3 Survival Tips for Your Small Business In 2021: Little Things with A High Impact

Given the past year’s pandemic and economic chaos it’s relatively safe to call the present a “hostile economic environment”.

Small businesses are struggling across the board as imports are hard to come by, exports near impossible to make, and clients are stripped of their expendable income. In these circumstances it’s wise for the small business owner to do everything they can to not only survive in these harsh conditions, but to keep staff on board, and position themselves for better times. This is a list of three easy things every small business should be doing to maximise profit in 2021.

“If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today” (Thích Nhất Hạnh)

According to a press release issued this year by the World Bank, the pandemic has taken “a heavy toll of deaths and illness, plunged millions into poverty, and may depress economic activity and incomes for a prolonged period”.

World Bank Group President, David Malpass, explained that while the collapse in global economic activity in 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic, is estimated to have been slightly less severe than previously projected in advanced economies overall, for most emerging market and developing economies, the impact was more acute than expected.

“Financial fragilities in many of these countries, as the growth shock impacts vulnerable household and business balance sheets, will also need to be addressed”, added Vice President and World Bank Group Chief Economist, Carmen Reinhart.

It is under these circumstances that businesses are battling to keep their heads above water. Here are four simple things you can do to help your business survive in 2021.

1) Delve into your budget

Now more than ever the small business owner needs to understand their company and the way that company spends money. A budget is a roadmap for small businesses, and in the day-to-day running of a start-up or small enterprise it can often be neglected in favour of making payments if and when they seem necessary.

If you don’t have a budget, make one, and if you have one, take a fresh look at it. Understand what the costs are and where the money is coming from. Know what expenses are coming up down the line – are there licences or new machines you need to own or lease? Do the staff expect a bonus at a specific time of year? Do you need extra at year end for a marketing campaign? Where and how you spend money will show you what’s important to your business and where the fat can be cut. Trimming small amounts from dead areas and focusing that money on the places that deliver returns can make a dramatic difference to the bottom line.

Riley Panko, in a report on budgeting, said, “Businesses of all sizes should create a budget if they don’t want to risk the financial health of their organisation…Businesses may create more challenges for themselves by skipping a budget. This is because budgeting helps small businesses focus.”

Knowing what your long and short terms needs are will help you plan, and streamline your business, which in turn will help you survive 2021.

2) Focus on your core customers, and ditch your “barnacle clients”

In good times it is a good idea to expand your outlook and try to capture new markets for your products. You have the time to focus on those “barnacle clients” who eat up your time and don’t necessarily deliver the same return for time invested. But in tough times, it’s wise to return to key principles and focus on those clients and markets you know work.

Barnacle clients are, according to Joe Woodward, those clients who, “Whine about fees; complain about work quality even when you know it was well done; don’t supply needed information on a timely basis; and aren’t teachable”. Woodward suggests those clients should be jettisoned from a business as they only serve to drag a business down in choppy waters when the company needs to be running as sleekly and efficiently as possible.

“Those kinds of clients should be fired,” he says. “It’s a scary thing, but I have never had anything but a net gain from firing a client.”

At the same time the business owner needs to put the energy that was going into barnacle clients into those who offer returns. Go back to the best clients that you haven’t spoken to in a while, touch base with friends, networks and contacts who you know could benefit from your business, and, in this way, reinvigorate your client base.

Advertising too should start to focus on your core client demographic. Don’t know what that is? Then it’s time to start going through the data. Start with internal data on past customers, and focus on creating a customer profile. This includes basic demographic information, but also try to map your customer on a deeper level. What are their values? What are their spending attitudes? What makes them excited and what makes them tick?

All of this will give you a comprehensive picture of what your core customer demographic looks like. While you may want to market as widely as possible to capture as many customers as possible, this focused kind of marketing will be much more effective, especially for small businesses.

3) Advertise concisely

Repeated studies are finding that people are increasingly jaded, easily distracted and unwilling to engage with advertising – particularly on social media, an important area for the small business. This does not, however, mean that you should stop advertising. On the contrary, social media is still one of the most important tools that a modern business owner can utilise with 52% of new brand discovery happening on public social media feeds. The trick is to be clear, and concise.

According to stats from Instagram, 60% of users report that they have discovered a product on another person’s profile, but this never happens with overly long posts or wordy descriptions. Gone are the days when people would watch a full YouTube advert. If your brand message isn’t in place before the skip button can be pushed, you should consider the money wasted. And the rules of social media should be applied across the board to all other types of marketing be they newsletters, emails or even phone calls.

Luke Lintz from social media agency Highkey suggests business advertising should:

  • Lead with the product or service,
  • Make the offer personal to the customer,
  • Use only a few key statistics to support the claim
  • Emphasise return on investment
  • Stay away from “used car” sales language like “Don’t miss out”.

“The key is personalised honest communication that doesn’t eat up the client’s time,” he explains. Repeated studies also show that getting staff to personally reach out to potential clients works much better than generic adverts.

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Budget 2021: What It Means to You

Faced with apprehension, the first Budget Speech of the “new normal’ was generally well-received, with the Rand holding steady, markets reacting positively, and South Africans breathing a collective sigh of short-term relief.

A surprisingly optimistic 2021 Budget provided funding for COVID-19 responses without hiking direct taxes, and previously announced tax increase proposals were withdrawn.

As Finance Minister Tito Mboweni called it, the 2021 Budget fiscal framework is “a sound platform for sustainable growth that creates several reasons for hope”. Find out here what has changed and what it all means for South Africans and small and medium businesses now and in the future.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” (Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu)

It was with a sense of trepidation that South Africans awaited the 2021 Budget Speech by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.

