COVID-19 SME Support: Is the R100bn Scheme Right for Your SME?

COVID-19 SME Support: Is the R100bn Scheme Right for Your SME?

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Small businesses can now apply for the government’s R100 billion COVID-19 loan guarantee scheme.

If your turnover is less than R300 million, you qualify for this COVID-19 SME support programme.

It is a joint initiative by the National Treasury and the banks. The South African Reserve Bank will manage the scheme and release annual reports revealing how much funds each bank has issued to SMEs under the scheme. This report will include default rates.

On 12 May, the National Treasury, the Banking Association of South Africa, and the South African Reserve Bank, released a joint media statement about the COVID-19 support scheme.

“Funds borrowed through this scheme can be used for operational expenses such as salaries, rent and lease agreements, contracts with suppliers, etc. Government and commercial banks are sharing the risks of these loans,” reads the statement.

Does your SME qualify for the scheme?

To qualify, small businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • Existing relationship with the bank
  • Good standing with their bank, e.g., up to date with other loan payments
  • Good standing with SARS
  • Must be in financial distress because of COVID-19

Loans will be released in three installments. SMEs get five years to pay off the loan, and banks may ask for collateral, according to a FAQ about the scheme.

Other conditions include an interest rate fixed at the repo rate plus 3.5%. Banks cannot change this rate;

“Businesses may not use these loans to pay dividends, make investments, pay bonuses or pay off other loans that the business may have,” reads the FAQ.

COVID-19 SME funds update

The announcement comes after the National Department of Small Business said it was running out of funds for COVID-19 support.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the Minister of Small Business Development, told MPs the R530 million the department has set aside for small business relief was not enough to meet the demand, reports Fin24.

“Our pot or kitty is too small…we are working with National Treasury to make sure more money in the scheme is available”.

On Twitter, many SMEs have expressed frustration with the process. Some say they have not received feedback on the status of their applications. The department said all business owners should have heard the outcome of the applications by 1 May.

The department publishes a progress report on the debt relief funds on its website,

These were the latest debt relief scheme figures available on 13 May:

  • Number of SMEs approved for funding: 1268
  • Approved amount: R 433m
  • Number of applications: 26039
  • Complete applications in progress (processed by SEFA): 6741
  • Incomplete applications resulting: 19298

Ntshavheni said the Unemployment Insurance Fund was helping to support SMEs.

The UIF released the following progress report on COVID-19 support:

  • R11-billion had been paid out over 2million workers
  • R100 million has been held back because the UIF can’t verify these workers bank details
  • R2 billion can’t be paid out because the UIF is still waiting for more details from companies

For more on accessing the government relief, read our simple guide on COVID-19 SME Relief options.

 

Coronavirus SME Support: COVID-19 UIF Payments Deadline Extended

Coronavirus SME Support: COVID-19 UIF Payments Deadline Extended

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The UIF COVID-19 fund has received applications for 1.75 million workers.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has processed 59,000 applications for UIF payments during the lockdown, reports Moneyweb. Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, the UIF has paid out R4.4 billion to 1.1 million workers.

On 30 April, the Department of Employment and Labour released an update on the COVID-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, COVID-19 TERS.

Although a FAQ by the Department of Employment and Labour and the UIF stated the deadline for applications was 30 April, application would remain open for the next few months.

Thobile Lamati, the Director-General of Employment and Labour, said:

“We would like to make it clear that we have not reached the deadline yet. The period will depend on the Memorandum of Understanding signed, but it shall not exceed 3 months, which is the period given for the Covid-19 TERS relief benefit.”

Lamati said he was worried about the large number of incomplete applications. There are more than 300,000 workers who might not be able to claim UIF payments because of missing details. Lamati said they were waiting for employers to complete these applications.

The UIF hopes its online application portal will speed up the process.

Employers and workers can access the following information online:

The names of companies that have been paid. The UIF introduced this feature because they received many queries from workers about the status of the company’s COVID-19 TERS applications.

The schedule of each approved claim, so employers can check how much each employee will get paid.

Thulas Nxesi, the Minister of Labour, said too few companies were applying for the COVID-19 UIF payments. Nxesi was speaking at a media briefing on 28 April, reports IOL.

“We are not paying the whole amount. We pay 38% because it is a relief and we had budgeted for a period of three months. We pay according to the payroll submitted. 20 000 workers entitled to pay have not done so. Some employers have not even dared to help their employees,” said Nxesi.

If you want more information on the COVID-19 UIF funds, read our blog post on applying for the UIF payments.

SA’s Fintech Working Group Lets Startups Test New Products

SA’s Fintech Working Group Lets Startups Test New Products

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A government body wants to make it easier for fintech firms to test new products that aren’t covered by existing regulations.

Today, (23 April 2020), the Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group (IFWG) called on SA finance companies and startups to apply for the Regulatory Sandbox, during a live stream.

