We have recently become aware of an increased level of audits being conducted by the South African Revenue Service in relation to taxpayers’ obligations in terms of the Skills Development Levies Act, 9 of 1999 (SDL Act). The focus appears to be specifically on non-compliant taxpayers who fail to register as required in terms of section 5 of the SDL Act, and thus for these employers to pay the requisite levy over to SARS. The problem is perhaps amplified thereby that the skills development levy is often considered an ‘unimportant’ tax by taxpayers (primarily due to it being less costly compared to, for example, VAT or income tax). Compliance with the SDL Act is therefore not a top priority to taxpayers, with the effect that taxpayers are also not apprised of their rights and obligations in terms of this Act when confronted by SARS to register and settle an ostensible skills development levy obligation.
The skills development levy (or SDL) is a levy upon employers required to register for SDL (see registration requirement below). It is levied at 1% of remuneration paid to employees during any month (which include directors of a company). The levy is thus also applicable to directors’ remuneration.
Even though directors’ remuneration is also subject to the SDL, what should not be forgotten, though, (especially in the context of what appears to be the focus of SARS’ audits) is that directors’ remuneration is excluded in terms of section 3(5)(e) from determining whether the threshold amount of R500,000 has been reached and which requires registration for SDL purposes (see section 4(b)).
As above, even though the threshold limit for registering for SDL is R500,000 of remuneration paid (or reasonably expected to be paid to employees in the coming 12 months), the R500,000 threshold amount is determined for private companies without having regard to any directors’ remuneration paid. Therefore, although the directors’ remuneration will be subject to SDL once the company is registered, it is ignored for purposes of determining whether a taxpayer is liable, and thus required to register, for SDL.
This is particularly relevant for SME’s conducting business through a private company, especially where remuneration is comprised largely of directors’ salaries. To give an example in illustration: assume a private company pays salaries to non-directors of R400,000, and R1,000,000 to the two directors of the company collectively. On these facts, the company need not register and pay SDL as non-director salaries amount to less than R500,000. Were the company, however, to pay salaries to non-directors of R600,000, then irrespective of the directors’ remuneration, the company would need to register for SDL and pay 1% per month on the total remuneration paid to all employees (including directors).
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)