Still confronted with all the challenges that existed before COVID-19 – massive debt, lacklustre growth, unemployment, the public service wage bill and rampant corruption – Treasury also faced the seemingly insurmountable challenge of funding the rollout of COVID-19 responses along with muted tax revenue collection impacted by lockdowns, record job losses and business closures.

Reminding South Africans of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s advice that hope is being able to see light despite all the darkness, the Minister presented what has been called a “positive”, “balanced” and “sustainable” framework to address these challenges, announcing some unexpected but welcome short-term tax relief.

The main story: funding COVID-19 responses without tax increases

The two main stories in the 2021 Budget proposals are the funding of the country’s COVID-19 response and the welcome absence of new and/or higher taxes.

Despite talk of a possible ‘vaccine tax’ and new and increased taxes to fund South Africa’s COVID-19 response – including a massive vaccine roll-out that will save lives and support the economic recovery – no new or increased taxes have been introduced to fund vaccines.

Instead, the majority of funding for new and urgent priorities is provided through reprioritisation and reallocation of existing baselines, budget allocations, emergency withdrawals and – if needed – the contingency reserve. 

Government has set aside R19.3 billion to fund Covid-19 vaccines, with more than R10 billion allocated for the purchase and delivery of vaccines over the next two years. The contingency reserve has increased from R5 billion to R12 billion for the further purchase of vaccines and other emergencies.

Let’s look at what will change according to the proposals, and what it all means for us on a practical level…

Tax increase proposal withdrawn 

In addition to the fact that the Budget review proposals included no new taxes nor any increase in personal and company taxes, government has also withdrawn the proposal announced in the October 2020 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) to introduce tax measures to raise revenue by R40 billion over the next four years. 

This is due to improvements in tax revenue collections in recent months, with tax revenue estimates R99.6 billion higher than projected in October, reducing the tax revenue shortfall to R213 billion.

This will provide welcome relief in the coming year as companies are still reeling from the economic devastation of COVID-19.

Lower corporate tax rate from 2022

It is proposed that the corporate income tax rate will be lowered to 27% for companies with years of assessment commencing on or after 1 April 2022. This is a move in the right direction as SA’s corporate income tax rate at 28% is among the highest in the world. According to Treasury, reducing the rate will have “a positive effect on wages and employment, while promoting additional investment”. The Minister also said that consideration will be given to “further rate decreases to make our tax system more attractive”. 

However, this will be accompanied by “a broadening of the corporate income tax base by limiting interest deductions and assessed losses”.

Good news on personal income tax 

Personal income tax brackets will be increased by 5%, an above-inflation increase, to provide R2.2 billion in tax relief for lower and middle-income households. This will eliminate “bracket creep”, effectively decreasing personal income tax rates.

It means that if you are earning above the new tax-free threshold of R87,300, you will have at least an extra R756 in your pocket after 1 March 2021.

Government is aiming to reduce the personal income tax rate over time by increasing the tax base through focusing on economic growth which will trigger job creation.

Higher “sin” and other indirect taxes 

Unsurprisingly, the excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products were increased by 8% with immediate effect. It means a 750ml bottle of wine will cost an extra 26c while the price of a bottle of 750 ml spirits has increased by R5.50, and a packet of 20 cigarettes will be R1.39 more expensive. Excise duty on electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems are to be introduced later this year – following public consultations.

From 7 April, the fuel levies will also be increased by 27 cents per litre, comprising 15 cents per litre for the general fuel levy, 11 cents per litre for the Road Accident Fund levy and 1 cent per litre for the carbon fuel levy. This will have a negative effect on the cost of living for South Africans and businesses across all industries.

Other changes

  • The June 2021 sunset clause for the so-called Section 12J tax breaks was not extended. The tax rebate could be claimed on investments through an approved venture-capital company and was meant to encourage investments in small businesses and riskier ventures that can help to create jobs and economic growth. Some analysts commented that the absence of this attraction offered to venture capital investment companies, will negatively impact job growth in the country.
  • The UIF contribution ceiling will be set at R17,711.58 per month from 1 March 2021.
  • An inflationary adjustment to medical tax credits – which will increase from R319 to R332 for the first two members, and from R215 to R224 for all subsequent members.
  • Financial sector levies – Bill to be tabled early 2021.
  • The carbon tax rate increased by 5.2%, from R127 to R134 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, along with an increase of 1c to 8cents/l for petrol and 9cents/l for diesel from 7 April 2021, and 12.5cents/bag for bio-based plastic bags.

Taxpayers under greater scrutiny

An additional spending allocation to SARS of R3 billion over the medium term has been requested to fund tax collection efforts. As the Minister warned in his speech: “SARS has started to deepen its technology, data and machine learning capability. It is also expanding specialised audit and investigative skills in the tax and customs areas to renew its focus on the abuse of transfer pricing, tax base erosion and tax crime. In this coming fiscal year, SARS will establish a dedicated unit to improve compliance of individuals with wealth and complex financial arrangements. This first group of taxpayers have been identified and will receive communication during April 2021.” 

This means that taxpayers with complex financial arrangements should engage a CA(SA) tax specialist to assist them in preparing and/or reviewing their tax returns prior to submission. Similarly, where SARS have selected a taxpayer for verification or audit, or where penalties and interest have already been imposed and levied, taxpayers will need expert assistance.

Have a look at the Tax Tables and Calculators below for more on how this will all impact on you and your business.

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Budget 2021: Your Tax Tables and Tax Calculator

Individuals and Special Trusts will see some relief from the Budget 2021 proposals, and to help you quantify that, and as a convenient reminder of the various other taxes that remain unchanged, we share both the official SARS Tax Tables and a link to Fin 24’s Budget Calculator (just follow the four-step process to do your own calculation).