In the sandbox, companies will be exempted from regulations while they test new services. The goal is protect consumers while making way for new products that will improve financial services.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLp2Aa56_Kc

The IFWG is made up of the following financial services organisations:

  • National Treasury
  • Financial Intelligence Centre
  • Financial Sector Conduct Authority
  • National Credit Regulator
  • South African Reserve Bank
  • South African Revenue Service

During the live stream, Gerhard Van Deventer, Senior Fintech Analyst at the South African Reserve Bank, and Kagiso Mothibi, Head of the Fintech Department at the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, outlined the process.

Mothibi explained companies in the sandbox will be able to test products and services that don’t fit into existing regulations. Testing will start on 1 July. The testing period is six months.

“Regulators can provide exemptions in order to safely test the products over that six-month period.”

However, exemptions won’t be available for all regulations.

“We will review these on a case-by-case basis,” said Mothibi.

Van Deventer summarised the criteria for participating companies:

  • Business to Consumer: increase competition, improve financial inclusion
  • Business to Business: lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve compliance

Products must be fully developed and should “challenge the existing framework”, added Van Deventer.

Plus, the idea should be different from existing services on the market.

Van Deventer encouraged applicants to conduct their own research so they can highlight how their service is not covered by current policies.

Once testing has been completed, the group may lobby for regulatory change.

It’s hoped the unit will “shape regulations that provide clear benefits to financial services,” added Mothibi.

Although several countries have launched similar initiatives, South Africa was unique because of the collaboration of several financial bodies.

In addition to the regulatory sandbox, the IGFW has a regulatory guidance unit: a single entry point for fintech companies to ask questions about regulations

Dr Arif Ismail, chairperson of the IFWG, said fintech firms had an especially important role to play as “local and global economies navigate this period of uncertainty”.

 

In a report jointly released by the IFWG in February, it states:

 

“SA has a small but fast-growing fintech industry, presenting considerable benefits and risks.

As a result, regulators need an understanding of the fintech landscape in South Africa in

order to manage risks in a way that does not stifle innovation.”

 

The closing date for applications for the first round of the regulatory sandbox is 15 May.

For more information visit the IFWG website.

 

Covid-19 SME Relief: Everything You Need Know About Your Options

Covid-19 SME Relief: Everything You Need Know About Your Options

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Government and private sector have launched interventions to support your business during the coronavirus outbreak.

On 22 April, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a set of new coronavirus relief measures. These include a R2bn support package for SMEs and spaza shop owners, a R200 billion loan scheme with banks, and expanded tax relief.

The situation is evolving fast. To stay up to date we suggest you regularly check our FAQ page for breaking updates on coronavirus SME support.

On this page we provide a summary of the relief schemes available to your SMME, plus additional resources.

To view full details of the financial relief options available, all in one place, check out our Covid-19 funding and support options guide.

You’ll learn more about each fund, eligibility, application process and criteria.

Jump to the section for more detail:

Get UIF benefits

SMEs can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s COVID-TERS  benefit to cover salaries.

Type of support:

  • Employees are paid on a sliding scale between 38% to 60% of their salaries.
  • The lower the salary the higher the COVID-19 benefit.
  • Companies apply on behalf of employees.

Additional reading: Applying for Coronavirus UIF Benefits? Here’s Everything Your SME Needs to Know

Defer your tax payments

Another way to increase cash flow is to defer your provisional and PAYE payments.

Provisional tax

Type of support:

  1. You can pay 15% of your total estimated taxable income for the tax year for your first payment. This is due from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020.
  2. You can pay 15%  of your tax payment for the second provisional tax payment. This is due between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

PAYE

Type of support:

  • SMES can defer 35% of their PAYE liability, starting with the payment due on 7 May 2020 and ending with the payment due on 7 August 2020.
  • SMEs will need to pay the deferred tax liability to SARS in equal instalments over six months. The first payment must be made on 7 September 2020

Additional reading: COVID-19 Support for South African SMEs: Do you Qualify for Tax Relief?

Government funds

A range of government departments have introduced coronavirus funds.

Department of Small Business Development

The Department has two funds: the SMME Relief Scheme and the Business Growth Facility.

Debt/SMME Relief Scheme

The Department of Small Business Development’s SMME Relief Scheme aims to help businesses cover expenses during the outbreak.

Type of support:

  • Soft-loan facility for six months
  • You apply for funds to pay salaries, rent, buy raw materials or municipal accounts
  • It opened in April 2020

Business Growth/Resilience Facility

Type of support:

  • The facility covers funds for working capital, stock, bridging finance, purchase order finance, and capital equipment finance.
  • The interest rate is at prime less % pa.
  • Terms will depend on SME cash flow.

