What should you know about Auto Assessment?

What should you know about Auto Assessment?

What is an auto-assessment?
An auto-assessment is an automatic assessment issued on taxpayers by SARS. This basically means that SARS has collected taxpayer information from their parties (such as medical aid or retirement annuities) and then use this information to file your return and issue an assessment on this return automatically without your involvement.

How will you know if you are auto-assessed? 
You should receive an email or SMS from SARS informing you that you have been selected for auto-assessment. The process started in July 2022. But, this is not the first time SARS has issued an auto-assessment. They also issued these in the 2021 tax year.


What should I do if I receive an auto-assessment? 

SARS says if you agree with the aut0-assessment, you do not have to do anything. However, should you be in disagreement, you have just 40 working days from the date of assessment to file a correction (edited tax return.)


What happens if you miss the 40 days? 

If you do not do anything, SARS assumes you are in agreement with the auto-assessment. The assessment becomes your final assessment at the expiration of the 40 business days.

Can I request an extension? 
If you feel the 40 working days are too little, you can request an extension on eFiling before the 40 days have expired. SARS will require “reasonable” grounds for the request. if you miss the deadline, you will have an additional 21 working days to submit a request for an extension on the same terms. If both 21 and 40 days have passed and you still were not able to submit a correction, you will need to provide “exceptional circumstances” to justify a delayed request for extension.


NOW TO THE BIG QUESTION, SHOULD I ACCEPT THE AUTO-ASSESSMENT? 

We think this is a risky move if (and SARS may not pick up these things on an auto-assessment:)

1. You have qualifying donations you would like to claim

2. You have qualifying out-of-pocket medical aid expenses

3. Your medical aid is being paid for by someone who is not the principal member (normally the person paying for the medical aid would be the one to claim the medical tax credits.)

4. You have capital gains on assets that you sold that fall outside the scope of an auto assessment

5. You are a crypto or share trader

6. You have a side business or rental income (profit or loss)

7. You have and qualify for a home office expense claim (deductions)

8. You would like to claim your business travel kilometres

9. SARS missed one or some of your retirement annuity funds

Contact us:
Was this helpful? Would you like us to do your tax return? Get in touch with us via email (evatax@evacfo.com) or by phone – 021 823 9684

What are the tax implications of trading or buying shares?

What are the tax implications of trading or buying shares?

The tax implication for having shares boil down to two things, whether your gain is income in nature or capital (gain) in nature. Let’s start by defining these two things:


Income: 

Shares held as trading stock are bought mainly for resale at a profit. In other words, any shares held for speculative purposes normally fall under this category. The profits or any gain or loss made on the disposal of such shares (held for-profit/speculative) purposes will be of a revenue nature and will not be subject to capital gains.


Gains of a revenue nature are subject to tax at marginal tax rates that vary between 18% and 45% depending on the circumstances of the taxpayer after taking into account all his/her other income (such as salary, rent, business income e.t.c.) The taxpayer can also deduct expenses directly related to the trading of these shares such as broker fees, transaction fees, subscription to broker news, tools and platforms and any such costs directly related to the trading of these shares.


Capital: 

On the other end of the spectrum, for shares held as a capital asset (that is as a long-term dividend producing investment,) any gains or losses arising from such shares (held for investment/dividend earning) upon disposal will be of a capital nature.


Gains that are of a capital nature are subject to capital gains and at a lower tax rate than gains of a revenue nature. Firstly, you get an exclusion of R40 000 as an individual on your gains. This means that you start paying capital gains tax if your gains exceed R40 000 for a tax year (year of assessment.) This is known as the annual exclusion. For natural persons dying during or after the 2020 tax year of assessment, the exclusion is R300 000.


In addition to the annual exclusion, 40% of the gains are included in taxable income and then taxed as the normal marginal tax rates that apply to your salaries or other income. This 40% is known as the inclusion rate. Assuming that your marginal tax rate is 45% (the highest tax bracket,) the maximum you pay on capital gains is 18% (0.4 x 0.45 = 0.18.)