The Tax Tables cover Individuals, Special Trusts and Trusts, Companies, Small Business Corporations, Turnover Tax for Micro Businesses and Transfer Duty. Click on the links below each Table for the full SARS “Budget Tax Guide 2021.

How much will you be paying in income tax, petrol and sin taxes? Use Fin 24’s four-step Budget Calculator here to find out.

Have a look at the tax tables below for the new Individual and Special Trust income tax brackets, and for a convenient reminder of the various other taxes that remain unchanged –

(Source: SARS )

(Source: SARS )

(Source: SARS )

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New National Minimum Wage and Earnings Thresholds From 1 March 2021

1 March 2021 sees a new National Minimum Wage in place, plus an increase in the “earnings threshold” provided for in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).

Quoting from the Employment and Labour Minister’s formal announcement of the changes, we set out the increases for employees generally, as well as those for each of the main employment sectors (domestic workers, farm workers, contract cleaners, wholesale/retail sector), with notes on the percentage increases in each. For employers of domestic workers we also provide a link to a useful “living wage” calculator. We also summarise the BCEA protections that will no longer be available to those newly earning above the adjusted earnings threshold.

(N.B. The increases highlighted below are extracted from the Employment and Labour Minister’s announcement of 9 February 2021, and emphasis has been supplied where helpful in enabling quick identification of your employment sector. Comment is in square brackets)

  • “The National Minimum Wage (NMW) for each ordinary hour worked has been increased from R20,76 to R21,69 per hour [a 4.5% increase] for the year 2021 with effect from 1 March 2021.

It is illegal and an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the NMW. The NMW is the amount payable for the ordinary hours of work and does not include payment of allowances (such as transport, tools, food or accommodation) payments in kind (board or lodging), tips, bonuses and gifts.

  • Following a transitional phase, the farm worker sector has been aligned with the NMW rate of R21,69 per hour [a 16% increase].
  • The domestic workers sector will be entitled to R19,09 per hour [a 23% increase] and could be expected to be aligned with the NMW when the next review is considered [i.e. 2022]. [Use the Living Wage calculator to check that you are paying your domestic worker enough to cover a household’s “minimal need”].
  • In line with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), the increase in the NMW will mean that wages prescribed in the sectoral determinations that were higher than the NMW at its promulgation, must be increased proportionally to the adjustment of the national minimum wage. Therefore, the Contract Cleaning; and Wholesale and Retail Sector will also have their wages upwardly adjusted by 4,5 percent.
  • In another development, the Minister has also, in terms of the BCEA earnings threshold, revised the rate from R205 433.30 to R211 596.30. Chapter 2 of the Act deals with the regulation of working time, limit on the duration of an employee’s working week and to prescribe a rate at which an employee should be paid to work outside normal working hours among others.
  • Employees that earn in excess of this rate per annum are excluded from sections 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17(2) and 18(3) of this Act from 01 March 2021. These sections protect vulnerable employees and regulate amongst others, hours of work, overtime, compressed working time, average hours of work, meals interval, daily and weekly rest period, pay for work on Sundays, night work, and work on public holidays.”
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How to Find and Secure Tenders for Your Small Business – 5 Expert Tips

There is a new lane for tendering and an urgent need for assistance from government that has been created by Covid-19 PPE tenders, and other tenders used to fight the pandemic that have increased the scope of tender targets for SMMEs. The government is seemingly incapacitated by the pandemic and the PPE tenders that have been advertised since the outbreak, by themselves, present new opportunities for SMMEs.

Finding the relevant public, or even corporate, tender for a small business depends on a number of factors including the actual task, trading licenses, certification like BEE, the competitiveness of the pricing and most importantly, according to experts, experience. 

Here are some tips on how small businesses can go about finding relevant tenders.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure” (Colin Powell)

The obvious starting points to securing tenders would be the likes of B-BBEE certification and company registration, but from an operational perspective – there are things suppliers can do to find relevant tenders, and to put themselves in a better position to benefit from them.

SMEs with appropriate capability, capacity, experience, and will may benefit by considering tendering for business opportunities, either on their own or in partnership with other SMEs or larger entities. Where an SME has particular skills, competency, experience and so on, they may be in a position to offer a larger organisation a competitive edge in a tender. Winning and completing a tender, either alone or in partnership, benefits the entity putting it on the map and growing its confidence, experience, ability and, hopefully, profitability.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced organisations and institutions to be more proactive and creative. As a result, even the likes of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Pretoria has launched the National SMME Support Portal to help small businesses tender during this difficult period.

For qualifying small businesses to stand a better chance of securing suitable tenders, they should consider these expert tips:

  1. Start by registering on the right database

SMMEs should start by registering as suppliers on the Central Supplier Database (CSD). This is a database where all the information, pertaining to all the suppliers that either do business or intend on doing business with the government is kept. Government entities consult this database when looking for suppliers.

Once registered, small businesses may then be invited to participate both in tenders and also receive Requests for Quotations (RFQs). Of course, it is imperative that an SME has carefully thought through what its qualifications are before tendering.

  1. Check the E-Tender portal

The government places all the tenders on this electronic portal as the starting point for alerting potential suppliers. This is the first place registered suppliers should peruse for relevant tenders as all municipalities, constitutional institutions and government departments upload their tenders here.

Another option is to look up tenders in newspapers and government departments’ websites, which is more time consuming.

  1. Consider using tender notification services

Small businesses can subscribe to tender notification services. These service providers ease the process of searching for the right tenders. These automated services try to match qualifications listed by subscribers with the specifications of the published tenders. These agencies then send the subscribed suppliers notifications of close matches, making it easier for busy SMMEs to compete for suitable tenders.

