Lockdown has finally arrived, not with a bang, but with an unsettling silence. One does not realise how used we have become to the white noise of distant transport. As pleasant as this is, it also reminds us that our country is in economic lockdown and our skills as business men and business woman are going to be put to the test. We cannot afford to stick our heads in the ground for 3 weeks, as tempting as that seems.

Without any further lip service the items have to bore you with today are as follows:

Whilst we cannot yet give information on what is available, we have had a good portion of our clients requesting registration. Derane is frantically trying to work through them and will get hold of people who are wishing to be registered imminently. The majority of the information required is statutory and taxation related, which we obviously have access to, she has a small questionnaire to cover a few of the points which are unknown to us. Once she has all the information she will submit the application on your behalf. If you missed yesterday’s update Derane can be found at derane@mrmfs.co.za, should you wish her to process an application on your behalf.

We are automatically applying for financial assistance for everyone, there is a non-financial assistance option which I expect is for essential supplies with we are not automatically checking. If in your specific industry you require nonfinancial assistance you will need to engage with us separately and as an exception.

We will keep all applicants appraised as more details become known to us.

As of 16:00 hours yesterday 15 000 businesses had registered as essential service companies. From what we have read a fair amount are invalid as people are trying to get their businesses registered for clearly non-essential services. Dog grooming and bottle stores have been found within the application pile.

We wouldn’t suggest trying to get a clearly non qualifying service blessed as we believe people stepping outside the lines will be named and shamed. We cannot see any positive effect that this will have on your business. The adage, ‘any publicity is good publicity’, only goes so far.

The Department of Trade and Industry have officially confirmed that it is not a pre requisite to register prior to lockdown, processing and certification will continue throughout the lockdown period. So if you missed all of this in the rush of the past 3 days give Tanya a shout on tanya@mrmfs.co.za and she should be able to facilitate this for you.

You may well have become aware of this fund which was substantially seeded by the Rothschild and Oppenheimer families, as well as Government to a lesser extent. This fund is appealing for donations to assist in the COVID crisis. There is not a wide amount of information available on this but we believe it is to foremost fund the countries war against the virus and to assist distressed business as a secondary initiative. Again, we are keeping an eye on this to see if assistance materialises.

Under this heading there are various initiatives mostly covered yesterday. We must stress that despite this being covered extensively in the media, it is all still loosely based upon the comment of President Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address last Monday evening. SARS are still silent as at the date of writing this and no legislation has been seen by us.

The most pressing question currently is around the 20% PAYE payment relief. March PAYE will be due on 7 April. Should you want to take advantage of this payment relief, please contact us prior to submission of your PAYE return so we can advise if you meet the criteria.

We will advise you as soon as official guidance is given, both on the PAYE issue as well as the other components of the Tax Holiday package. Any questions in this regard can be directed to taryno@mrmfs.co.za or devashag@mrmfs.co.za.

We covered some of the basic details yesterday with you all. Whilst we do not have much more detail in terms of how to apply etc. We have found the following guidelines with regards qualification criteria.

  1. Businesses must be 100% South African owned
  2. 70% of the businesses workforce need to be South African
  3. Recipients must be tax compliant.

In addition to this the rumours that this was only available to 51% black owned companies has been debunked as fake news. They have however said that priority will be given to woman, young people and people with disabilities.

As with most things these days, tax compliance will be a prerequisite for any forms of assistance. The powers that be have made a statement that should an applicant not be tax compliant benefits will be withheld until the applicant gets its affairs in order. If you are unsure of your tax status you should reach out to Devasha on devashag@mrmfs.co.za to get her to run a SARS check for you.

Many of you will have been hounded by Minesh over the past few days as he attempted to round up as much work as was available for staff to work on during lockdown. This was not entirely done to find work for the sake of finding work but more in order to try and get as many 2020 accounts done as quickly as possible. Much of the text we have been through infers that assistance will be limited to damage caused as an effect of COVID 19, and not to make right any generally poor trading experience prior to the Pandemic. The general principle first touched on in the State of the Nation Address, that people are not to enrich themselves on the back of COVID will carry forward to any assistance on offer we suspect.

We need to be in a position to quantify loss, and for this we will need to be able to identify before Corona trading and after Corona trading as accurately as we can in order to facilitate any applications to the best of our ability.

Minesh and his team are therefore tackling an unrealistic workload in less than ideal conditions so we ask you to be patient with them. Any questions they ask are required in order for us to perform our tasks within the boundaries of our laws. Also bear in mind that many of their questions originate from the partners or alternately are focussed towards the possibility of having to present figures for Disaster Relief Assistance.

If you have not provided us with information and you suspect you will need some assistance from Government you are urged to get your information to Minesh on minesh@mrmfs.co.za.

Ok, that’s it from us for the first day of lockdown, if anything comes up over the weekend we will send an update, if not we will compile a further update on Monday.

I think it was Robert Frost that said, ‘In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life. It goes on.’ The sun will rise and set tomorrow, COVID will pass, the ebbs and flows of business will resume.

Let’s keep one eye on that and the other on enjoying this different reality we all find ourselves in.

Chris, Shireen and the MRM Team