Extending Export Regulations

Interpretation Note 30 (“IN 30”) by the South African Revenue Service (“SARS”) explains the requirements that need to be adhered to and prescribes the documentary proof, acceptable to the Commissioner, that must be obtained and retained by a vendor in order to levy value-added tax (“VAT”) at zero rate on a supply of movable goods, where those goods are consigned or delivered to a recipient at an address in an export country. Should these requirements not be adhered to, exports could potentially be accounted for at the standard VAT rate of 15%, which will result in adverse tax (and commercial) consequences for vendors.

Binding General Ruling 52 (“the BGR”) extends the periods to export movables, apply for a VAT refund and obtain relevant documentary proof of export as per the Export Regulations and IN 30.

The default position

The Export Regulations and IN 30 prescribe specific periods for exportation of goods, applications for VAT refunds and obtaining the relevant documentary proof of export for the process. The Export Regulations and IN 30 allow for an extension of the periods where they cannot be met due to circumstances beyond the control of the vendor. These circumstances include, amongst others, natural or human-made disasters and serious illness of a vendor, a qualifying purchaser, or a person duly authorised to represent these parties.

In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, many vendors will have difficulty in meeting the timeframes as required. This is a situation that is considered to be beyond the control of the vendor, or qualifying purchaser or duly authorised representative as per the Export Regulations and IN 30.

The BGR

The BGR only applies to supplies of movable goods in respect of which the original timeframes in the Export Regulations and IN 30 have not been exceeded and prescribe for extended periods as follows:

  • Indirect exports

The time periods prescribed under regulation 3(a) of the Export Regulations have been extended by an additional three months.

The time period to apply for a refund as prescribed in regulation 3 of the Export Regulations is extended by 6 months from the date of export.

  • Direct exports

The time period to export movable goods is extended by an additional 3 months.

Period for which ruling is valid

The ruling applies from the date of issue on 26 March 2020, and is valid until it is withdrawn, amended or the relevant legislation is amended.

If the BGR does not provide for a specific scenario in respect of exporting movable goods, vendors or qualifying purchasers may apply for a VAT ruling.

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 adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Rescission of judgments by SARS: Barnard Labuschagne Inc v SARS

The judgment deals with an application for rescission of a judgment by Barnard Labuschagne (Applicant), where SARS took judgment under the provisions of chapter 11 of the Tax Administration Act (TAA).

SARS filed a certified statement in terms of Section 172 of the TAA with the Registrar of the Court, setting out an amount of liquid debt due by the Applicant in respect of PAYE, VAT, UIF and SDL, and payable to SARS.

The Applicant is a law practice in the Western Cape and brought an application to rescind, based on various contentions. Over an extended time, the Applicant had various issues with incorrect allocations of taxes paid to the correct accounts. The dispute occurred over the years, and it was evident that the Applicant left this dispute unresolved. This occurred various times between 2009 and 2017. SARS had issued penalties and raised interest, and threatened judgment on various occasions. SARS even went as far as to make employees available to the Applicant, to allocate funds correctly. SARS eventually applied for judgment, based on a tax debt owed by the Applicant from the Applicant’s self-assessment.

The Applicant refused to object to the assessment, as it contended that SARS had not issued an objectionable assessment, and stressed that it was entitled to bring these proceedings, in terms of section 105 of the TAA, for a rescission of the judgment granted in terms of section 172 and 174 of the TAA. The Applicant further tested the constitutionality of the sections, if the Court did not find agreement with the Applicant, as these sections would then infringe his Constitutional rights to approach a court for relief when a judgment is granted. SARS countered this, stating that the judgment in terms of these sections was not judicially granted, as it lacks determining characters of judicially issued judgments.

In its judgment, the Court refuted the Applicant’s constitutionality arguments, stating that they held no weight. The High Court further confirmed that there must be a civil judgment in existence and that sections 172 and 174 constitute law enforcement mechanisms. These statements can be filed irrespective of whether an objection or appeal is in play, or an amount has been suspended. The benefit to the Applicant. Though. is that it is not a formal civil judgment and cannot be accorded the status of such.

In finality, the Court found that as this is not a civil judgment ordered by a court, one could not follow this route to have the judgment rescinded and as a result dismissed the application for rescission of judgment, and declared that the relevant provisions are not unconstitutional.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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)

Taxpayers’ details remain protected

In the case of the Commissioner for SARS vs Public Protector (23 March 2020) in the Gauteng High Court, the matter of the confidentiality of taxpayer information came up for consideration. This matter has a protracted history stemming from around November 2018. The Public Protector’s office had been actively seeking the (then) president’s tax records for an investigation, and for which the Public Protector issued a subpoena in October 2018.

The Public Protector argued that her office required the personal tax information of former President Zuma as she was investigating a complaint by a political party sourced from a column in a published book, relating to the former president’s alleged tax woes and that he had been receiving a salary from a private security company.

The substance of the Public Protector’s argument was based on the legal concept of jus causa (just cause), stating that this information was essential to her investigation. Interestingly, the former president came out in the Public Protector’s defence and attempted to file an affidavit confirming that she may access these records.

SARS’ argument to deny access to the records was based on section 67 of the Tax Administration Act, protecting the secrecy of taxpayer information. SARS’ refusal was echoed by counsel and based on the premise that the subpoena sought to coerce the production of sensitive information, and which production is a criminal offence according to the Tax Administration Act. SARS further pointed out that the Public Protector is not an “exempted authority” for purposes of providing information. SARS similarly pointed out that the Public Protector had various other avenues available to obtain this information, which was both lawful, and was never attempted (and that she had received advice to this effect).

