Dear all,


In theory we have made it ⅓ of the way through lockdown and it’s a numbers game to see if the 21 days is an absolute or whether we will be seeing this extended. Whilst this rests in the hands of the gods protecting your business certainly doesn’t. Whilst we don’t have anything too earth shattering to share with you, we thought it appropriate to keep everyone up to speed.


THE DEBT RELIEF FUND

Derane is continuing to register our clients madly and we have heard she is shouting the registration questions in her sleep and scaring her husband and daughter. If you have not asked her to get you registered yet, please do so as a priority. You can email her on derane@mrmfs.co.za if you need her to assist you in this regard.


The benefits from this fund are finally being announced today we believe. At which stage we will know what’s on offer and how to take up the offer on your behalf. From what we are led to believe the application process may be quite onerous, which is a bit backwards as our times require expeditious action, not a cumbersome application process. It is what it is though, let me not be too presumptuous. Cumbersome or not, we will do what needs to be done on your behalf to make sure that, if you are eligible, then you will benefit. In our eyes it is not an option.


What we do urge is that if your company does its own bookkeeping, please make sure you are 100% up to date as we suspect we will need access to these records to apply on your behalf. As soon as we have more guidance on this we will update you.


EMPLOYEE RELIEF VIA THE OPPENHEIMER FUND
The application forms for this are supposed to be available tomorrow. We are a bit concerned as our bank (FNB/RMB), replied on our queries this morning, and despite being one of the 4 banks tasked with administering this, didn’t really seem to know what we were talking about and gave us a long story about The Employee Relief Initiative which is obviously something totally different. This story is still unfolding and we will keep you appraised as we obtain more knowledge.


RELIEF VIA THE RUPERT FUND
The Rupert Family have matched the Oppenheimer money in a separate relief fund. This fund is being managed by Business Partners, we will be keeping our eye on it to see if there is anything useful in it.


RELIEF VIA MOTSEPE FOUNDATION AND NASPERS LTD
Patrice Motsepe via his foundation The Motsepe Foundation and Naspers Limited have donated One billion and One point five billion respectively. From what we understand so far the Motsepe Foundation will be primarily donating directly towards the front line efforts. Its secondary support is undefined. Naspers appear to be directly supporting the frontline effort and to date there has been no announcement on SMME support from here. We are monitoring and will keep you posted.


BANKS
We have come to conclusion that our banks like the concept of being useful but cannot quite find it in themselves when called upon to stand and be counted. Our experiences so far through our clients is not very positive. In one case Nedbank want an overdraft extended to cover any relief given and a second case was given a list an arm long to provide. FNB/RMB came back with, ‘Relief will be provided on a case by case basis subject to current lending policy’. As mentioned previously, Standard Banks criterion was laughable and designed in a manner to make them look good in the press whilst making it virtually impossible for anyone to qualify.


The only one we have had no feedback on yet is ABSA. We will give feedback if we hear anything. If anyone has had any experiences with the banks on this which they would like to share with us, they are welcome to email myself or Shireen about it.

VAT
Here is a bit of an interesting one. Due to cashflow or operational requirements (Staff being on lockdown) many clients have contacted us about what will happen when they have not submitted their VAT or been forced to submit it late. As responsible accountants we cannot for a minute condone people not meeting their VAT obligations but at the same we understand that with the cashflow tap being turned off many of us have been left with Hopsons choice.


In this light it is likely that the pandemic would constitute exceptional circumstances for any requests for remission of percentage-based penalties and interest in the Tax Administration Act.


Nevertheless, any requests for remission of penalties and interest will be on a case-by-case basis. A SARS committee considering the request is likely to be guided by the principles of whether objectively (1) the taxpayer was incapable of complying with its tax payment obligations; and (2) the documents provided to support this allegation are accurate and reliable.


We remain hopeful that SARS will address this more formally however the writer is of the opinion that there remains good grounds for waiver. Once the dust settles and your business finds itself in a position to make good on its obligations you are encouraged to speak to Devasha at devashag@mrmfs.co.za , who is a master at getting SARS to reverse punitive measures. Sometimes her ability on this is borderline savant like and has produced results in situations whereby the writer has given her no hope.


I repeat, this is a unique and unparalleled situation we find ourselves in. Laws are going to have to be relaxed for the continued good of the country. Do not just accept any charges from Revenue without allowing us to challenge them.

UIF FOR EMPLOYEES TEMPORARILY LAID OFF OR SHORT TIMED
What is par for the course is that the rules on this have changed completely in the past 24 to 48 hours.

We have staff attending webinars this morning to get abreast of the changes. We will send an update geared specifically at this once we are up to speed.


Ok that’s about it for now. Remember, all funds are now precious and pennies should be counted for the remainder of the year. There will be very few people living high off the hog for the remainder of the year. This statement is not negative by design but purely made to reinforce the severity of the economic crisis which has been thrust upon us.


COVID will pass, and we will rebuild and emerge stronger for it. We will need to work together in a way we are unused to. The 17th century author John Donne opened his sermon Devotions with ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…’ Our business ethos in South Africa has increasingly channelled us in the direction of being islands over the past decades. For us to overcome the trials of COVID, we have to reverse this thinking. In our microcosm of SMME business going forward we believe that unity will make us prevail whilst island like behaviour will spell our demise.

Time will of course tell.


Be safe, be frugal and be COVID free
Chris, Shireen and the MRM Team