  1. Verify tenders to avoid scams

The government has repeatedly advised suppliers to verify tenders before engaging them.

“Companies are therefore advised to verify all the RFQs and orders by calling the respective departments using the departmental contact details listed on their respective websites to verify authenticity prior to responding to any RFQs or orders to avoid falling prey to these fraudsters”, reads the warning on various governmental websites.

  1. Avoid experiments, avoid implosion

When looking for relevant tenders, suppliers are advised to look for operations for which they have appropriate experience, ability and capacity to avoid causing their “own demise”.

SAICA’s Senior Executive: Public Sector, Julius Mojapelo warned “any uncalculated expansion, whether it’s tendering or getting into a new market, will always have risks. The key is, SMMEs should avoid tendering on things they have never done on their own.”

He further explained that this was simply because government projects are usually on a larger scale.

Ask your accountant to guide you through the lucrative tendering process – don’t be left behind.

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Independent Non-Executive Directors: A Value-Add for Your SME?

Most, if not all, entrepreneurs are passionate about their ideas or concepts for a new product or service offering. Frankly, they need to be.

Once the business is up and running it is easy, and quite natural, to be so focused on your idea and business and the busyness of the operations and activities, that emerging risks or opportunities may not be seen or anticipated – ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’. Having an advisor or advisors may, of course, help. However, an independent non-executive director has, by virtue of their responsibilities on the board, a stake in the survival and growth of the business. Furthermore, as they are not involved in the day-to-day operations, they can bring valuable perspectives to the table.

Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are owned and managed by the founder(s), sometimes with the involvement of family members, and in the early stages of the life of a small or medium-sized company there would seem to be little reason or motivation to appoint independent non-executive directors to the board. However, as an entity grows in size, complexity and, hopefully, market share, there may well be a need for, and advantage in, having diversity and independence of thought in the direction of the company.

All members of the board, whether executive, non-executive or independent non-executive have a legal duty to act with independence of mind in the best interests of the organisation.

Firstly, what exactly is an “independent non-executive director”?

The Companies Act and King IV define a director as “a member of the board of a company, as contemplated in section 66”. There is no definition in the Act of ‘Independent’ or ‘non-executive’. Accordingly, all directors have the same responsibilities.

King IV, however, explains independence as follows: “When used as the measure by which to judge the appearance of independence, or to categorise a non-executive member of the governing body or its committees as independent, it means the absence of an interest, position, association or relationship which, when judged from the perspective of a reasonable and informed third party, is likely to influence unduly or cause bias in decision-making”.

Why appoint independent non-executives?

  • Appointing independent non-executive directors does not, in itself, ensure the entity’s governance is enhanced.
  • However, establishing a well-balanced governing body is a meaningful step towards good governance. The King IV code states: “The governing body should comprise the appropriate balance of knowledge, skills, experience, diversity and independence for it to discharge its governance role and responsibilities objectively and effectively”.

  • Bringing in additional skills, experience and thought to the leadership of the entity has the potential of enhancing the ability of the board, recognising and dealing with risks and opportunities, and even lifting quality and effectiveness of the deliberations in the board.

  • Non-executive or independent non-executive directors are charged with maintaining an arms-length relationship with management, exhibiting professional scepticism and bringing independent judgment to bear on issues of strategy, risk management, performance and resources including key appointments and standards of conduct. Non-executive directors may not have any operational capacity within the entity; no employment relationship; not be a major supplier or major customer and should not be rewarded on the basis of the entity’s performance.
  • An entity recognised for its strong ethical and effective governance will likely attract more business as a trusted partner. After all, while a company requires a licence from CIPC (Companies Intellectual Property Commission) to commence business, it also needs a Social License to Operate!

What should the independent non-executive director bring to an SME?

  • Someone, as mentioned above, who will bring specific skills and a range of business experience of relevance to the entity. While it may be helpful to have experience in the entity’s particular industry, diversity of experience in other sectors such as, for example, the financial sector, could add value.
  • Clearly, an understanding of the business and the industry is essential in order to make a positive contribution. A non-executive director is expected to make a creative contribution to the board by providing objective and constructive challenge and advice.

  • Owners and management of an SME should not seek to appoint independent non-executives who will simply reflect management’s views, but accept that honest, respectful and robust challenge should be expected and encouraged.

What qualities should you seek in an independent non-executive director?

Clearly, an independent non-executive director should exhibit appropriate behaviour, have a strong ethical stance with absolute integrity; a disciplined and dedicated approach to the role together with a good understanding of the requirements of good governance, controls and risk and opportunity management.

A knowledge and understanding of the regulatory environment of the entity together with the key players and risks in the supply chain and customer base (the entity’s market) is an added advantage.

What should you offer a new appointee to your board?

Any new independent non-executive should insist on an induction programme together with appropriate Directors’ and Officers’ indemnity cover.

Realistically, most SMEs may not be able to offer competitive fees, compared to large or listed companies. Both the Institute of Directors in South Africa and PricewaterhouseCoopers issue useful annual guides to directors’ fees. SMEs should consider making use of this resource in determining the level of fees they are able to afford.

Furthermore they need to consider how the fees are determined i.e. per meeting attended; a retainer regardless of meeting attendance or a combination of both – retainer plus per meeting attended. The SME should also undertake annual director’s performance evaluation.

A non-executive and independent non-executive director needs to balance the contribution they can make in considering an appointment where the fees are, perhaps, not quite at the level they expect. Serving on NPO (Non-Profit Organisation) and SME boards is an opportunity to ‘put back’ their experience and skills. They should consider the responsibility and risks they undertake against the potential contribution they can make to these essential sectors of the economy.

