Ahead of the 2016 budget speech on 24 February, the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) is requesting the Minister of Finance to confirm that the proposed reform measures relating to retirement funding go into effect on 1 March 2016 as legislated, and not delayed further.
“Uncertainty has a massive negative effect on business generally, and individual taxpayers themselves have been planning for the scheduled implementation of the new laws,” says Ettiene Retief, chairperson of the National Tax and SARS Stakeholders Committees at SAIPA.
“The reforms to our retirement funding legislation were laid out in the Taxation Laws Amendment Act and the Financial Services Laws General Amendment Act in 2013 for implementation during 2015, which was postponed to 1 March 2016,” he says. “It’s well-known that certain parties is not in agreement with the reforms but, at this late stage, the right choice is to go ahead with the implementation.”
Retief argues that there are sound policy goals behind the reform, and that government has consulted extensively. The prior delay already caused some trouble as employers, payroll systems, and financial institutions had prepared for the implementation, and days prior to implementation a postponement was announced.
The reforms aim to harmonise the regulations relating to provident, pension and retirement annuity funds, according to Retief. The new law will allow members of provident funds to make a tax deduction on their own contributions. Higher tax deduction limits will encourage retirement saving while, at the same time, a limit on the total deduction allowance will make it harder for high-income earners to benefit excessively from tax deductions. Effectively, the reform levels the playing field.
An important change is the extension of the requirement to purchase an annuity to members of provident funds, he points out. This means that, like members of pension and retirement funds, members of provident funds will now have to preserve their retirement savings by transferring a portion of their retirement pay-outs into an annuity. This change is intended to fulfil the important public-policy goal of protecting people against poverty in old age.
Retief notes that the requirement to transfer provident-fund pay-outs into annuities will not negatively affect peoples’ existing provident fund contributions as transitional rules have been put in place. This reduces impact on existing members of provident funds, and should address many of the issues we had in the past with switching between different funds.
Contributions made towards retirement savings should be preserved as such, and not easily accessible to fund short term needs, according to Retief. This is a common problem, as people use the funds available on termination of employment to fund short term needs, and do not generally reinvest these funds into another retirement fund.
“If, at a later date, reasons for amending the new regulations become apparent, this could be done via an amendment to the act,” Retief says. “For now, it’s important to give everybody certainty.”