Monthly Archives: June 2017

Meet the challenges of financial inclusion

Relative to its peers in the SADC region, South Africa has a high percentage of people with formal bank accounts. While 94{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} of the adult population in the Seychelles has a bank account, and 85{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} do so in Mauritius, South Africa’s banked adult population stands at 77{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b}.

This contrasts starkly with the likes of Madagascar or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where only 12{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} of adults have bank accounts. In Angola, the ratio is 20{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b}.

These are figures produced by the Finmark Trust, an organisation set up more than a decade ago to promote financial inclusion. And at face value, they may appear to suggest that South Africa is measuring up reasonably well.

However, the Trusts’s Dr Prega Ramsamy says that there is a lot more to financial inclusion than whether or not someone has a bank account.

“It’s a multi-dimensional problem,” he told the Actuarial Society 2016 Convention in Cape Town. “There is an element of access, but there is also an element of affordability, an element of proximity, and most importantly an element of quality. We might have huge access in terms of people having bank accounts, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are financially included because the quality of such access might not be there.”

He pointed out that often products are inappropriate or inaccessible.

“At the moment there are about 20.9 million people in South Africa with access to insurance,” he pointed out, “and of those, 18.9 million have funeral cover. So funeral insurance completely dominates the sector.”

He acknowledged that there is a cultural aspect to why this is such a popular product, but he questioned why so many people are able to afford funeral policies but don’t have any other long term risk cover or savings.

Ramsamy pointed out that ten years ago, about one million South Africans had multiple cover, in that they held more than one funeral policy. That number has grown to five million. Yet the penetration of other risk products has remained very low.

“We sit in an office and think we can provide insurance, but we don’t really know if this kind of insurance fits the needs of the people we are selling it to,” he argued. “Agents are also just interested in selling numbers for commissions, but don’t ask if what they’re selling is the type of insurance or product that their customers need.”

Speaking at the same event, Ruth Benjamin Swales of the Asisa Foundation acknowledged that there is a real challenge for financial services companies to design more relevant offerings.

“For instance we have many people in South Africa who work intermittently,” Swales said. “But most savings and investment or insurance products require monthly contributions. Just that minimum requirement excludes many people from being able to access relevant products that could improve their financial well-being.”

It is obvious that product providers need to find different models, both in terms of the products they are offering and how they are distributed. For instance, if funeral cover has such wide reach, might it not be possible to attach other products to these policies, such as savings accounts or retirement annuities.

Mobile technology also offers extensive opportunities. In East Africa, where mobile money has been hugely successful, companies are also offering micro-loans and micro-insurance on mobile platforms.

The best deal on your personal cheque account

The latest report by the Solidarity Research Institute shows that increased competition among the nation’s banks appears to be driving fees down. But increased financial pressure on consumers means charges, albeit lower, can still be a significant burden.

So, how do you get the best possible deal on your personal cheque account?

Negotiate your bank charges

There is no law or code regulating the negotiation of bank charges. But Advocate Clive Pillay, the Ombudsman for Banking Services, says the charges levied on ordinary cheque accounts can be fully negotiated.

“In the case of a ‘big account’ with much activity and a reasonable balance, a bank would be more likely to negotiate a reduced rate, to retain the customer, than it would in the case of ‘a small account’, with little activity, such as a salary deposit each month and a number of withdrawals during the course of the month with a very low balance,” he told Moneyweb.

However, it is important to note that the bank can refuse to negotiate lower rates by “exercising their commercial discretion,” says Pillay. In which cases, customers can do little but switch banks, provided the new bank offers lower rates.

If that fails, there are other relatively simple ways to save money on bank charges.

Make sure your account suits your needs

Some banks offer two types of basic cheque accounts: bundles and pay-as you-transact accounts. Depending on the amount of activity on your account, one option may prove more cost-effective than the other.

Bundles, offered by the big four banks, comprise fixed monthly fees for a package of transactions including finite cash deposits and withdrawals, and oftentimes unlimited electronic transactions and notifications. Any transactions which breach the bundle limits are typically charged on as pay-as-you-transact (PAYT) basis.

The PAYT charges – offered by Absa and Standard Bank – include a minimum monthly service and additional fees per transaction. Capitec’s sole account option, the Global One Account is a PAYT account.

* Capitec’s fee structure is due to change from March 2017, fees quoted are based on the 2016/2017 pricing guide.

* FNB’s fee structure is due to change from July 2017, fees quoted are based on the 2016/2017 pricing guide.

Maintaining a bank’s prescribed minimum account balance can also reduce or, in some cases, negate transaction fees.

Ditch ATM withdrawals

Multiple ATM withdrawals, especially those over and above bundle limits can, significantly increase your bank charges. Instead opt to withdraw cash at a point of sale (POS) from a participating retailer, such as a major supermarket. If you really must get cash from an ATM, ensure you use your own bank’s machine as a cash withdrawal at another bank’s ATM, a Saswitch withdrawal, is considerably more expensive.

Reduce the costs in an estate

The death of a spouse, friend or relative is often an emotional time even before estate matters are addressed.

