A critical discussion of the tax aspects of derivative instruments

Uys, Hermien (2002-03)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Tax policy makers in South Africa have to a large extent neglected the tax treatment of derivative instruments. The Income Tax Act, No. 58 of 1962, currently only takes into account three types of financial arrangements that can be classified as being derivative in nature: forward exchange and option contracts relating to foreign exchange, interest rate swaps based on notional capital amounts and option contracts. Although the Commissioner for Inland Revenue has appointed a number of internal working committees to research this area of the law, the legislation resulting from these efforts has been piecemeal in nature, dealing only with limited aspects of the taxation of a few specific transactions. Due to the lack of specific legislative provisions regulating the tax aspects of derivatives, the general principles of South African income tax law have to be applied to these instruments. This leads to imprecise and inconsistent results, primarily due to the development of these principles long before the widespread use of derivatives in sophisticated and complex transactions. The taxation of transactions involving derivative instruments is becoming a subject of increasing practical importance in South Africa due to the number of derivative transactions escalating in quantity. The introduction of capital gains tax in South Africa has added yet a further dimension to the taxation of derivatives. In light of the increasing volume and value of derivative transactions entered into by South African taxpayers, it is imperative that clarity regarding the taxation of these transactions be reached as soon as possible. Any reform and revised tax rules which is made applicable to these instruments, need to be very flexible, as further developments in the financial instrument environment are extremely dynamic and almost changing by day. It is furthermore important that the South African tax system keeps track with international developments to enhance the countl-y's trading status and to ensure that cross border transactions do not have anomalous conseq Llences, especially for foreign counter-parties.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Belastingbeleidmakers in Suid-Afrika het tot 'n groot mate die belastinghantering van afgeleide instrumente verwaarloos. Die Inkomstebelasingwet, No. 58 van 1962, neem tans slegs drie soorte finansiele ooreenkomste wat as afgeleide instrumente geklassifiseer kan word, in aanmerking: termynwissel- en opsiekontrakte met betrekking tot buitelandse valuta, rentekoers ruilkontrakte gebaseer op denkbeeldige kapitaalbedrae en opsiekontrakte. Alhoewel die Kommissaris van Binnelandse Inkomste 'n aantal interne werkskomitees aangestel het om ondersoek in te stel na hierdie afdeling van die reg, is die wetgewing wat voortgespruit het as uitvloeisel van hierdie pogings broksgewys van aard deurdat dit slegs met beperkte aspekte van die belasbaarheid van 'n aantal spesifieke transaksies gehandel het. Vanwee die gebrek aan spesifieke wetgewende bepalings wat die belastingaspekte van afgeleides reguleer, moet die algemene beginsels van die Suid-Afrikaanse inkol11stebelastingreg toegepas word op hierdie instrumente. Dit gee aanleiding tot onnollkeurige en teenstrydige resllltate, hoofsaaklik omdat hierdie beginsels reeds lank voor die wydverspreide gebruik van afgeleides in gesofistikeerde en ingewikkelde transaksies ontwikkel het.- Die belasbaarheid van transaksies waarby afgeleide instrumente betrokke is, is 'n onderwerp van loenemende praktiese belang in Suid-Afrika vanwee die styging in die aantal transaksies in afgeleides. Die inwerkingstelling van kapitaalwinsbelasting in Suid-Afrika het nog 'n verdere dimensie aan die belasbaarheid van afgeleide instmmente toegevoeg. lndien aggeslaan word op die toename in die aantal en waarele van transaksies in afgeleiele instrllmente wat deur Suid-Afrikaanse belastingbetalers aangegaan word, is elit noodsaaklik clat ciuidelikheid rakencle ciie belasbaarheid van hierdie transaksies so spoedig doenlik verkry word. Enige hervOiming en hersiende belastingreels wat van toepassing gemaak word op hierdie instrllmente, moet baie buigsaam wees aangesien verdere ontwikkelings in die finansieie instrumente-omgewing uiters dinamies is en bykans daagliks verander. Dit is vnorts belangrik dat die Suid-Afrikaanse belastingstelsel tred hou met intemasionale ontwikkelinge ten eincle ciie lanci se handelstatus te versterk en te verseker ciat tral1saksies oor grense heen nie onreeimatige gevolge inhou, veral vir buitelandse teenpartye nie.

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