SARS gives 100% tax break in attempt to drive economy

Taxpayers are tired of paying tax to a state where massive corruption and wasteful expenditure are the order of the day. This is a completely understandable and predictable situation, says Neill Hobbs, founder and director of Anuva Investments.

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The mini-budget was a rude awakening, as the Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba admitted that SARS is no longer able to collect sufficient revenue. The R50.8 billion shortfall has been attributed to the ailing economy and to a scary trend of tax resistance or worse, tax rebellion.

For these fatigued taxpayers, there is a now a bright light at the end of the tunnel. SARS is offering a solution whereby you do not have to pay tax and where the money you save is put to good use for both you and the country. Too good to be true? It isn’t.

Using a concept borrowed from the UK, SARS has written Section 12J into the Tax Act, which offers taxpayers a 100% tax break in the year of investment if they invest in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) by way of subscription of shares in a Section 12J venture capital company (VCC). “Why?” you might ask.

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It’s a well-established fact that one of the best ways to drive the economy and employment is through investment in SMEs. Section 12J is targeted at just that type of investment by offering taxpayers a tax break in return for their investment. Many of today’s large retailers and corporates started as a small business and their contribution to the South African economy has been paramount.

SMEs are generally pioneers creating new landscapes or alternatively expanding on existing business landscapes. But what SMEs have in energy and appetite for success they lack in working capital and possibly key skills and network. With Section 12J, these businesses are able to use tax-deductible equity funding to realise goals and fund growth. In this way, Section 12J has created an extraordinary opportunity to aid SMEs while simultaneously creating rand value for the individual investor due to the tax saving on entry into the investment, in addition to dividends and capital growth.

As a regular taxpayer, you simply have to identify a Section 12J VCC of your liking and invest with them to qualify for your tax break. While this is a relatively new opportunity, a number of these tightly regulated VCC companies have already been established. Some are focused on the true venture capital space, such as an investment into disruptive technology, looking for that one in 10 super successful investment, while others are more risk averse and focus on saving you tax while providing a steady but predictable return on investment.

Here, the onus or choice belongs to the investor depending on their risk appetite. Investors must be cognisant of the five-year investment period. If the taxpayer sells their shares prior to the five-year period, there will be a recoupment of the tax allowance upon disposal of shares. However, if the shares are held for a period exceeding five years, only capital gains tax is paid albeit off a zero base.

In practice, the concept is really working. The growing number of jobs that are being saved coupled with an extraordinary return for many investors renders 12J certainly worth careful consideration. Apart from the tax savings, solid return on investment is boosted by strong dividends and growth in value of the underlying investments.

Unlike a retirement annuity, there is no limit to a 12J investment. Furthermore, you can immediately receive dividends and only have to wait for five years before you get your money back. Included as part of a diversified portfolio, this is a remarkable opportunity for a South African taxpayer with a high taxable income to create self-interest value and as a by-product to create broader-interest value for the country.