Tag Archive | SARS

Tax Avoidance Bill: NPA and Hawks on illicit flows

Treasury, FIC, Hawks, NPA give Parly update…

report to clients end of April …

It now seems inevitable that the Minister of Finance will be tabling a General Anti Tax-avoidance (GATA) Bill by July 2019 as part of National Treasury’s plan to protect the tax base primarily aimed, as one MP put it, at “knocking profit shifting on the head”.   Changes to the Companies Act are also to be introduced.

A high-powered meeting, chaired jointly by Yunus Carrim of the Standing Committee on Finance and Joan Fubbs of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, listened  a few days before Parliament closed in April, to report-backs which came from National Treasury, the Hawks, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and others combiningg to stem the flow of illicit funds.

Read more…Tax avoidance Bill

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Gigaba pushes for control of border posts

Treasury, Home Affairs at odds on customs issues

Parliament will be debating in the new session in August the Border Management Authority Bill.   What the Bill proposes is a single state entity known as the Border Management Authority (BMA) to oversee all aspects of the movement in the import/export of goods and to control movement of all persons either leaving or entering the country.

The idea is that all border law enforcement functions along South Africa’s fragmented 5,000 kilometres of border will be the responsibility of the BMA.   Read More……    Border Management Bill July 2018 PDF

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Border Management Authority around the corner

SARS role at border posts being clarified ….

In adopting the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs agreed with a wording that at all future one-stop border posts, managed and administered by the envisaged agency and reporting to Department of Home Affairs (DHA), were to “facilitate” the collection of customs revenue and fines by SARS staff present.

However, on voting at the time of the meeting, Opposition members would not join in on the adoption of the Bill until the word “facilitate” was more clearly defined and the matter of how SARS would collect and staff a border post was resolved.

Haniff Hoosen, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Economic Development said that whilst they supported the Bill in general and its intentions, they also supported the view of National Treasury that the SARS value chain could not be put at risk until Treasury was satisfied on all points regarding their ability to collect duty on goods and how.

Keeping track

Most customs duty on goods arriving at border controls had already been paid in advance, parliamentarians were told; only 10% being physically collected at SA borders when goods were cleared.

However, with revenue targets very tight under current circumstances both SARS and Treasury have been adamant that it must be a SARS employee who collects any funds at border controls and the same to ensure that advance funds have indeed been paid into the SARS system.

The Bill, which enables the formation of the border authority itself, originally stated that it allowed for the “transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

Long road

It was the broad nature of transferring the responsibility customs of collection from SARS to the agency that caused Treasury to block any further progress of the Bill through Parliament, much to the frustration of past Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba.   It has been two years since the Bill was first published for comment.

DHA have maintained throughout that their objective is to gain tighter control on immigration and improve trading and movement of goods internationally but Treasury has constantly insisted that customs monies and payments fall under their aegis. The relationships between custom duty paid on goods before arrival at a border to Reserve Bank and that which must be paid in passage, or from a bonded warehouse was not a typical DHA task, they said.

Breakthrough

It was eventually agreed by DHA that SARS officials must be taken aboard into the proposed structure and any duties or fines would go direct to SARS and not via the new agency to be created or DHA.

This was considered a major concession on the part of DHA in the light of their 5-year plan to create “one stop” border posts with common warehouses shared by any two countries at control points and run by one single agency. More efficient immigration and better policing at borders with improving passage of goods was their stated aim.

Already one pilot “one stop border post”, or OSBP, has been established by DHA at the main Mozambique border post by mixing SAPS, DHA and SARS functions, as previously reported.

To enable the current Bill, an MOU has been established with SAPS has allowed for the agency to run policing of SA borders in the future but Treasury subsequently baulked at the idea of a similar MOU with SARS regarding collection of customs dues and the ability to levy fines.
Bill adopted

At the last meeting of the relevant committee, Chairperson of the PC Committee on Home Affairs, Lemias Mashile (ANC) noted that in adopting the Bill by majority vote and not by total consensus, this meant the issue could be raised again in the National Council of Provinces when the Bill went for consensus by the NCOP.

Objectives

The Agency’s objectives stated in the Bill include the management of the movement of people crossing South African borders and putting in place “an enabling environment to boost legitimate trade.”

The Agency would also be empowered to co-ordinate activities with other relevant state bodies and will also set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle departmental cross-cutting issues, a border technical committee and an advisory committee, it was said.

Mozambique border

As far as the OSBP established at the Mozambique border was concerned, an original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries. Consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.

Parliament was told at the time that the benefit of an OSBP was that goods would be inspected and cleared by the authorities of both countries with only one stop, which would encourage trade. In any country, he explained, there had to be two warehouses established, both bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

Bonded warehouses which were privately managed and licensed subject to certain conditions, were to allow imported goods to be stored temporarily to defer the payment of customs duties.

