Proposed amendments regarding retirement income

Below are some of the proposed amendments raised in the Budget regarding retirement income provisions in the IT Act.

21 Feb 2019 2 min read Special Edition Budget Speech Alert 2019 Article

Exemption relating to annuities from a provident or preservation fund

Once a member of a retirement fund retires and receives an annuity as a retirement benefit, any contributions to the retirement fund that did not qualify for a deduction when determining the member’s taxable income are tax-exempt. This exemption does not apply to annuities received from a provident or provident preservation fund. To encourage annuitisation (regular payments in retirement), it is proposed that this exemption be extended to provident and provident preservation fund members who receive annuities. The exemption would apply for contributions made after 1 March 2016.

Tax treatment of bulk payments to former members of closed funds

Retirement funds are permitted to make certain extraordinary payments to their members tax free, provided that these payments are approved by the Minister of Finance in a Government Gazette notice. In 2009, the Minister of Finance issued a notice in Government Gazette No. 32005 approving retirement funds to make tax-free payments of “secret profits”, “surplus calculations” and “unclaimed benefits”. When the notice was issued, some deregistered retirement funds had already paid fund administrators, but the amounts were not yet paid to the affected members and/or beneficiaries. It is proposed that these payments currently held by fund administrators on behalf of deregistered retirement funds qualify as tax-free payments, provided they meet the relevant criteria.

Tax treatment of surviving spouse pensions

Members of a pension fund can deduct contributions to their retirement funds from their taxable income when determining their monthly employees’ tax and annual income tax payable. Spousal pension payments received by surviving spouse are subject to employees’ tax by the retirement fund. If the surviving spouse also receives a salary or other income, it is added to the spousal pension to determine his or her correct tax liability on assessment, which may result in the surviving spouse having a tax liability that exceeds the employees’ tax withheld. In most cases, the surviving spouse does not foresee the additional tax liability and does not save money to settle the liability. This creates a cash flow burden and a tax debt for the surviving spouse. It is proposed that:

  • Surviving spouses are provided with effective communication relating to tax and financial issues;
  • The monthly spousal pension be subject to employees’ tax being withheld at a specified flat rate; and
  • Tax rebates should not be taken into account in the calculation of spousal pensions. Any PAYE excessively withheld as a result of this proposal will be refunded upon assessment.

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