September 20, 2021

Tax evasion vs tax avoidance in South Africa – and why SARS wants you to pay your fair share

There may be not a lot of a high-quality line between tax evasion and tax planning as there’s a large gray superhighway dissecting the 2 named tax avoidance, says Mark Diuga, regional wealth supervisor in Cape City at Overberg Asset Administration.

The South African Income Providers (SARS) crackdown on non-compliant taxpayers in current months is properly documented. The Nationwide Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is issuing summonses to taxpayers with excellent tax returns as a part of a continued compliance drive by the tax physique.

“The tax we pay to the federal government is our contribution to South Africa’s welfare. We want it to construct roads, faculties and hospitals. We want it to guarantee our security and safety as residents of this nation. With out it, we should borrow from different international locations and establishments such because the IMF on phrases that aren’t essentially beneficial, SARS famous.

“SARS will make it hard and costly for any taxpayer who willfully and intentionally seeks to break the law as we expect every taxpayer to meet their obligations and pay their fair share of tax,” it mentioned.

Diuga highlights the distinction between evasion, planning and avoidance:

  • Tax Evasion: utilizing illegal strategies to pay much less or no tax. Normally, this constitutes fraud, i.e., falsifying statements or presenting false data to the South African Income Service (SARS) with penalties together with imprisonment.
  • Tax Planning: legally, you might organize your monetary affairs in such a method as to cut back your tax legal responsibility; a generally used strategy can be to contribute right into a retirement annuity to obtain a tax refund and, by doing so, you can use the funds to construct long-term wealth while deferring an revenue tax legal responsibility till the purpose of receiving a profit.
  • Tax avoidance: is every little thing in between which constitutes you paying much less tax than SARS would really like.

Tax avoidance is, on the face of it, lawful, and some would even counsel that a person is duty-bound to pay as little tax as is lawfully permissible, mentioned Diuga.

“Lord Tomlin in Duke of Westminster V IRC 1953 (UK) famously held that ‘Every man is entitled, if he can, to order his affairs so that the tax attaching under the appropriate act is less than it otherwise would be’.”

International Income Providers disagree, nonetheless.

Enter Common Anti-Avoidance Guidelines (GAAR) – ever-changing guidelines and efforts, domestically and internationally, designed to push the lawful, but undesirable, tax avoidance practices into extinction and flip that superhighway right into a one-way road travelling to fines and punishments, mentioned Diuga.

“I’ve had many a cocktail party dialog in regards to the unjust nature of a ‘Starbucks’ or ‘Amazon’ doubtlessly utilizing a myriad of jurisdictions, possession layers, switch pricing, base erosion and revenue shifting with the web end result of paying much less tax.

“These conversations usually end with a hypothetical, but yet contradictory, statement in that people would, generally, like to pay SARS less, if possible – and legal,” he mentioned. Many begrudge others reaching a perceived benefit which is unavailable to us, tax or in any other case.

Impermissible avoidance association and up to date GAAR (80 A-L)

Tax avoidance is usually described as the usage of ‘impermissible avoidance arrangements.’ Overberg Asset Administration famous that the 2006 amendments to the Earnings Tax Act 1962 set out 4 necessities that should be established to decide whether or not an impermissible avoidance association exists:

  • The existence of an avoidance association.
  • The association should have been entered into on or after the efficient date, 2nd November 2006.
  • The only or important objective was to get hold of a tax profit.
  • The association should embrace an ‘abnormality’ component.

“Without getting bogged down by the legalese; there must be some form of transaction, which has taken place after November 2006 whereby the main purpose was to obtain a tax benefit, and the arrangement lacked personal/business or commercial ‘substance’ – essentially was it a natural transaction which would have occurred had there not been any tax benefit,” mentioned Diuga.

He mentioned that demonstrating the financial ‘substance’ of an entity and a transaction is changing into more and more necessary globally.

“You can see how this can become a minefield for advisors and their clients. You may legally reduce your tax liability – and may be morally justified in doing so – but you must not do so in a manner that is ‘undesirable’ or was simply done so to reduce tax liability,” Diuga mentioned.

Consequently, he mentioned that many monetary advisors stick to tried and examined vanilla monetary merchandise resembling retirement plans, tax-free financial savings accounts and endowments.


South African laws, and in explicit monetary regulation, has had a historical past of following UK regulation. As GAAR provisions had been final particularly amended again in 2006, the query is: might South Africa be due an improve?

The Tax Administration Act 2011 began to shift the dialog to the promoters of economic preparations/ schemes with inherent tax advantages and the requirement for the promoters themselves to disclose the association to SARS.

Diuga questioned whether or not this might go a step additional.

He famous that the UK’s Finance Act 2021 lately acquired Royal Assent, that means the invoice will quickly be enacted.

Amongst different provisions and amendments, the invoice supplies new powers to HMRC – the UK’s Income Service – to clamp down on the promoters and enablers of tax avoidance by disrupting their actions and doing extra to assist prospects to keep away from go away tax avoidance preparations.

New powers underneath the Act allow HMRC to:

  • Use freezing orders to ring-fence property to make it possible for promoters and enablers of tax avoidance schemes can’t escape the monetary penalties of their non-compliance.
  • Levy vital extra penalties to any UK entity which facilitates the promotion of tax avoidance by offshore promoters.
  • Current winding-up petitions to the Courtroom for corporations working towards the general public curiosity, eradicating them from the market and lowering the hurt they trigger to taxpayers and the broader economic system.
  • Identify promoters, particulars of how they promote tax avoidance, and the schemes they promote, on the earliest potential stage, warn taxpayers of the dangers and assist these already concerned get out of avoidance.

Diuga mentioned that taxpayers will at all times search new and revolutionary methods of avoiding tax, the effectiveness of the South African GAAR stays an space of concern, regardless of makes an attempt to tackle its weaknesses.

“Be mindful that your advisor may lack the knowledge, expertise and confidence to help when it comes to navigating tax issues alongside your financial planning, or their business may simply refuse to engage on the topic,” he mentioned.

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