Hot off the press: SARS trust tax changes
June 23rd, 2023
SARS issued communication (“Trust Filing Season: Form and System Changes to be Introduced from 23 June 2023”) which trustees and trust service providers have to take note of.
Don’t allow your ‘so-called’ adviser to deregister the trust
May 26th, 2023
Everybody is “up in arms” about the new anti-money laundering and combatting of terrorist financing measures introduced which affect trusts. It is interesting to watch how many ‘so-called’ advisers see an opportunity to ‘make a quick buck’ by advising their clients to undo their trust structures, or out of complete ignorance themselves. The accounting and fiduciary industry has a responsibility to give (or obtain) the best advice for their clients and not, in a knee-jerk reaction to the new measures, blindly deregister trusts. Although, in some instances, estate planners were ill-advised to register trusts in the ‘old days’, trusts were generally registered as part of estate plans. It takes a lot of effort to properly structure a trust and to effectively move assets into a trust as part of an estate plan. It will certainly trigger a number of costs and taxes (let alone the undoing of an estate plan) to give ill-considered advice. Estate planners should not lose sight of the purpose for which a trust was set up. The benefit of having a trust as part of your estate plan will in most instances outweigh the extra layer of compliance costs as a result of the new measures. The following may serve as reminders of the reasons why estate planners may have been advised to register a trust. Do not undo your estate plan if it still makes sense to have a trust, but physically deregister the trust if it never served a purpose, as all trusts, whether dormant or not, fall under the same onerous measures, for which trustees may be fined and/or imprisoned.
Family trusts need help
April 28th, 2023
The manner in which South African trusts are to be managed has changed overnight. As we have a unique situation in South Africa where many trusts only have family (lay-person) trustees appointed, many trusts are currently non-compliant as these trustees are not even aware of the recent amendments to trust legislation. The Trust Property Control Act, which is the single most important piece of legislation dealing with the governance of trusts, is an old piece of legislation, which does not deal with clear instructions how trustees are to manage trusts. Historically it also did not contain penalties for non-compliance. Similarly taxation legislation for trusts developed over time and was not particularly well policed in the past. That led to trusts generally being badly administered. However, numerous changes were introduced during the past year, which trustees need to be aware of (and get professional help). Since 1 April 2023, all trustees have to comply with the amended legislation. The amendments apply equally to all trustees and each and every trustee has to cooperate to remain compliant. Non-compliance may lead to a fine not exceeding R 10 million or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or both.
Trustees are now required to capture “beneficial owner” details on the Master’s portal
April 5th, 2023
The following were gazetted on Friday, 31 March 2023, 1 day before its effective date, leaving trustees and trust service providers with inadequate time to comply (and exposed to fines of up to R 10 million or 5 years imprisonment, or both):
1. The amended Regulations stipulating what is required from trustees in terms of the amended Trust Property Control Act, including which information is required to be kept up-to-date in relation to “accountable institutions” trustees deal with as well as “beneficial owners” (founders, trustees, and beneficiaries named in the trust deed) of trusts.
2. The effective date of the remaining new provisions in the Trust Property Control Act, which did not have an effective date, yet, was provided in terms of the Commencing of Certain Provisions of the General Laws (Anti-money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Act, 2022.
As the penalty clause in the new Section 19(2) of the Trust Property Control Act was also made effective as discussed above, trustees are now seriously exposed to the penalties alerted to above. All trustees (not just the independent trustee) and trust service providers should work closely together to meet these onerous obligations of trustees. Our Trusteeze digital system can populate the initial Excel spreadsheet submission and will alert the trust administrator of any changes made to the data, to allow them to submit an updated register to the Master, on an ongoing basis. Hopefully, the Master will improve their systems so Trusteeze can assist its clients to digitally submit all the required information in bulk rather than to do it manually per trust as currently required on their interim portal.
Fines given to trustees and trust service providers, an April fools’ joke? Act today 31 March 2023!
