The good news is that trusts are here to stay – at least that is what I believe, since why else would SARS go to the hassle of redesigning the return for trusts if trusts were on their way out?
Instead, and here is the not so good news, SARS is putting a spotlight on trust transactions and asking a lot more questions requiring a lot more disclosure.
New trust return requires details on all forms of income, the allocation of deductible expenditure against such income, any qualifying exemptions and whether it vests in the trust or in beneficiaries.
All beneficiaries who have received income must now be disclosed in the return, and – critically – their SA tax reference numbers must be disclosed. This is potentially a real problem for foreign beneficiaries who are usually not registered as SA taxpayers and will require a special power of attorney signed by such foreign beneficiary authorising an SA resident to register the foreign beneficiary as a taxpayer – this requires a visit to a SARS branch by such authorised representative.
All loan accounts must be disclosed, as must the terms of the loans, namely period of loan and interest charged. The reason for this is that SARS wants to ascertain whether various deeming provisions in the Income Tax Act apply or not – a potential trap requiring careful consideration.
Proper trust administration has never been more important, and trustees must make sure that decisions are considered timeously by all trustees and recorded meticulously.