In terms of section 1 of the Income Tax Act a natural person will be a “resident” for tax purposes if that person is ordinarily resident in the Republic of South Africa (“the Republic”). Persons who are not at any time during the relevant year of assessment ordinarily resident in the Republic, will also qualify as “residents” if they meet the so-called physical presence test. The definition of “resident” furthermore specifically excludes any person who is deemed to be exclusively resident of another country for purposes of the application of any double tax agreement entered into between South Africa and that other country.
When leaving the Republic to go work and live in another country, it may therefore result in such person ceasing to be a “resident”. In these circumstances, careful consideration should be given to the possible capital gains tax (“CGT”) consequences which may arise.
Section 9H of the Income Tax Act provides that where a person ceases to be a resident for tax purposes, the person must be treated as having disposed of his/her assets for an amount equal to the market value of such assets (the so-called “CGT exit charge”), in other words, a price which would be obtained between a willing buyer and a willing seller on an arm’s length basis. This disposal is deemed to take place the day immediately before the individual ceases to be a tax resident. The person is furthermore deemed to immediately reacquire such assets at a cost equal to this same market value, which expenditure must be treated as an amount of expenditure actually incurred for the purposes of paragraph 20(1)(a) of the Eighth Schedule. In other words, the market value of the assets at the time of the exit will be treated as the base cost of such assets in the future.
The CGT exit charge does not apply to immovable property situated in the Republic held by that person or any asset which after cessation of residence becomes attributable to a permanent establishment of that person in the Republic. Also excluded are certain qualifying equity shares received in terms of broad-based employee share plans, as well as qualifying equity instruments or rights to acquire certain “marketable securities”.
Persons leaving the Republic either permanently or for extended periods should therefore consider whether or not they cease to be residents in the Republic for tax purposes and whether the CGT exit charges may apply to them.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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)