Do proposed tax policy reforms promote investment?

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-In his 2017 Budget Speech, Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein indicated a proposition of delving into certain tax exemptions and deductions, which will be curbed following a “stakeholder consultation” process. The reason for this is that these provisions granted decrease the effective tax rate significantly when utilised.

Standard Bank says it supports and appreciates the proposed stakeholder consultation process, which shows a move for government and the private sector to work together on matters such as tax policy reforms. However, the bank says one factor of the proposed policy reforms needs to be deliberated before legislative amendments are affected.

“When one considers our deductions and exemptions in the tax legislation, it is evident that the specifically permitted deductions and exemptions prompt taxpayers to behave in a certain manner. As an example, dividends received, which are specifically exempt for income tax purposes, promote investment activity.

“An excellent selling point for convincing investors to finance a business or project would be that a return on investment is not subject to tax. This is a win-win scenario for the investor and investee. It’s important to bear in mind that this argument will not hold for certain foreign investors. However, all the more reason for potential Namibian investors to invest in our local businesses and our economy at large,” said Standard Bank’s head of tax Adeline Beukes.

Sharing the same sentiment, Standard Bank’s tax manager, Chanelle Isaaks, states a similar position for income tax deductions.

“The deduction granted in respect of plant and machinery allowances as an example, provides relief for the decreasing value of assets over time, where such assets are utilised for trading purposes. Capital allowances therefore provide relief for taxpayers investing in certain capital assets. Therefore, it could be viewed that certain deductions or capital allowances promote investment activity.”

From a Value-Added Tax (VAT) perspective, specifically exempt from VAT are dividends and/or interest, being consideration for investments made (which is an exempt supply under Schedule IV of our VAT Act). This is another feature of attraction for current and potential investors, as the fruits of their investment are received without having to consider the VAT implications thereof.

“The primary purpose of an investor is to make a significant return on their investments and at the same time minimize any associated costs or liabilities. If investors are given less perks relating to the investments they make, this would influence their decision-making around investments. Namibian business activity is vital in the growth of our economy and it is important that Namibian-owned enterprises are specifically nurtured,” said Isaaks.

Standard Bank says it further understands that the proposed tax policy reform is considered to reduce Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (“BEPS”). It is however important to note that it is difficult to implement measures to reduce BEPS unilaterally. It is for this reason that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) introduced the Inclusive Framework on the BEPS project.

“Although we have taken pride in our simplistic Namibian tax system, we acknowledge there are many areas which require clarity from a tax perspective. In addition to the above, top of mind are aspects such as thin capitalization, employee benefits and share incentive schemes; which in turn encourages the principles relating to the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF).

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