The Court ruled in favour of SARS, confirming the sanctity of taxpayer secrecy. In his judgement, judge Mabuse confirmed that the Tax Administration Act provides that no current or former SARS employee may disclose taxpayer information to any person who is not a SARS official. The Court further looked at the phrase “just cause”, as contemplated in the Public Protector Act, and denied that this instance was a situation of just cause, warranting the issuing of a subpoena. The Court held that the Public Protector had no valid reasons for seeking the taxpayer information, that she failed to observe legislation and had the wrong impression that she had unlimited powers.

SARS’s application of withholding the information was upheld and the court order that was based on the provisions of the Tax Administration Act, as well as the “just cause” provision held in the Public Protector Act, provided that SARS was entitled to withhold this information. It was further ordered that the Public Protector’s subpoena powers do not extend to taxpayer information.

Taxpayers should take some heart from the judgement, knowing that SARS has the right, and will attempt, to keep their tax matters confidential from other parties, within the boundaries of the law.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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 law for employer transport services

In terms of the Tax Administration Act, the South African Revenue Service (“SARS”) can issue Binding General Rulings (“BGR”) on matters of general interest or importance and clarifies the Commissioner’s application or interpretation of the tax law relating to these matters.BGR 50 provides clarity on the so-called “no-value” provision in respect of the rendering of transport services by an employer to its employees.

Background

Employers may often provide employees with transport services from their homes to the place of employment. Although it typically applies where places of work are remote, such as in the farming or mining sectors, the provision of such services has also become prevalent in urban areas where traffic congestion takes up significant employee hours. In terms of the Seventh Schedule to the Income Tax Act, which deals with fringe benefits, these transport services are taxable as a fringe benefit in the hands of employees. The benefit may, however, attract no value where certain conditions are met, which effectively results in no tax consequences for the employee. Confusion has often arisen on the application of the “no-value” provision, especially where the transport is outsourced to a third party.

Paragraph 2(e) of the Seventh Schedule provides that a taxable benefit is deemed to have been granted by an employer to an employee where the transport service, at the expense of the employer, has been rendered to the employee for private or domestic purposes.

Paragraph 10(2)(b), in turn, provides that such a taxable benefit will attract no value if transport services are rendered by the employer to its employees in general for their conveyance between work and home. The focus of this section is that the “no-value” provision applies where the employer renders the transport service and does not contract it to another party. This is the essence of the distinction for the BGR.

Ruling

Where the transport is not provided directly by the employer (and is outsourced to a specific transport service provider), the employer must make the conditions of the provision of the transport services clear. Transport services:

  • Should be exclusively offered to employees based on predetermined routes;
  • Cannot be requested on an ad-hoc basis by employees; and
  • The contract for the service is between the employer and the transport provider, and no employee is a party to the contract.

The provision and access to general public transport will not be regarded as a transport service provided by the employer and the “no-value” provision will not apply in these circumstances.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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)

When shares become assets

Many business transactions are concluded in terms of section 42 of the Income Tax Act. The section essentially allows a transfer of an asset by a person to a company, in exchange for equity shares in that company, allowing for tax neutral transaction.The South African Revenue Service has recently issued Binding Private Ruling 339, relating to a transaction in which listed shares are transferred to a collective investment scheme (CIS) in exchange for participatory interests in a collective investment scheme. The parties to the transaction are a resident discretionary investment family trust (herein referred to as the Applicant), and a resident CIS as defined in the Collective Investment Schemes Control Act (herein referred to as the Fund).

The facts

The Applicant holds assets which comprise of fixed properties and listed shares (amongst other things) which are held as long-term investments. In this instance, the current market value of the shares exceeds the base cost. Some shares have been held by the Applicant for more than three years, and some for less than three years. The settlor (also a trustee of the Applicant) of the trust has been managing the investments of the trust, while the administration and stockbroking have been attended to by a separate wealth management company. It has been decided by the trustees to transfer the share portfolio to a CIS to be professionally managed and administered. For this to happen, the Applicant will enter into an agreement to transfer shares to the CIS fund in exchange for a participatory interest in this fund.

Ruling

SARS has confirmed that the transaction in this instance would qualify as an asset-for-share transaction as per the definition in Section 42(1) of the Income Tax Act. It was further confirmed that:

  • Shares held for longer than three years would be regarded as capital assets, and that upon transfer, the participatory interests received in exchange for the shares would be deemed to have been acquired on the dates that the listed shares were acquired.
  • There would be no capital gains tax consequences from the disposal of the listed shares as the Applicant would be deemed to have disposed of the shares for proceeds equal to the base cost, and similarly, to have acquired the participatory interests in the CIS on the dates that the initial shares were acquired, for the same expenditure incurred that is allowable.
  • There would be an exemption on Share Transfer Tax for the proposed transaction.

Observation

If one ignores the potential application of the general anti-avoidance rules which apply to all arrangements, it is unclear why the participants to this arrangement approached SARS for a ruling, since the technical analysis is rather straightforward.

There has recently been an increase in such straightforward rulings issued by SARS. In general (and not suggesting that the parties in this ruling did so) one gets the sense that parties approach SARS for a ruling to avoid any attack on a transaction. SARS is however well within its rights to attack a transaction on anti-avoidance, despite a ruling having been obtained. Parties should, therefore, guard against applying for ruling on seemingly straightforward technical grounds, to avoid any attach on anti-avoidance. Such a strategy may end up being unsuccessful.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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)

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