March 31st, 2023
Even though measures were introduced by the government (silently on 22 December 2022) to strengthen South Africa’s anti-money laundering and terror financing legislation in an attempt to remain off the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Greylist, after South Africa’s performed weakly on the measurement of the effectiveness of the implementation of the FATF recommendations (South Africa failed in all 11 effectiveness measures), few trustees and even trust service providers are aware how it directly impacts them and what is expected of them. Part of the remedial efforts included amending five laws key to the effectiveness of South Africa’s anti-money laundering /combatting of terrorist financing measures, the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, namely the Non-profit Organisations Act, the Trust Property Control Act, the Companies Act, and the Financial Sector Regulations Act. Of those, amendments to the Trust Property Control Act and the Financial Intelligence Centre Act are most relevant for trustees and trust service providers. Overnight, the landscape of trusts has changed, which added extra layers of compliance as well as exposure to risk, as non-compliance may lead to a fine not exceeding R 10 million or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or both. Most of the amendments have an effective date of 1 April 2023; well for trustees as the Masters of the High Court are clearly not ready to receive and maintain digital registers as required of them. This imposes a higher risk for trustees (any one of them) and trust service providers, as authorities may have to knock on their doors to verify their compliance. Traditionally, huge reliance was placed by family trustees on the independent trustee (and even the trust service provider) in meeting trustee obligations. The amendments apply equally to all trustees and each and every trustee has to cooperate to remain compliant. Although the regulations determining what information is to be kept are not yet Gazetted, trustees are advised to work on the draft regulations issued on 13 January 2023.
Do trustees and directors have similar fiduciary duties?
March 3rd, 2023
Even though a trust is a unique entity, people often try to make sense of its nature by comparing it to a company, as a company is a well-known entity through which people operate their businesses.
Both a trustee and a director have similar fiduciary duties bestowed upon them. A fiduciary duty is an onerous, legal obligation (a duty of loyalty and care) of a person managing property or money belonging to another person to act in the best interests of such a person. These fiduciary duties are manifested either through the acts that govern trusts and companies, or by common law. Common law – also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law – is the body of law developed by judges and Courts. Common law stands on equal footing with statutes, which are adopted through the legislative process. The defining characteristic of common law is that it arises as a legal precedent that can be applied to similar situations.
New onerous legislation (with penalties for non-compliance) for trustees - effective date 1 April 2023
February 24th, 2023
A lot has recently been said in the media about the possibility and impact of a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) greylisting for South Africa in February this year. The fact is it is no longer relevant whether or not we will be greylisted, as new measures were already legislated in late December 2022 to strengthen South Africa’s anti-money laundering and terror financing legislation, in an attempt to prevent a potential greylisting. Few are aware of exactly what is expected of them as a result, and even fewer are aware of the massive penalties for non-compliance – a fine not exceeding R 10 million or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or both. Most of the amendments have an effective date of 1 April 2023; therefore not a lot of leeway is provided by Government for trustees and service providers to get their acts together.
We are excited to be at the forefront and disrupters in this space and can assist boards of trustees and trust service providers to meet their obligations and to minimalise their risks with the implementation of these new measures. These new requirements also create new business opportunities/income streams for some accountants and trust service providers, whom their clients rely on, for assistance to not fall foul of these new measures introduced by Government.
Get the trust’s tax right, especially with multiple trust structures
November 18th, 2022
With SARS’s renewed focus on trusts (on 28 September 2022 they issued a media release with the heading “SARS sharpens its focus on Trusts”), all role players in a trust have to ensure that the taxation rules applicable to trusts are understood and applied correctly. A trust is a unique taxable entity as it is a ‘taxpayer of last resort’. That means that, if the tax rules are applied correctly, other taxpayers such as the funder/donor of the trust, or even its trust beneficiaries, may be taxed on income and capital gains generated in the trust, rather than the trust itself. A recent court case (CSARS v The Thistle Trust) where judgement was delivered on 7 November 2022, demonstrates the uniqueness of trust taxation as well as SARS’s determination to correctly apply trust tax rules. This case highlights the complexity of the taxation of income and capital gains generated in trusts.