On 12 April 2018, the Davis Tax Committee (DTC), issued a media statement (Media Statement) in which it announced the publication of four additional final reports and the conclusion of its work based on its Terms of Reference (ToR).
The four reports that were released on the same day are:
- The “Final report on VAT for the Minister of Finance”;
- the “Report on the efficiency of South Africa’s corporate income tax system for the Minister of Finance”, along with a separate note on territorial taxation;
- the “Report on the public benefit organisation and the tax system for the Minister of Finance”; and
- the “Report on the feasibility of a wealth tax in South Africa for the Minister of Finance”.
According to the Media Statement, the reports are based on the mandate of the DTC as per its ToR and the publication of these reports concludes the work of the DTC, which started on 17 July 2013 when the DTC was appointed by the Minister of Finance. According to the Media Statement, the DTC held its last meeting on 27 March 2018 and also published the “Closing report on the work done by the Davis Tax Committee”, which is essentially a summary of the work done by the DTC since its establishment (Closing Report).
The Closing Report
The Closing Report notes that the operating costs (excluding premises and Secratariat costs borne by SARS) of the DTC was R12,380,000, for the five-year period that it was in existence. In terms of the Closing Report, the DTC submitted 25 reports to the Minister of Finance, which have all been published on the DTC’s website with the approval of the Minister of Finance. Using the ToR as its point of departure, the DTC established 12 sub-committees, with members and various ad hoc members, during its existence to fulfil its mandate. The Closing Report sets out the progress made by each of the various sub-committees.
Progress made by DTC sub-committees and implementation of certain recommendations
The Closing Report also sets out, among other things, the extent to which the recommendations made by various sub-committees had already been implemented. For example, the sub-committee on base erosion and profit shifting’s recommendations for s6quin of the Income Tax Act, No 58 of 1962 (Act) to be repealed and for s10(1)(o)(ii) of the Act to be reviewed, were implemented by National Treasury and SARS accordingly. Taxpayers should note for example that the amendment regarding s10(1)(o)(ii), will only come into effect on 1 March 2020. It is also interesting to note that pursuant to the work of the sub-committee on estate duty and CGT implications, the Minister of Finance accepted one of the DTC’s recommendations in the 2018 Budget Speech by announcing an increased estate duty rate of 25% that will apply to an amount in excess of a dutiable amount of R30 million in an estate. This amendment will apply from 1 March 2018, although the legislation giving effect to this amendment, still needs to be passed by Parliament.
Themes emerging from consultations
The Closing Report states that the twelve sub-committees consulted widely and that a number of themes emerged from the DTC’s consultations with various stakeholders. Some of the most interesting themes that emerged include the following:
- The role of the tax system in South Africa must be considered in a holistic context ie its main mandate is to collect revenue for the state and it cannot be used to address all impediments to economic growth and job creation – this requires a coordinated “whole of government approach” in consultation with business and labour;
- tax legislation has become far too onerous and complicated and the associated tax compliance and reporting requirements are becoming too burdensome and expensive to comply with – there is a need for simplicity and certainty to encourage local and foreign direct investment;
- to what extent can the tax system contribute to behavioural changes that contribute to economic growth, employment creation, development and fiscal sustainability?; and
- taxpayers need assurance and indications that their taxes are being spent prudently and invested in the best interests of the country.
Challenges faced and concluding remarks
The Closing Report also makes mention of some of the challenges faced by the DTC, including the political uncertainty that arose due to six different Ministers of Finance being appointed, while the DTC was in existence.
In its conclusion, the Closing Report notes that the DTC and its sub-committees held 205 meetings and received 433 submissions in an effort to consult widely. It issued 23 media statements and held seven workshops to further engage with the public. The DTC also presented progress reports on two occasions to the Standing Committee on Finance in Parliament.
Importantly, the Closing Report notes that, as mentioned in the ToR, “the Committee is advisory in nature, and will make recommendations to the Minister of Finance.” Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the proposals of the DTC will be implemented in future. This, only time will tell.