Yes, you guessed it right, there can be 0% tax on your capital gains when:

  • The sum of capital gain and losses does not exceed the annual exclusion;
  • The sum of capital gain is less than or equal to the sum of capital losses (which means your gains set off against your gains); or
  • Taxable income falls below the level at which normal tax becomes payable, that is if your combined income plus gains fall under the tax-free threshold.

The effective rate (of 18%) we spoke about earlier applies if you fall in the highest tax bracket as an individual taxpayer. The rate is different from that which applies to companies or trusts. Companies and trusts, other than special trusts, pay a higher CGT than natural persons. They do not qualify for the annual exclusion and must include the capital gain at 80% of the gain into their taxable income.  These are the effective tax rates:

  • Companies are at an effective rate of 22.4% which is derived from the 80% inclusion rate and the 28% normal taxes for companies (0.28 x 0.8.)
  • A trust that is not a special trust si at 36% effective tax rate for capital gains (0.45 x 0.8)

What we have done above is the simplest way to look at share-holding. Are things that simple? Not always. The line between gains/losses of a revenue nature or gains of a capital nature can be a bit blurry.


Capital vs revenue: 

When computing your tax liability, the first step is to determine if your gains are capital or revenue in nature. Apart from the three-year rule according to Section 9C (that basically says you must own a share for at least 3 years for your gains to be treated as capital in nature,) the Tax Act itself does not provide objective rules to distinguish between gains of revenue and capital nature. This task has always been left to the courts, which over the years have established some rules for this distinction. So, the onus is on you as the taxpayer to prove that your gains are of a capital or revenue nature.


The most important factor in establishing the nature of your gains is the intention. This is not always an easy task since you can have more than one intention at a time and since intention can change over time. But, the courts have established that the taxpayer evidence as to intention must be tested against the surrounding circumstances of the case. These may include, the frequency of transactions, method of funding and reasons for selling. These may help establish your intention when you bought or sold the shares (Elandsheuwel Farming (Edms) Bpk v SBI.) “If they (the shares) were bought as a long-term investment to produce dividend income, the profit is likely to be of a capital nature. But if the shares were bought for resale at a profit, the profit will be of a revenue nature.”


In SIR v The Trust Bank of Africa Ltd it was established that for a profit to be of a capital nature, “the slightest contemplation of a profitable resale need not be excluded.

Where there were mixed intentions, the dominating intention is the one that establishes intention (COT v Levy.)


Some general guidelines/Principles (source, the SARS guide on tax implications on shares:) 

  • Any profit or loss on disposal of shares will be of a revenue nature if they were purchased for resale as part of a scheme of profit-making (Californian Copper Syndicate (Limited and Reduced) v Harris (Surveyor of Taxes)
  • A profit on the sale of shares is more likely to be of a revenue nature if it was not fortuitous, but designedly sought for and worked for (CIR v Pick ’n Pay Employee Share Purchase Trust )
  • The usual badge of fixed capital investment is that it is acquired for better or for worse, or, relatively speaking, for “keeps”, and will be disposed of only if some unusual, unexpected, or special circumstance, warranting or inducing disposal, supervened (Barnato Holdings Ltd v SIR). 
  • The scale and frequency of share transactions are of major importance, although not conclusive (CIR v Nussbaum).
  • Shares bought for the dominant, main and overriding purpose of securing the highest dividend income possible will be of a capital nature when the profit motive is incidental (CIR v Middelman).
  • Just as an occasional swallow does not make a summer, an occasional sale of shares yielding a profit does not of itself make a seller of shares, a dealer in them (CIR v Middelman).

I do not want to make this a complex matter, so let’s end here. If you need further information or guidance get in touch with me or consult your tax practitioner.

Are you learning anything from this series? Do you want to share any pointers or experiences?

Please leave a comment and remember to share.

Can I deduct home office expenses?

Can I deduct home office expenses?

These days the work culture has changed. Since lockdown was introduced. Some companies had to close shop and some employees were required to work from home. Also and in general, the world is changing and so is the way people work and interact. Many people, like myself, prefer working from home. Working from home has become a normal thing. The GIG economy will also make working from home just another normal thing.