Additional reading: Coronavirus Support for South African SMEs: List of Government Funds

Department of Tourism

The Department of Tourism has allocated R200 million to its COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund.

Type of support:

  • The COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund is once-off grant funding, capped at R50,000 per entity.
  • Funding can be used for fixed costs, operational costs, and supplies.
  • This fund is open from 7 April to 30 May.

Department of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture has established an Agriculture Disaster Support Fund for smallholder farmers.

Type of support:

  • Grant funding capped at R50,000 per farming operation
  • Funding can be used to complete current production cycle
  • This fund is open until 22 April.

For more information, see this press release on the Agriculture Disaster Support Fund.

Private funds

The Rupert and Oppenheimer families have each donated R1 billion rand to help South African SMEs. Because the Rupert fund is no longer accepting applications, we will focus on the Oppenheimer fund, the South Africa Future Trust.

Eligibility:

Here’s an overview of the criteria:

  • SMEs must be an existing client of the fund’s partner banks: Absa, Nedbank, FNB, Standard Bank, and Mercantile Bank.
  • Annual turnover must be below R25 million per year
  • SMEs must be trading for at least two years
  • Should demonstrate link between business distress and COVID-19

For more information, please visit the SAFT website

Additional resources on coronavirus funding and support for SMEs

Applying for Coronavirus UIF Benefits? Here’s Everything Your SME Needs to Know

Applying for Coronavirus UIF Benefits? Here’s Everything Your SME Needs to Know

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The Unemployment Insurance Fund has set aside R30 billion to help South African workers in distress due to the coronavirus.

If you’re a qualifying SME, your employees will get no less than R3,500 per month.

However, many business owners are struggling to access the relief.

More than 20,000 valid applications have been received, but only 136 have been processed, according to one news report. Business owners have taken to social media and newspaper columns to express their unhappiness with the process.

So, how do you access the UIF benefits for your business?

We spoke with Gerhard Papenfus, the Chief Executive of the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA), to gain a deeper understanding of the process.

Accessing the COVID-19 TERS benefits

The COVID-19 TERS (Temporary Employee Relief Scheme) is a relief package for employers, so you can pay staff salaries during the lockdown.

But a lack of clear information has been the biggest challenge SMEs face when trying to access the scheme, said Papenfus.

One part of the process includes completing a UIF Excel template. The employer must fill out their business details and each employee’s information. Before the document can be submitted, it must be converted to a CSV file. UIF Claims Commissioner Teboho Maruping told Moneyweb the bulk of applications for the relief were incomplete. Now, 23 000 employers will have to resubmit their applications.

To cover the information gap, NEASA, which represents 10,000 employers across South Africa, started publishing multiple updates to its website each day, releasing new information as it becomes available.

Papenpus explained that all employees who were “in employment on 27 March 2020 and who have suffered financial prejudice as a result of the lockdown” were eligible for the UIF benefits. This includes employees who are not South African citizens, provided they have a valid work permit.

The exact amount of the payments depended on their salaries.

“At this stage the benefit will be calculated on a sliding scale between 38% (for high earners) and 60% (for lower earners), calculated on the maximum salary cap of R17 712.00 per employee, per month.”

No worker will earn less than R3,500.

The process was different for SMEs with fewer than ten employees. For one, they do not need to sign a MOA.

“These funds will be paid out directly to the employees and not to the employer.”

However, these small businesses might struggle to recover advance payments, added Papenfus.

“UIF does not allow payment of the benefits to the employer where he employs 10 or less employees. Therefore, the employer cannot set-off these benefits against amounts advanced, which will make the employees hesitant to make advance payments in the first place.”

The UIF was set to make payments after 16 April, the date the lockdown was originally due to end.

“There will be payouts in tranches. Employers will have to apply for the first period of the initial lockdown and then again for the extended period.”

To speed up the process, the Department of Labour and the UIF launched an online platform, said Papenfus.

Looking forward, Papenfus encouraged business owners to think of life after the lockdown.

“If the employer envisages that reduction in staff or changes in conditions of employment will be required post lockdown, we advise to already start with this process during the lockdown period, as a section 189 process can be rather lengthy in nature.”

Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 TERS benefit

NEASA has put together a COVID-19 TERS FAQ, based on the most common questions it has received from South African employers.

Here’s the summary of the key points.

Who can apply for the UIF’s COVID-19 TERS benefits?

SMEs need to be registered with the UIF to qualify. Your business doesn’t have to be in a complete shutdown for you to apply. Partial closures or any reductions in staff salaries due to COVID-19 are covered by the fund.

Which employees are eligible?

Any employee who was in employment on 27 March 2020 and who has suffered financial prejudice as a result of the lockdown. New employees who were set to start during the lockdown are also eligible.

How does COVID-19 TERS work?

