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Trusts no longer a tax haven – Institute of Estate Agents president

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With the changes proposed in the latest budget presented by Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan, questions arise about the exponential increase in capital gains tax charged on homes bought in trusts. In addition to this, certain assets now have to be listed in the founder of the trust’s estate. Is buying a home in a trust still a viable option? And is this vehicle still the right one to look after the asset posits Lanice Steward, president of the Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa?

“A trust is an excellent vehicle in which to protect minors in the event of the untimely death of both parents or to protect great wealth from being squandered by the next generation. But I do not believe that a trust should be seen as tax haven any longer,” says Steward. “They previously played a huge role in avoiding estate duty and transfer duties on passing property from one family member to another, but the government is tightening up on this and one can expect that there will be taxes placed on trusts going forward.”

Over the years, different tax implications have been applied to trusts, with the latest being an increase from 27,3% of the gain to 32,8%.

The formula for calculating capital gains tax as set out in the tax legislation is quite complicated but basically comes to a percentage of the total profit (gain) made by a tax payer. The previous rate for natural persons was 13.7%, 18.6% for companies and close corporations and for trusts was 27.3%. From 1 March 2016 the new rate is: 16.4% for natural persons, 22.4% for companies and close corporations and 32.8% for trusts.

capital gains tax resizeThe R2m exemption on gains made on the sale of a person’s primary residence remains unchanged. The government budgets to receive an extra R1bn of capital gains tax from individual taxpayers (natural persons) and another R1bn from corporate tax payers in the coming year.  Trusts would fall into the former category.

In addition to the increase in CGT, estate duty cannot be avoided as it is proposed that donations or loans to the trust must be included in the estate of the founding member, which eliminates the ability to avoid paying taxes on assets passed to the trust.

With regard to the budget, the implication of increases in transfer duty on properties above R10m from 11% to 13% could see a slight retardation in price rises in the top end of the market, where values have grown exponentially in recent years. The aim of this budget, it seems, is for it not to have a dramatic effect on the lower and middle end of the market, which is usually the hardest hit in times of economic uncertainty.

If there is a question as to whether to buy property or place assets into a trust, this should be a decision made in conjunction with a tax lawyer or financial advisor, who would be able to make a learned decision on a family’s financial standing, Steward advises.



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