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Sales Reps Are the Lifeblood of Your Business – 10 Interview Questions To Ask

In any business there are few more important people than the sales reps. In this pandemic climate, they have become even more important for keeping small businesses and start-ups afloat and pushing bottom lines into the black. They are the people at the coal face of meeting with clients and selling your products, and are not only the ones who will make or break your bottom line, but also the eyes, ears and face of your company. Placing the perfect candidate in this role is therefore an essential element for building a successful company. We look at ten important questions you should be asking every sales rep candidate you interview.

 “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect” (W. Clement Stone)

With the world experiencing its toughest business environment in decades, your sales reps are the people who more than anyone else need to not only embody the company and its values, but also be capable of delivering on their job specifications every time they step in front of a client. They are the employees that people will first judge your company on, and often it’s the impression they make that will build or break your business.

As well as being able to convert sales, these critical employees also need to gather feedback, accurately communicate your client messages and analyse the market to ensure your products are best placed. This is a critical series of skills that require a very particular person. Unfortunately the world is full of extremely charismatic people, who on the surface may appear to be exactly what you need and who, in the long run, will only end up damaging your brand and costing you sales.

So how do you find the person with the right temperament, the right abilities and the right mindset? These are the ten questions you should be asking every sales rep candidate you interview.

  1. Walk me through a successful sales process. What is your role?

On the surface this is a simple question. Everyone can guess that a sales employee’s role is to sell things, but do they know they are also supposed to gather information, build relationships and represent the company values and ideals? If not, they either do not have experience or simply do not understand what they have applied for.

  1. Why are you interested in this role as a salesperson?

The right sales candidate will speak about the challenge of sales, the people-centric aspects of the job, the relative independence or the competitive aspect. A poor candidate will either start speaking about the high salary, or quickly give away the fact that they don’t know much about what they have applied for.

  1. Tell me in detail about a sale you made where you think your sales pitch was perfect.

With a sales rep you are looking for five qualities and this question will test them all. Confidence, diligence, honesty, thoughtfulness, and a positive attitude are all an important part of being a sales rep and how they handle their “perfect sale” will quickly illustrate all of these things. Did they connive to get the sale? Did they go above and beyond for a client? And do they tell this story in a way that you buy it as a perfect sale?

  1. Tell me about a time you had to deal with a complaint from a customer. What happened, and how did you resolve it?

Both the first and second parts of this question are equally important. How the candidate describes what happened can indicate the kind of person they are. Do they blame others for the problem? If they take no ownership of the problem and instead point to accounts, another rep, the client or even their boss making a mistake without adding in their own culpability then they may not have the emotional maturity to truly handle conflicts.

How they resolved it will show you the kind of person they are under pressure. Did they still make the sale? Did they build the relationship with the client? Did they manage to come to a solution that still helped the company they work for or did they simply cave and give the client everything they wanted?

  1. Tell me about a time you missed a sale or a big opportunity. What was it and what happened?

Similar to the previous question this one speaks to emotional maturity and the ability to learn from mistakes. A candidate who cannot explain why they lost the opportunity and what they could have done differently hasn’t spent time thinking about that problem and will likely not do so when faced with the problem again. These candidates will never be among your top sellers as the ability to learn and evolve is of utmost importance in sales.

  1. How do you stay motivated?

Sales can be a frustrating and sometimes thankless job and self-motivation is therefore an important skill. What you are looking for here is any believable method that does not involve the mention of salary or bonuses. Being interested in a bonus is not a problem by itself, but being able to pick yourself up and do the kind of job that makes a top sales rep cannot be linked only to salary.

  1. Why would you choose our brand over others?

Coming into an interview is just like entering a client’s office as a sales rep. You are selling yourself and need to be prepared. This question will quickly reveal the level of effort a candidate is prepared to go to, to get the job. It will also give you an idea of just how hard working they are, and how much effort they will put in when learning about your company, your products and your goals.

  1. How long are you willing to fail at this job before you succeed?

This is a tough question that forces the candidate to think out of the box and improvise an answer they couldn’t have prepared for. Beyond determining how they would handle setbacks, this question will give you an insight into their expectations, and ability to plan for and handle failure. Do they hope to engage in training, will they seek out answers or are they prepared to sit back and learn on the job as problems arise? There is no right answer but it will definitely help the interviewer determine culture fit and potential.

  1. What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your CV?

A sales rep needs to be a people person. Small talk and the ability to connect on unexpected questions is an important skill. How they improvise here is how they will improvise when asked a tough question by a potential client. What’s important here is how the person answers and not just what they say. Are they able to speak personally? Tell a good story? And be convincing? Perhaps their hobby or story wouldn’t normally be interesting to you, but did they sell it as an interesting thing? Did they intrigue you? If the answer is yes, then you have found an important clue to how they will be out on the streets representing your brand.

  1. Can you remember a time when a problem arose and you weren’t able to contact your manager? How did you handle this situation and who did you turn to for help?

This question speaks to the candidate’s initiative and potential for leadership. Are they capable of thinking on their feet? Did they make a sound judgement that day? Being able to act alone without asking questions of seniors and doing the right thing would show they have both of these valuable traits.

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Provisional Income Tax Due 26 February: Do’s and Don’ts for Companies

By the end of this month, the second provisional income tax payments for companies are due for a financial year that certainly ranks among the most difficult in recent memory – a year in which many business owners realised, as Thomas Dewar once put it, that paying income tax is in fact better than being unable to generate sufficient income to be liable for tax. As companies face intensified scrutiny and more punitive measures from SARS in 2021, we take a look at the issues around the provisional tax payments for companies, due on 26 February to find out what companies should – and should not – be doing to minimise their tax liability and to avoid the hefty penalties and interest that can apply.