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years but these had to be paid before the goods entered the market or were exported, MPs were told. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods.

State warehouses on the other hand, SARS said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared, seized or abandoned goods. They provided a secure environment for the storage of goods in which the State had an interest. Counterfeit and dangerous or hazardous goods were moved to specialised warehouses.

Slow process

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised. SARS said there were many ramifications at international law but added two discussions with Zimbabwe for the same idea had now taken place. It was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as lessons had been learnt with the Mozambican experience.

On evasion of and tax, SARS said in answer to a question that losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently it was difficult to provide an overall figure on customs duty not being paid, as evasion was evasion. Smuggling of goods such as narcotics, or copper, which could only be quantified based on what had been seized.

The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern and through Botswana.

In general, it now seems that Home Affairs is to adopt an overall principle of what was referred to as having one set of common warehouses for one-stop declaration, search, VAT payment and vehicle movement with a SARS presence involving one common process for both countries subject to a final wording on the SARS issue before the Bill is submitted for signature.

Previous articles on category subject
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Mozambique One Stop Border Post almost there – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

SARS understaffed to deal with transfer pricing

Davis report on transfer pricing confirms …

NB: This article updated after two recent meetings of committee on transfer pricing. Report with clients.

JudgeDennisDavisSouth African Revenue Service (SARS) was completely lacking in sufficient staff to deal effectively with transfer pricing in order to spot illegal transactions, said Judge Dennis Davis in his capacity as chairperson of the Tax Review Committee when addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources.

He also pointed out that SARS, in any case, was also not provided with sufficient information by declaring companies, particularly multinationals as legislation stood at present, to further probe cross-border transactions to determine whether the movements involved the illicit transfer of profits from high-tax to low-tax regimes.

He told parliamentarians that whilst about three years ago SARS had conducted a very specific and targeted investigation, and had raised in one financial year alone some R1.1bn, this only illustrated the far larger amount of “haemorrhaging” that was taking place.

Not transfers but manipulation…

The Judge had to explain to MPs time and time again that transfer pricing in itself was not illegal, only any manipulative tax behaviour usually involving non-declaration or undervaluation.

Judge Dennis Davis referred to the recent highly publicised case involving HSBC where some R23bn directly involved the SA fiscus “and which was under review by SARS”.  He also drew attention to the fact that as a result of disclosures during the Marikana inquiry, Lonmin appeared to have profited by some R280m in saved taxes by transfers.

railfreight“Fictitious transfer pricing declarations were the problem”, he said, where multinationals managed to declare profits which appeared lower in countries with higher tax rates and higher in countries with lower tax rates. This occurred where the culprits identified transfers of intangibles for less than full value; showed over capitalisation of tax group companies and declared contractual arrangements with low risk tax environments.

Digging deeper

The Davis Tax Committee had recommended to National Treasury Department that the current unit in SARS, dedicated to base erosion and profit shifting be strengthened. At present this constituted only twenty personnel. “Building up this team would enable SARS to dig deeper into companies’ affairs”, he said.

Billy JoubertBilly Joubert, Tax Director, Deloittes, pointed to the fact that transfer pricing was in fact a “neutral” instrument in terms of its intention to promote industrialisation because its purpose was in fact to achieve arm’s length profits across the value chain.

Transfer pricing rules based on international best practice provided investors with certainty and it also protected the tax base of the relevant country, he said.   It was therefore an essential part of any tax system, providing taxpayers did not manipulate prices by shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions. He condemned the practice.

Arm’s length reporting in question

Joubert said South Africa was an observer and an active contributor to the OECD and their transfer pricing guidelines was a resultant consensus document. It was critical for SA to align with the tax policies adopted by their trading partners where they could, endorse “the arm’s length principle” adopting the guidelines in their own domestic environment and follow global standards.

He said that SARS had achieved the collection of approximately R5bn over the last three years from some 30 audits and adjustments of R20bn.

He concluded that SARS’s new rules “were now more closely aligned to the global standard and possibly ahead of many other countries”, noting, however, there was a lack of certainty in terms of outdated practice notes; limited guidance on implementation of “secondary adjustment mechanisms”; and also a lack of interaction with double tax agreements which were closely allied to the process.

Back to understaffing…

Prof Johann Hattingh of UCT pointed to the fact that the Davis Tax Committee recommended full compulsory OECD style taxpayer information disclosure and there “was more than enough in the legislative armoury of SARS to effectively combat intercompany mispricing or tax abusive behaviour”.

However, he also pointed to the fact that SARS was understaffed and simply outnumbered by input of declarations to effectively implement transfer pricing legislation across a broad spectrum.

