Historically, it was unclear whether amounts paid to a non-executive director were subject to the deduction of employees’ tax and whether the prohibition against certain deductions by salaried employees applied to them. This being as a result of a non-executive directors arguably not earning remuneration as defined in the 4th Schedule to the Income Tax Act. No. 58 of 1962 (“the Act”)

This uncertainty further extended into the application of proviso (iii) to the definition of an “enterprise” as contained in Section 1(1) of the VAT Act, 89 of 1991 (“the VAT Act”), as this proviso excludes from the ambit of VAT the activities of an employee but nevertheless applies to the activities of an independent contractor.

During the 2016 budget speech, it was announced that an investigation into these uncertainties will be launched and clarity provided.  This resulted in the issuance by SARS of two welcomed binding rulings. These are, Binding General Ruling 40 (“BGR40”) which deals with employees’ tax implications for a non-executive director and Binding General Ruling 41 (“BGR41”), which deals with the VAT implications.

In terms of BGR40, SARS ruled that non-executive directors do not earn remuneration and therefore amounts paid to them are not subject to employees’ tax. In addition, BGR40 puts it beyond doubt that the prohibition against deductions as contained in section 23(m) of the Act does not apply to non-executive directors.

In terms of BGR41, SARS ruled that non-executive directors may be required to register for and charge VAT in respect of fees earned provided all requirements are satisfied.

While the rulings only apply from 1 June 2017, it is arguable that the rulings merely give effect to what has always been the position under South African tax law.