“The only thing that hurts more than paying an income tax is not having [an income on which] to pay an income tax” (Thomas Dewar)

Provisional tax is not a separate tax but rather a method of payment used to collect in advance some of a taxpayer’s income tax payable for the year. SARS calls it “an advance payment of a taxpayer’s normal tax liability” and notes in its External Guide for Provisional Tax that provisional tax liability “will prevent a large amount of tax due by you on assessment, as your tax liability will have been spread over a period of time prior to the issue of such assessment”.

Two provisional tax payments are compulsory each year, one six months into the year of assessment (first period) and one on or before the end of the year of assessment (second period). There is also an option to make an additional third or top-up payment, seven months after the end of the year of assessment – unless your year end is anything other than end of February in which event you have only six months for the top-up payment (third period).

Provisional Tax PeriodsExamples

The provisional return for the first period is forward-looking, requiring companies to estimate their taxable income for the year ahead and then paying tax on this estimate in advance.

The provisional return for the second period is retrospective, since by the year end there is more certainty regarding what exactly the income for the year was, and the tax payable thereon.

While provisional tax payments spread a corporate taxpayer’s income tax liability over two or even three payments, it also increases a company’s tax risk. It creates additional tax filing obligations such as completing and submitting a provisional tax return (IRP 6) twice per year, as well as increasing the risk of attracting penalties, notably underestimation penalties. Furthermore, researchers have found that provisional tax is the most burdensome tax for small businesses, and that penalties and interest incorrectly raised by SARS are the most onerous aspect thereof.

Given that taxpayers will find themselves under greater scrutiny and subject to more punitive measures from SARS in 2021, here are some important insights regarding what companies should – and should not – be doing to minimise their provisional tax liability and to avoid the hefty penalties and interest that can apply.

 Provisional Tax – Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t file late

A provisional return must be submitted by all provisional taxpayers. Even if your company owes no tax, a ‘nil’ return (i.e. taxable income is equal to zero)must be filed on time. 

For companies with a financial year ending on 28 February 2021, the next due date for provisional tax returns and payments is 26 February 2021, as the last day for submission (28 February) falls on a weekend.

Also remember that if an IRP6 is filed more than four months after the deadline, SARS considers a ‘nil’ return to have been submitted. Unless the company’s actual taxable income is really zero, it will result in the underestimation penalty being imposed, in addition to a late payment penalty and interest. 

  • Don’t pay late

The failure to make payment on time will result in an immediate late payment penalty, calculated at 10% of the provisional tax amount, whether it is not paid or simply paid late. For example, if the amount payable is R150,000 and is not received by SARS on the due date, a R15,000 penalty will become due immediately.

Furthermore, interest will be levied on the outstanding amount and will continue to accrue until it has been paid in full. The interest is calculated at the prescribed rate, which is the rate of interest fixed by the Minister of Finance by notice in the Government Gazette and is currently 7% – the lowest in 40 years.

  • Don’t under-estimate your annual income 

Estimating the annual taxable income just six months into the year is rarely an easy task. Fortunately, under-estimating income for the first period does not attract a penalty, but the second estimate must be quite accurate (within 80 – 90% of the actual taxable income) to avoid the underestimation penalty.

The underestimation penalty is calculated depending on the taxable income, and the percentage of under-estimation as detailed in the table below.

Underestimation penalties

Interest will also be levied on the underpayment of provisional tax as a result of under estimation.

  • Do be proactive

To avoid an underestimation penalty and interest, it is crucial to take proactively all the necessary steps to correctly calculate the estimated taxable income for the year of assessment.

Make certain that all sources of income are included. The estimated taxable income means gross income less exempt income plus all amounts included or deemed to be included in taxable income under the Act, for example, the amount of taxable capital gains.

Ensure that all rebates and amounts allowed to be deducted or set off are also factored in, including provisional payments already made for the year.

Also make sure, if you claimed for COVID-19 provisional tax relief, that the company qualifies before factoring in this cash flow relief and ensure such relief is calculated correctly.

Government’s temporary provisional tax relief measures came into effect in April 2020 and allowed qualifying taxpayers to defer a portion of the payment of their first and second provisional tax liability to SARS, without SARS imposing administrative penalties and interest on the deferred amounts.

Example – COVID-19 Provisional Tax Relief

Claiming this provisional tax relief while not meeting the qualifying requirements would result in normal penalties and interest being applied to the provisional account.

  • Do maintain common sense and accurate records

A relatively accurate estimate of taxable income for the year of assessment is expected for the second period. As SARS says: ‘the calculation must be one which has been carefully considered and is thoughtful, earnest and sincere…” and the amount of the estimate must be determined “sensibly and by careful reasoning and judgment, in a mathematical manner, and using experience, common sense and all available information”. 

Keep accurate records of all the calculations and source documents used.
SARS may ask you to justify your estimate and can increase it if they are dissatisfied with the amount. The increase of the estimate is not subject to an objection or appeal.

  • Do call in professional assistance

The provisions of the sub-sections of Section 89 and of the 4th Schedule to the Income Tax Act are daunting and can be confusing. Nevertheless, provisional taxpayers are ultimately responsible for their tax affairs and may therefore need expert tax advice to comply with the regulations and to avoid substantial penalties and interest.