Luckily, SARS allows home office deductions if certain conditions are met. However, it is important to note that SARS often than not flag returns with home office expenses for audit. So it is important that one correctly and accurately claims these deductions.


It is worth understanding the rules around home office expenses as they are allowed under certain circumstances. Not everyone may end up deducting home office expenses.


Having said this, it is important to point out that the situation is different for self-employed people or what we would term sole proprietors or freelancers who work from home. These taxpayers can automatically deduct their home office expenses. These taxpayers (self-employed, sole proprietors, freelancers) do not need to work through the tight conditions required for one to be able to deduct home office expenses. They simply have to include their home office expenses with the local business, trade and professional income on their tax return.


What is required to be able to deduct home office expenses? 

  • The employer must allow the taxpayer to work from home. So, you can’t just work from home because you want to. Your employer must give you express permission to work from home.
  • The taxpayer must spend more than half of their total working hours working from their home office.
  • The part of the home in respect of which a claim is submitted must be occupied for purposes of a “trade”, as defined in section 1. So, in essence, there should be a specific part of the home that is used exclusively for this purpose. As an example, a specific set aside office must be kept aside for the trade. A taxpayer meeting with a client in the bar area of their home may not qualify for these deductions.
  • Building from the point above, the part that is so occupied must be specifically equipped for purposes of the trade. So, it is important that space/office must be specially fitted with the relevant instruments, tools and equipment required for the taxpayer to perform their work.
  • The part must be regularly and exclusively used for purposes of the trade. As an example, taxpayers who earn a commission but who spend the majority of their time on the road visiting clients and performing their work at the client’s premises do not qualify for home office expense deduction.

What expenses can be deducted? 

First, one needs to check the taxpayers’ remuneration structure to see if they are:

  1. A commission earner, that is, takes more than 50% of their total remuneration from the commission or some other variable form which is based on their performance.
  2.  A normal salaried employee with variable payments/commission making up less than 50% of their total remuneration.

The commission earners can deduct the following:

  • Rent
  • Interest on bond
  • Repairs to premises
  • Rates and taxes
  • Cleaning
  • Internet
  • Wear and tear and
  • All other expenses relating to their house as well as other commission related business expenses (such as telephone, stationery, repairs to printers, maid answering phone in your absence etc)

The salaries employee with variable payments/commission making up less than 50% of their total remuneration can deduct:

  • Rent of the premises
  • Interest on the bond
  • Cost of repairs to the premises and other expenses in connection with the premises
  • Rates and taxes
  • Cleaning
  • Internet,
  • Wear and tear and all other expenses relating to their house only.

How to calculate the home office deduction: 

One would need to work out/measure the total square meterage of the office in relation to the total square meterage of the house. This is then converted into a percentage. The percentage is then used to apportion the expenses that can be used for home office deductions.


Example:

Mrs taxpayer is a software engineer who works for Corona Company Pty Ltd. Her remuneration consists of a salary only (no commission.) Her Company allows her to work from home three days per week. Mrs taxpayer has a separate office at home, fitted out with a computer and printer, which she uses exclusively for her software engineering job. Her office is 30 square meters, and the floor space of her entire home (including the office) is 300 square meters.


During the tax year, she incurs the following expenses:

– R120, 000 interest on a bond

– R36, 000 rates and electricity

– R36, 000 paid to the cleaner

– R5, 000 roof repairs

– R12, 000 cell phone expenses


Based on the above information, Mrs taxpayer qualifies for home office deduction. Based on the space occupied by her home in relation to the entire house, the apportionment ratio is 10% (30/300).


Therefore her home office deduction is 10% x (120 000 + 36 000 + 36 000 +5 000) = R19 700.

Her cell phone costs will not be deductible since she is not a commission earner.


Will I qualify for a home office deduction for the 2021 tax season? 


The 2021 tax season started 1 March 2020 and ends 28 Feb 2021. To be able to claim home office expenses you would need to have met the conditions specified earlier. You will also need to have ended up working from home for more than six months of the tax year. That is, you would have worked from home until at least the end of September 2020.


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