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Debt forgone for the benefit of mining companies 

by Kristel van Rensburg and Gustav van den Berg

Published: March, 2018

Submission: April, 2018

 



The South African Taxation Laws Amendment Act, 2017 was signed into law on 18 December 2017 and made some notable changes to the tax regime. In this article, we deal specifically with the amended section 36 of the Income Tax Act, 1962 (the “Act”) by the insertion of subsection 36(7EA) of the Act. The purpose of the insertion of this subsection was to address the issue that the debt waiver provisions in section 19 of the Act and paragraph 12A of the Eighth Schedule to the Act do not apply to mining companies.

The recoupments provision that is triggered by the application of the debt waiver provisions (section 8(4)(a) of the Act) has an explicit exclusion for amounts “allowed to be deducted or set off under section 15(a)”. Therefore, any recoupment in terms of the debt waiver provisions does not include any unredeemed capex deductible under section 15(a) read with section 36 of the Act. 

National Treasury has therefore seen a need to provide a regime for mining companies to achieve parity with other companies subject to the debt waiver provisions. The new subsection 36(7EA) of the Act is now the mining companies’ parallel provision to section 19 of the Act and paragraph 12A of the Eighth Schedule to the Act. The result is that a mining company will have to reduce its unredeemed capex balance where there is a concession or compromise due to any debt forgone or waived (ie, full consideration not received for the debt so reduced). Where the debt benefit exceeds the unredeemed capex balance to be reduced, the balance of the reduction amount will have to be included in that mining company’s gross income in terms of par (j) of the gross income definition. 

Any debt waiver by a mining company may trigger these provisions. In addition, and as dealt with in a previous article, in terms of the new definition of “concession or compromise” in section 19 of the Act, changes to any terms or conditions applying to existing loan agreements would give rise to a “debt benefit” where the face value of the debt exceeds the market value thereof as a result of the change. The change to the term or condition need not result in a new debt or novation of the existing debt (as per the “or” in the definition of “concession or compromise” between (a)(i) and (a)(ii)) so it can be any change that will result in a change in the market value of the loan. This may have far-reaching consequences for changes to loan agreements that are normal in the course of business, for example:


  • amending the debt covenants in an existing loan agreement;
  • changing the interest rate; or
  • extending the repayment date.

The relevant exclusions as contained in paragraph 12A(6) of the Eighth Schedule to the Act, most notably the intra-group exclusion (where debt is waived between group companies and those companies do not de-group within five years from the debt waiver), have however also been made available for mining companies. Subsection 36(7EA) of the Act expressly provides that it is “subject to paragraph 12A(6)(a) to (d) and (f) of the Eighth Schedule” 

The effective date of the amendment was 1 January 2018 and applies to years of assessment commencing on or after 1 January 2018. 


 


 

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