Prof Hattingh explained that insofar as tax interpretation was concerned it was a complex and ultimately subjective evaluation because of the difficulty in identifying intangibles and services which were transferred or provided and the arm’s length price at which they were valued. Even the whole definition of an “arms length transaction” was subject to difficult legal, accounting and tax interpretation, he pointed out.

OECD the genisis

He said all BRICS countries, except Brazil, took the OECD guidelines as a starting point, Brazil using fixed international commodity prices which provided more certainty but which conflicted in many cases with double tax agreements, since double tax could arise in one of the countries involved in transfers.

EFF member Freddie Shivambu said that in terms of SARS, staffing with skilled personnel was not the only problem as far as could see but there was a lack of clarity on the way forward.  Judge Davis replied that there were indeed criminal elements involved, such as illegal siphoning of money and under-declaration of assets, but his committee had established “empirical evidence” that the amount lost to the fiscus was not always as high as it was reported to be.

But the way forward, he re-empahsised, involved updating wording of legislation; the ability to follow up on “arms length transactions” and more staff to do this. His Committee’s report was with the President.

ANC says transfer pricing is manipulation

Some ANC members pointed to the fact that some multinationals were making “massive profits and not contributing to the country’s agenda to address poverty, inequality and unemployment and transformation” and that transfer pricing should be banned. Others called for it to be declared “illegal”.

They were corrected again by Judge Davis who explained that transfer pricing was a legitimate necessary process for companies doing legitimate transactions and as such it could not and would not be “banned” or illegalised.

D Macpherson DAMr D Macpherson (DA) joined the debate to say that the issue of illicit transfer pricing should not become a political matter but that it was a national concern for all, pointing to the fact that whilst transfer pricing was one issue, the country was losing some R6bn through other forms of corruption.

It was all part of the same problem, he said, and the country had to take a stand against all illicit activities that deliberately robbed the government of revenue.

Not just mining worldwide

Meanwhile Judge Davis agreed with ANC members that “additional revenue was needed to redress historical injustices” but the World Bank had reported that South Africa had addressed this challenge better than most countries, including Brazil. There was no evidence to suggest that transfer pricing affected the mining industry notably.

He was joined by Billy Joubert of Deloittes who stated that such a transaction should not be criminalised because they were cross-border transactions, which was essentially transfer pricing, and re-emphasised that they were “neutral” until  assessed and found to be illicit or not.

National Union of Mineworkers said transfer prices should in principle match either what the seller would charge an independent, arm’s length customer, or what the buyer would pay an independent, arm’s length supplier. He claimed that transfer pricing defeated the objectives of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

“All it meant”, said the NUM spokesperson, “was retrenchment of employees; low and unequal salaries: inadequate investment on skills development; poor implementation of social and labour plans and less investment on health and safety standards, resulting in injuries and fatalities.”

brigette radebeBridgette Radebe of South African Mining Development Association (SAMDA) said her records showed that “out of 151 countries, South Africa lost, on average, the twelfth highest amount of money through illicit financial outflows”. She disagreed with Joubert of Deloittes on the ‘neutrality’ of transfer pricing and the effects and that the statement that the mining industry was a “small player” was incorrect.

She said the mining industry contributed 17% of GDP and 38% of exports, plus 19% of private investment with R78 billion spent in wages and salaries. “These figures were totally eroded and made misleading by transfer pricing”, she said.  She provided the parliamentarians with a series of figures explaining how transfer pricing in the mining industry took place and claimed that manipulation was often the practice.

SAMDA suggested the immediate alignment of the mining charter with the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice with transfer pricing and to address the issue of penalties contained in the charter for non-compliance.  Much agreement from ANC members took place.

Multinationals under attack

One ANC member stated that “the bulk of South Africa’s mineral resources were in the hands of foreign nationals and it was good that SAMDA and organised labour came together and addressed the issue of transfer pricing in terms of the South Africa’s economy.”

A department of mineral resources (DMR) staff member attending was called upon by the chair to respond, who stated that all the issues raised would be discussed by his department and in the light of success with penalties under the Mine and Safety Act, increased penalties for breeches in declarations might be considered.

Cooperation possible

DMR and SARS had been working together, the spokesperson said, on the whole issue of transfer pricing, a memorandum of understanding between the two departments having been established.

SAMDA said that some multinational companies often wished to “manipulate prices to such an extent that there was no income for beneficiation or share distribution and consequently loans on shares could not be repaid.”

Other articles in this category or as background
//parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/sars-to-be-given-right-to-search-without-warrant/
//parlyreportsa.co.za/securitypolicedefence-2/customs-duty-bill-cuts-inland-ports/
//parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/promotion-and-protection-of-investment-bill-opens-major-row/
//parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/financial-sector-regulation-bill-heralds-twin-peaks/

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