By David Gluckman, 25 February 2016
According to the Minister, Government has made significant progress in bringing about a fairer and more effective retirement system over the last 20 years. Government is committed to the release of the comprehensive social security reform paper later this year, to be led by the Ministers of Social Development and Finance.
Despite the postponement of annuitisation for provident funds, government remains committed to its retirement reform objectives as announced in the 2014 Budget update on retirement reforms paper released on 14 March 2014. The National Treasury intends to publish the final default regulations later this year, after considering comments received from the public.
Key elements of the reforms include:
Tighter regulation of the retirement funding industry is part of this reform effort, with the specific focus on managing costs. The intention is to protect members’ interest and ensure that funds are not dissipated by unnecessary administration and financial costs, and that members’ income in retirement is assured. Treasury’s engagements in this regard with stakeholders will continue this year.
The National Health Insurance White Paper has been published, and proposals for comprehensive social security will be released by mid-year.
The Revenue Laws Amendment Bill 2016 introduced to Parliament on 24 February 2016 gives effect to the decision by Cabinet last week to postpone the annuitisation requirement for provident fund members for two years to allow for further consultation with key stakeholders.
The tax harmonisation of contributions to retirement funds will continue to be implemented from 1 March 2016 for all retirement funds, including provident funds. Further technical refinements to the legislation are necessary to provide clarity.
Section 11(k)(iii) of the Income Tax Act, 1962 (‘the Act’) inadvertently limited the allowable deduction for the fringe benefit of employer contributions to retirement funds to the actual value of the employer contribution. Clause 2 of the Revenue Laws Amendment Bill, 2016 however provides for a correction of the value of the fringe benefit in respect of employer contributions to defined benefit retirement funds that must be deemed to be the employee contribution. It makes provision for the deemed employee contribution to be equal to the value of the fringe benefit under paragraph 12D of the Seventh Schedule to the Act even if such value is greater than the actual contribution paid by the employer.
Before 1 March 2016, taxpayers were able to deduct retirement annuity contributions against their passive or non-trading income up to a certain limit. The current wording of section 11(k) of the Act, which introduces the harmonised tax regime for retirement contributions from 1 March 2016, does not allow for contributions to any retirement fund to be set off against passive income. It is proposed that section 11(k) of the Act be amended to allow for retirement contributions to be deducted against passive income, subject to the available limits.
It is proposed that, in order to rectify an oversight, section 11(k) of the Act be amended to allow for the rollover of excess contributions to retirement annuity funds and pension funds accumulated up to 29 February 2016.
To correct the ordering rule for calculating allowable deductions in the determination of taxable income, it is proposed that the allowable deduction under section 11(k) of the Act be determined before the allowable deduction under section 18A (donations).
Paragraph 12D of the Seventh Schedule of the Act only makes provision for contributions actually made by the employer or employee to certain retirement funds, and excludes contributions made on behalf of the employer or employee (for example, by the retirement fund). It is proposed that paragraph 12D of the Seventh Schedule be amended to include all contributions made for the member’s benefit. Other technical amendments to paragraph 12D include clarifying that retirement fund income is the full amount used to determine the employer’s contribution, not only remuneration as defined in paragraph 1 of the Fourth Schedule. A potential issue of double counting for retirement funds with a hybrid structure (having both defined benefit and defined contribution elements) will be removed. It will also be made clear when actuaries can provide an updated contribution certificate.
From 1 March 2018, provident fund members may be required to purchase an annuity using a portion of contributions made after that date. However, all contributions made before 1 March 2018 will not be subject to annuitisation (generally referred to as vested rights). To allocate this vested right fairly in the case of a divorce, it is proposed that the withdrawal of retirement benefits arising from divorce order settlements be proportionally attributed as a reduction against both the vested right and non-vested right portions of the retirement fund savings.
From 1 March 2018, provident fund members above the age of 55 will be able to continue contributing to that provident fund without being required to purchase an annuity upon retirement. However, if they transfer to another retirement fund, then any future contributions to that fund would not be exempt from annuitisation. It is proposed that forced transfers (through the closure of a retirement fund) will not affect the member’s ability to take contributions made from 1 March 2018 onwards as a lump sum. Further technical corrections are required to ensure that all contributions to provident funds or pension funds with lump sum benefits made before 1 March 2018 are included in the vested rights provisions, in line with the policy intent. Specifically, the vested rights provision inadvertently excluded transfers made to pension funds, as defined under paragraph (c) of the definition of ‘pension fund’ in section 1 of the Act, and to preservation provident funds.
When the residence-based taxation system was introduced in 2001, section 10(1)(gC) was added to the Act to exempt foreign pensions derived from past employment in a foreign jurisdiction (i.e. from a source outside of South Africa). The question of how contributions to foreign pension funds and the taxation of payments from foreign funds should be dealt with raises a number of issues, which require a review.
To reduce the impact of inflation on lower- and middle-income earners, Government proposes that the primary rebate and the bottom three income brackets be adjusted by 1.8% and 3.4% respectively.
Comment: The income brackets for those earning R550 101 and higher has not been increased to compensate for fiscal drag. The net effect is that those with higher incomes will pay more in tax.
Table 4.6 provides an overview of the proposed personal income tax schedule for 2016/17:
Regrettably, the tax tables for retirement fund lump sum benefits have yet again not been adjusted to compensate for inflation this year.
Government proposes to increase the inclusion rate for capital gains for individuals from 33.3% to 40%, and for companies from 66.6% to 80%. This will raise the maximum effective capital gains tax rate for individuals from 13.7% to 16.4%, and for companies from 18.6% to 22.4%. The annual amount above which capital gains become taxable for individuals will increase from R30 000 to R40 000. The effective rate applicable to trusts will increase from 27.3% to 32.8%. These new rates will become effective for years of assessment beginning on or after 1 March 2016.
Government proposes to increase monthly medical scheme contribution tax credits in line with inflation, maintaining the current level of relief in real terms. These tax credits will be increased from R270 to R286 from 1 March 2016 for the first two beneficiaries and from R181 to R192 for additional beneficiaries. This will cost the fiscus an estimated R1.1 billion.
Government aims to publish final regulations early in 2016 to demarcate medical schemes and health insurance products. Parameters are proposed for health insurance products to preserve the principles of social solidarity and cross-subsidisation embedded in medical schemes.
Overall expenditure on social assistance will increase from R129 billion this year to R165 billion in 2018/19.
The old age, disability and care dependency grants will increase by R80 to R1 500 in April 2016 and by a further R10 to R1 510 in October 2016. The child support grant will increase by R20 to R350 in April 2016 and the foster care grant will increase by R30 to R890 in April 2016.
Contributors: Anton Swanepoel, Danie van Zyl, Kobus Hanekom, Carien Veenstra, PG Marais, Freddy Mwabi, Ryan Campbell-Harris.