And truth be told, death can be an expensive and cumbersome affair, particularly if estate planning was neglected, the claims against the estate start accumulating and there isn’t sufficient cash to settle outstanding debts.

People generally underestimate the costs related to death, says Ronel Williams, chairperson of the Fiduciary Institute of Southern African (Fisa). Most individuals have a fairly good grasp of significant expenses like a mortgage bond that would have to be settled, but the smaller fees can also add up.

To avoid a situation where valuable assets have to be sold to settle outstanding debts, it is important to do proper planning and take out life and/or bond insurance to ensure sufficient cash is available, she notes.

Costs

The costs involved in an estate can broadly be classified as administration costs and claims against the estate. The administration costs are incurred after death as a result of the death. Claims against the estate are those the deceased was liable for at the time of death, the notable exception being tax, Williams explains.

Administration costs as well as most claims against the estate will generally need to be paid in cash, although there are exceptions, for example the bond on the property. If the bank that holds the bond is satisfied and the heir to the property agrees to it, the bank may replace the heir as the new debtor.

Williams says quite often estates are solvent, but there is insufficient cash to settle administration costs and claims against the estate. In the event of a cash shortfall the executor will approach the heirs to the balance of the estate to see if they would be willing to pay the required cash into the estate to avoid the sale of assets.

If the heirs are not willing to do this, the executor may have no choice but to sell estate assets to raise the necessary cash.

“This is far from ideal as the executor may be forced to sell a valuable asset to generate a small amount of cash.”

If there is a bond on the property and not sufficient cash in the estate, it is not a good idea to leave the property to someone specific as the costs of the estate would have to be settled from the residue. Where a particular item is bequeathed to a beneficiary, the person would normally receive it free from any liabilities. This could result in a situation where the beneficiaries of the residue of the estate may be asked to pay cash into the estate even though they wouldn’t receive any benefit from the property, Williams says.

The most significant administration costs are generally the executor’s and conveyancing fees.

If the will does not explicitly specify the executor’s remuneration, it will be calculated according to a prescribed tariff, currently 3.5{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} of the gross value of the assets subject to a minimum remuneration of R350. The executor is also entitled to a fee on all income earned after the date of death, currently 6{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b}. If the executor is a VAT vendor, another 14{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} must be added.

Assuming an estate value of R2 million comprising of a fixed property of R1 million, shares, furniture, vehicles and cash, the executor’s fee at a tariff of 3.5{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} would amount to R70 000 (plus VAT if the executor is a VAT vendor). Conveyancing fees will be an estimated R18 000 plus VAT. Depending on the situation, funeral costs may be another R20 000, while other fees (Master’s Office fees, advertising costs, mortgage bond cancellation and tax fees) can easily add another R10 000. By law advertisements have to be placed in a local newspaper and the Government Gazette, with estimated costs of between R400 and R700 and R40 respectively. Master’s fees are payable to the South African Revenue Service (Sars) in all estates where an executor is appointed with a gross value of R15 000 or more. The maximum fee is R600.

Where applicable mortgage bond cancellation costs, appraisement costs, costs of realisation of assets, transfer costs of fixed property or shares, bank charges, maintenance of assets and tax fees will also have to be paid. The executor is also allowed to claim an amount for postage and sundry costs, while funeral expenses, short-term insurance, maintenance of assets and the cost of a duplicate motor vehicle registration certificate may also have to be taken into account.

Spring clean your finances

With all the twists, shifts and turns the economy has taken this year, it certainly hasn’t been easy-going for cash-strapped South Africans. Now that we’ve kissed the winter blues goodbye, it’s time to welcome the warmer season with open arms and there’s no better way to do it than with a spring clean… of your finances!

“Take this opportunity to get organised. The more organised you are, the more in control you are. You want to be in control of your finances – not the other way around,” says John Manyike, head of Financial Education at Old Mutual.

While it sounds easy in theory, in practice there are often unexpected curveballs that can throw even the most prudent of budgeters off the straight and narrow.

“Changes in both the economy and your personal life affect your budget, which is why it should be revisited on a regular basis,” says Budget Insurance’s Susan Steward.

In September, petrol prices are expected to rise by 59 cents a litre and diesel by 56 cents a litre. Electricity tariffs are expected to increase by more than 20{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b}. And as August stats indicate, South African consumers remain under tremendous pressure to clear debt.

Here are a few guidelines from the experts on how to balance our budgets between September’s petrol hikes and increasing consumer debt and living costs.

1.First things first: get rid of debt

Make sure to pay off the most expensive debt first. “This is the debt that carries the highest interest rate and is costing you the most. For example, if you have a bond at a 10{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} interest rate and a personal loan at a 20{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} interest rate, consider paying off the loan first,” says Manyike.

Winter shopping splurges on credit may have accumulated, but if you received an annual increase in July, you may have a little more in your bank account and – as much as it can be tough – use it smartly by paying off outstanding debt, Steward advises, or strategise a smart budget plan to make the necessary payments.

2. Cut costs

This isn’t about scrutinising every cent you spend but rather establishing spending patterns to identify possible areas for saving. A good way to do this is to look at your monthly bank statement and see where most of money is going. You may be surprised at just how much you’re spending in certain areas and how by making small changes you could keep your spending in check.