Companies with complicated returns, including various sources of income or expenses, should consider engaging a CA(SA) tax specialist to assist them in preparing and/or reviewing their income tax return prior to submission to avoid issues which may be raised by SARS at a later date. Similarly, where penalties and interest have already been imposed and levied, taxpayers may need expert assistance to successfully make a request for the remission of penalties and interest to SARS.

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Companies: How to Manage Your Greater Tax Risk in 2021

South African companies are exposed to a significant tax risk. Companies are liable for a range of direct taxes, indirect taxes and employees’ taxes that are continuously subject to legislative changes and administrative improvements by SARS and National Treasury. This means not only great complexity and high cost in terms of compliance, but also high tax liabilities that could total 40% of turnover and more. In addition, tax compliance is increasingly becoming a corporate governance and a reputational issue. In this article, we look at recent developments that indicate that tax risk management will become even more critical in 2021; ways in which companies can manage their tax risk more professionally; and the benefits of tax risk management that can help companies re-build after a difficult past year.

If you think compliance is expensive – try non-compliance.” (Paul McNulty, former US Deputy Attorney General)

The extent of corporate taxes – from income tax, employment taxes and value added tax (VAT) to dividend taxes, capital gains taxes, transaction taxes and other indirect taxes – along with the operational aspects such as data and reporting systems and related technicalities, guarantee complexity and time-consuming processes for companies, which in turn increases compliance costs.  

This also compounds other tax risks such as under-estimation; underpayments; overpayments; not applying the correct tax savings and incentives; tax penalties – such as the 10% late payment penalty; the inability to meet tax obligations; and assessments and audits. 

Compliance costs are another growing tax risk. Studies suggest that companies spend hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of Rands each year on internal tax compliance costs such as labour or time devoted to tax activities and incidental compliance expenses, and on external tax compliance costs like tax practitioners’ fees.

In addition, tax issues can place a company’s reputation and brand at risk. An example would be a company losing a tender on a large contract because it was unable to provide a tax clearance certificate, perhaps due to a technical or minor non-compliance issue. Companies also face the risk that a tax issue could attract negative attention from the media, civil society or competitors, as growing numbers of stakeholders ranging from customers to potential investors increasingly support only companies perceived to be contributing their fair share to the country and community in which it operates.

Why tax risk management will be even more critical in 2021 

All these tax risks will be amplified in 2021 for a number of reasons, including increased tax liabilities; intensified taxpayer scrutiny; and the further entrenchment of SARS’ powers.

In the 2020 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced government-projected tax increases of R5 billion in 2021/22; R10 billion in 2022/23; R10 billion in 2023/24; and R15 billion in 2024/25. Companies need to factor these tax increases into their future planning and budgeting.

Taxpayers will also find themselves under greater scrutiny and likely to be subject to more punitive measures in 2021. Human errors and simple mistakes, which are not uncommon given the complex processes and strict deadlines involved, stand now to be harshly punished even if unintentional. The Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill, 2020 (awaiting Presidential signature to become law) provides that for certain tax crimes you can be convicted if you acted either “wilfully or negligently”, where previously proof of wilfulness (intention) was required. This means that a court could find a taxpayer guilty of an offence without proof of wilfulness, so that even inadvertent errors could be penalised with a maximum penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment. 

Along the same lines, companies can also expect an increase in the number of tax audits, as well as more detailed, expensive, and time-consuming investigations and audits. These are likely to focus on SMMEs, business owners, trusts and high net worth individuals.

Furthermore, SARS’ already extensive powers – including asset forfeiture powers – continue to be entrenched. Just two examples from recent court rulings illustrate: the Gauteng High Court confirmed a taxpayer’s obligation to be vigilant when filing a tax return and liability for appropriate penalties when falling short of this duty, while a North High Court judgement set an important precedent by re-affirming SARS’ right to liquidate a taxpayer to recover debt where an assessment is under appeal.

How to manage your tax risk

  • Plan for tax compliance

A well-defined tax strategy, aligned with your overall business strategy and the specific tax challenges facing your business, is important. As the business grows, a re-assessment of the corporate vehicle or tax structure may be required. 

Detailed planning is also required for the tax year ahead, providing ample time for processes required for proper record-keeping to ensure tax returns are complete and accurate, and that the numerous tax deadlines can be met.

Planning should also incorporate identifying and implementing relevant tax relief and incentives and assistance. Just one example is turnover tax that provides administrative relief for micro businesses by replacing Income Tax, VAT, Provisional Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Dividends Tax for businesses with a qualifying annual turnover of R1 million or less.

  1. Budget for tax compliance

Proper budgeting is required to ensure all the various tax liabilities can be met before or on the stipulated deadlines, while also factoring in the effect of the annual tax increases announced in the latest Medium-Term Budget Policy.

Companies also need to budget for compliance costs including the internal cost of labour or time devoted to tax activities, incidental expenses, and the resources, systems and continuous upskilling required to meet ever-changing tax obligations. The budget should also provide for external costs such as tax practitioners’ fees; external reviews of the tax function; and even tax risk insurance to cover the cost of immediate expert assistance and support from a team of tax professionals in the case of a SARS’ tax audit.  

  • Call on expert professional services 

Given the increase in compliance complexity and costs, the expertise of accounting officers and auditors is vital in determining the taxable income and the amount of tax to be paid.

Advice from a tax professional can ensure an appropriate tax strategy is formulated to proactively manage your tax risk in the long-term, saving time and money and avoiding expensive tax mistakes, while keeping in line with the ever-changing tax obligations. 

Be sure to choose a specialist who is appropriately qualified and experienced, as well as a member of a professional controlling body that enforces strict standards, such as SAICA (South African Institute of Chartered Accountants).

