New developments of the offshore amnesty

One has to ask the question ‘what more has National Treasury and SARS got to do to encourage the taxpayer to clean up on their illegally held offshore investments?’

This is presuming of course that the latest proposals of 20 July 2016 are finally passed into law. They remain in draft form until enacted by Parliament later this year. It is fair, however, to predict that the Special Voluntary Disclosure will go ahead from 1 October 2016.

The previous version was awfully cumbersome involving the resubmission of tax returns back to 2010 and the calculation of a seed capital adjustment to cover years prior to 2010. Any improvement on that is most welcome.

The latest proposal is based on a one-off levy calculated by adding 50% of the highest aggregate value of the offshore assets (2010 to 2015) to taxable income in the 2015 year of assessment, but with no resubmission of previous tax returns. (At least that’s how I read it at present).

The end result is that taxpayers with highest marginal tax rate will forfeit around 20 percent of their stash. That will dispense with arrear income tax, donations tax and estate duty transgressions. However, this does not include a further levy to cover any exchange control transgressions, a further 5 or 10 percent of capital.

As with the previous proposals offshore trusts cannot apply but their donors and beneficiaries may elect to apply on behalf of the offshore trust. In short, the trust can stay in place provided the taxpayer pays the tax in the future. This may well disturb future estate duty savings as well.

So what can we say at this stage?

National Treasury and SARS are committed to sorting this mess out. Given that there are some taxpayers swallowing Imodium following the Panama Papers, this is worth a great deal.

This is still a proposal. Although we must wait for the final version to pass through Parliament, it will do no harm to start getting everything together to complete the VDP  application process.

Anyone who dismisses this opportunity and elects to just carry on illegally holding offshore assets must be bonkers. Even if the taxpayer pays 30% to keep the stash offshore that’s a small price to pay. Those detected by SARS after the window period closes could lose the lot and face a range of criminal charges.

There are so many variations to the scheme of holding an offshore stash that it is difficult to give general advice. The best is to consult a tax nerd proficient in the arena of offshore investment.

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