3. Less is more

Examine your monthly budget and if your expenses exceed your income, cut out things you can do without. Just like cleaning out your closet or selling old equipment that is taking up unnecessary space, try to eliminate all expenses and purchases that are not essential. Be very clear on the difference between needs and wants.

4. Remember your saving goals

If you didn’t stick to your New Year’s resolution to save more money this year, it’s not too late to start now. Make a plan to set up a monthly debit order to an investment account or open a tax-free savings account, increase your pension fund contribution and request the 13th cheque option from your employer, if available to you.

5. Save for the unexpected

The amount you save towards an emergency fund depends on your personal circumstances. Ideally an emergency fund should cover three to six months’ living expenses, says Steward, adding that while this might seem like an insurmountable amount to save, just by putting aside R250 a week, for example, you have yourself R1 000 at the end of each month.

“If you don’t have savings, you aren’t getting ready for the day when you must pay out more money than you have. This day can come in the form of an unexpected medical bill, or family emergency, and it is at times like these that your savings can save you,” Manyike points out.

6. Track your spending

Try establish where unnecessary spending goes and how you can reduce it by making small changes to save big. Keep track of expenses in your statements and find a pattern to re-strategise saving methods.

7. Outdated fees must be phased out

You could be paying subscription fees for magazines you don’t read, a gym you don’t go to or paying for a bank account you no longer use. End subscriptions and use the money in more efficient places.

How government is collecting more tax revenues by stealth

Over the last few years government has collected a significant amount of tax revenue by not fully adjusting the personal income tax tables for inflationary increases in earnings, thereby increasing the effective tax rate of individuals.

A middle-class individual earning a taxable income of R400 000 per annum in the 2016 year of assessment, would have seen her after-tax income increase by only 5.42{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} and 5.05{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} in the 2017 and 2018 tax years respectively, even if her taxable income increased by 6{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} every year.

During his most recent budget speech, finance minister Pravin Gordhan collected more than R12 billion of the R28 billion in additional taxes he needed from the personal income tax system in this way.

In a similar fashion, taxpayers may now become liable for capital gains tax (CGT) purely because three of the exclusions have not been adjusted for the effects of inflation since March 1 2012.

1. The primary residence exclusion

When taxpayers sell their primary residence and realise a capital gain on the transaction, an exclusion of R2 million applies.

Louis van Vuren, CEO of the Fiduciary Institute of Southern Africa (Fisa), says if the exclusion was adjusted for inflation over the past five years, it would have increased to around R2.6 million over the period.

For someone who bought an upper middle-class house in Cape Town for R650 000 in 2002 and who wants to sell it now, this has significant implications.

Van Vuren says today the house would be worth roughly R3 million. If it were sold, the capital gain realised would amount to R2.35 million (assuming no capital improvements and a base cost of R650 000). Due to the primary residence exclusion, R2 million would be disregarded, and 40{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} (the inclusion rate for individuals) of the capital gain of R310 000 (after deduction of the R40 000 annual exclusion) would have to be included in the individual’s taxable income.

At an assumed marginal income tax rate of 41{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b}, the individual would have to pay R50 840 in CGT, purely because the primary residence exclusion hasn’t been adapted for inflation, he adds.

2. The year of death exclusion

Apart from the primary residence exclusion, the South African Revenue Service allows for a capital gain exclusion of R300 000 on all other assets in the year of an individual’s death (instead of the normal R40 000 annual exclusion). Personal use assets like artwork, jewellery and vehicles do not attract capital gains tax.

Van Vuren says if someone had invested R250 000 on the JSE in March 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis and it kept track with the performance of the All Share Index, the investment would have grown to roughly R700 000.

Since the individual would be deemed to have disposed of the investment upon death, the capital gain would amount to R450 000, which would reduce to R150 000 after the R300 000 exclusion had been deducted.

Van Vuren says if the exclusion kept track with inflation it would have been around R400 000 today and the gain would be only R50 000 (R700 000 minus R250 000 minus R400 000).

At an inclusion rate of 40{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b}, the R100 000 “additional gain” that had been realised will add R40 000 to the individual’s taxable income, which, at a marginal tax rate of 41{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} would lead to R16 400 in CGT, purely due to inflation.

3. Special exclusion for small business owners

Van Vuren says because the retirement provision of small business owners are often locked up in the value of their companies, it would be quite harsh to levy capital gains tax in the normal way when they dispose of their interest in the business upon retirement.

As a result, small business owners receive a special capital gains exclusion of R1.8 million upon retirement (minimum age 55 years) or death, subject to certain conditions (and over and above the R40 000 annual exclusion):

  • The individual must own at least 10{915f2fd5aca4c3a34c5cb69d7973bd97975047c315a8e3a00cfb3db88c0fb71b} of the business;
  • The total business assets of all businesses the person is involved in must not exceed R10 million;
  • The individual must have been actively involved in the business for at least five years;
  • If at retirement, the disposals must all happen within a 24-month period.

If the exclusion had been adjusted for inflation, it would have been roughly R2.3 million by now, Van Vuren says.