Benefits of professional tax risk management

Failure to manage tax risk effectively will negatively impact on an organisation’s profitability. However, beyond managing tax liability, there are further benefits to managing a business’ tax risks. One of these is more accurate records resulting from tax compliance obligations. This improves the availability of up-to-date information and insight into the financial position of the business and its profitability – enabling accurate, timeous financial management which is crucial to business success. In addition, tax compliance has become both a corporate governance and a reputational issue and can create both shareholder value and stakeholder trust. These benefits, along with tightly managed tax liabilities, will certainly assist companies as they build back after the economic upheaval of 2020.

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Five Mistakes to Avoid When Investing Offshore

With Fitch and Moody’s downgrading South Africa’s credit rating even further and the political and economic climate becoming increasingly erratic it’s perhaps unsurprising that more and more people are electing to move their money offshore.

While this may seem to be a simple solution for those looking for stability it is also easy to make mistakes that could ultimately cost a lot of money and undermine the benefit of investing overseas. We take a look at five of these potential pitfalls and share some tips on how to avoid them.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” (Benjamin Franklin)

It can be tempting to look at South Africa and the bad news that seems to hit us like freight trains one after another, and immediately consider moving all your money offshore. There is however far more to consider than simply your gut feel, and predictions of woe as investing offshore comes with a lot of difficulties and more than a few unique problems.

Here we look at some of the most common errors people make, to steer you clear of losing your investments.

  1. A bank account is not an investment

Perhaps the largest mistake that new offshore investors make is panicking. In their emotional state they open an offshore bank account and start moving money overseas, but this is a mistake.

Bank accounts, particularly in Europe, often pay less than 1% interest and any money that is sitting in one is certainly not even keeping up with South African inflation. As with local investments offshore investors should be looking to craft a diverse portfolio that includes quality global equities to ensure they aren’t just throwing money away.

  1. Understand the market

Before leaping into an offshore investment, it’s important to have a clear picture of the currencies, returns, fees and taxes associated with the different options, and the respective risks that might need to be managed from the outset.

In many jurisdictions fees can end up being a significant player in the profitability of the investment, to the point where they may result in an ongoing shrinkage of offshore assets. This is particularly true if an investment is held in the name of a company, trust or pension, where director or trustee fees will usually be charged on top of the advisory fees.

On top of this, investors in many European countries often pay significantly more in fees for absolutely no added benefits, compared to local investors.

  1. Rental properties aren’t simple

Many people consider buying a rental property in a foreign country the ideal investment, especially if they are considering emigrating there at some stage. A number of countries also offer passports to investors provided they purchase property in those countries, which can also lead to this kind of investment.

There are, however, a number of ways that a rental property can end up becoming a money sinkhole instead of offering the expected stable returns.

International property investors should not simply buy into whichever development the internet or sales agents are suggesting. Do your homework and fully understand the laws, taxes and unique conditions around the country, city and suburb you hope to invest in. Even if the property you are about to buy seems like a good deal, if it is in an area where there is too much rental housing and you struggle to find a tenant, it will end up costing you a small fortune instead.

Investors need to also make sure they do their research on the companies they are working with to ensure they are not uncertified or unscrupulous. Fortunately for investors there is the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), an international body that is committed to regulating the industry. If you partner with an AIPP member, you are assured that they have been vetted and approved.

Arranging finance in a foreign country is possible, but again comes with a need for caution. What is the track record of the company offering the finance and just what are the terms they are offering in their contracts? Laws in other countries may not be the same when it comes to finance, and there may not be the same protections that are on offer in SA relating to allowable interest rates and what happens in the event of a default.

Applicable laws need to be checked regarding tenancy too. Are there protections in place if your tenant does not pay the rent? What happens if someone refuses to move out or damages the property? The best solution is to team up with a reputable letting agent who knows the laws, and who has your best interests at heart to ensure you don’t fall foul of some trick of local law. Of course, using an agent results in additional costs, but in the scheme of things this is likely to be money well spent.

In short, research and research again. This is not something to rush into because you saw a flashy Power-point presentation.

  1. Double Taxation

With the laws around taxation of foreign income recently changing there is a lot of uncertainty, and numerous rumours have arisen as to just when tax is applicable, whether disclosure is necessary and just how much is due. The basic rule is that South African tax residents are subject to tax on their worldwide income regardless of where that income derives or whether it has already been subject to tax in the country where it was earned.

It gets more complicated though, because the South African government has numerous Double Tax Agreements (DTA) with various countries, which seek to prevent double taxation. These are not always helpful however as they don’t always protect the investor from paying two sets of taxes.

The DTA signed with the UK for example clearly outlines in Article 6(1) and 6(3) that where a South African receives rental income from letting immovable property in the UK, such income may be taxed by the UK. It does not however say that South Africa is then not allowed to also tax the income. Article 21 tries to provide protection from double taxation, but there are numerous limitations.

This is then further complicated by the fact that there are some domestic laws which seek to help prevent double taxation in some circumstances, but these laws don’t always apply and come with onerous documentary requirements. Basically, consult an accountant to go through the particulars of your case to determine if any tax is owed and what to do about previously undisclosed income to avoid falling foul of the law.

  1. Waiting for the right time to invest

Perhaps the simplest error to correct is the one where, having already decided to invest offshore, the investor decides to hold onto their money, waiting for the right time to jump into the foreign market.

It may seem wise to wait for the Rand to strengthen or the global equity markets to offer up some value, but this is advised against. Commonly, when people are waiting to move funds, they place large sums of money in money market funds, sometimes for years, looking for the right time to jump in, all the while accruing local income taxes at the marginal rate. This more than undoes all the good that a small strengthening of the Rand could present.

If you are going to do it, there is no better time than the present.

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