may cause certain receipts by a trust to be taxed in the hands of any donors in terms of the so-called “tax back” provisions contained in section 7 of the Income Tax Act.[1] The obvious consequence of section 7C though is the potential incidence of donations tax.

In this regard, the first notable exception to the final version of section 7C is that the annual R100,000 exemption from donations tax may now be utilised against the deemed donation – said exemption was previous expressly excluded from being utilised against the deemed donation triggered by section 7C. Although this does not address the indirect income tax consequence highlighted above in relation to the application of the “tax back” provisions in the Act, it does significantly negate any potential donations tax consequences, while also removing the direct income tax consequence of the previous proposal in terms of which the creditor will have been deemed to have received an interest accrual in its own hands (and which would have been subject to income tax).

A further notable change to the final version of section 7C is that a long list of potential exemptions are now provided for where section 7C will not apply (although these are quite focussed and potentially of limited application only). It is finally also noted that the final proposed legislation makes it clear that the provision applies to loans already existing as at 1 March 2017, where doubt existed in terms of the previous proposal whether the provision would only have applied to “new” loans entered into on or after section 7C comes into effect.

The final version of section 7C presents a much diluted and less threatening version of the initial proposed legislation presented by Treasury earlier this year, and taxpayers will be relieved to learn of the significant concessions since been made. That being said, the provision still has the capacity to significantly increase the ultimate tax bill of a number of trust related structures, and our clients are once again encouraged to have their prevailing accounts reviewed to ensure that their affairs are structured appropriately.

[1] To the extent that a person donates an amount to the trust, income received by the trust as a consequence of that donation is deemed to accrue to the donor, and not the trust.

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)