Employees are paid on a sliding scale between 38% to 60% of their salaries. The lower the salary the higher the COVID-19 benefit. Companies apply on behalf of employees. No applications will be accepted once the lockdown is lifted.

How do I apply to COVID-19 TERS?

  1. Companies can email COVID19ters@labour.gov.za.
  2. You will receive an automated email response detailing the next steps in the process.
  3. Next, submit completed applications and supporting documents to Covid19UIF@labour.gov.za

Or, apply online on the UIF COVID-19 TERS Registration portal.

For more information, contact 012 337 1997.

Here is some of the information and paperwork you will need to to apply:

  • Letter of Authority, on an official company letterhead granting permission to an individual specified to lodge a claim on behalf of the company
  • MOA (completion of the agreement between UIF, Bargaining Council and Employer) · Prescribed template that will require critical information from the employer
  • Evidence/payroll as proof of last three months employee(s) salary(ies)
  • Confirmation of bank account details in the form of certified latest bank statement.

Will the scheme affect normal UIF benefits?

No, COVID-19 TERS benefits are not linked to normal benefits.

Do you need to send an invoice to the UIF?

No, this requirement has been removed.

How should employers register with a bargaining council claim? 

If you fall under a Bargaining Council, contact this organisation and find out whether or not they have finalised an agreement with the UIF. You may follow the relevant process with your Bargaining Council if they have reached an agreement with the UIF.

If no agreement has been concluded, or if one is still pending, you can claim directly from UIF on behalf of your employees.

What is included in remuneration for purposes of TERS? 

The amount an employee would normally earn and pay UIF on.

Can individuals claim TERS benefits? 

No, if an employer did not claim, the employee should ask them to claim. But if an employer still does not claim, the employees can claim normal UIF benefits for short-time or unemployment.

Where can I find more information on COVID-19 TERS?

For ongoing updates:

COVID-19 Support for South African SMEs: Do you Qualify for Tax Relief?

COVID-19 Support for South African SMEs: Do you Qualify for Tax Relief?

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If you’re a South African SME, you can apply for the government’s COVID-19 tax relief.

As part of its coronavirus COVID-19 support for South African SMEs, the National Treasury has launched tax relief measures.

In this article, Lulalend’s team of finance experts explains how SMEs can qualify for:

  • Expanded Employment Tax Incentive rebates
  • Deferred tax payments (Provisional tax and PAYE)

Jump to our simple provisional tax calculator to estimate the amount of your deferred tax payments.

COVID-19 Tax relief package for South African businesses

On 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since then, different government departments have introduced coronavirus support packages for SMEs. (Here’s an overview of COVID-19 SME support government funds you can access.)

The National Treasury outlined its tax relief scheme in the Draft Disaster Manager Tax Relief Bill, released on 1 April 2020. You can find more information about the bill on the National Treasury’s site.

The National Treasury explained the reasons for the SMME tax relief scheme in this memo:

“Small and medium sized businesses are the most vulnerable as they are unlikely to have cash reserves and are thus at a higher risk of shedding jobs under these conditions in an attempt to

remain going concerns and contain costs while generating very little income.”

In this article, we’ll cover the relief for SMMEs.

Expansion of Employment Tax Incentive

Under an additional tax subsidy, you may be able to claim an extra R500 per month for each employee, explained Quentin Daniel, Lulalend’s Head of Finance.

Daniel said the Treasury has added new criteria to give more SMEs access to the rebate.

“SMEs will also be able to claim monthly. Previously, you’d get ETI reimbursements twice a year. The goal is to increase cash flow.”

This one is only open to you if you were already registered with the Employment Tax Incentive programme as at 1 March 2020, said Daniel.

The existing ETI lets companies claim a rebate for employees who meet the following criteria:

  • Between 19 years old and 29 years old;
  • Earns less than R6,500 per month

It’s a two-year incentive for companies to hire more young people. Companies qualify for a R1,000 rebate per month for the first year, and the next year, the incentive drops to R500.

The new subsidy will support 4 million workers, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Here’s a breakdown of the expanded ETI benefits:

EmployeeCurrent ETI benefit
COVID-19 ETI benefitTotal
Employees who currently in ETI first yearR1000R500R1,500
Employees who currently in ETI second yearR500R500R1,000
Employees where ETI claims have been exhaustedR0R500R500
Employees between 30 years and 65 years who have never been eligibleR0R500R500

Deferred tax payments (Provisional tax and PAYE)

Do you qualify for deferred tax payments?

Any SME with an annual turnover of less than R100 million can defer their provisional tax and PAYE payments over the next four months, said Bernice du Toit, Lulalend Financial Accountant.

Du Toit explained:

“You’ll only pay a portion of your tax liability, and you won’t have to pay any penalties or interest when you pay the balance.”

Provisional tax

Here’s how this will affect your provisional tax payments:

  1. You can pay 15% of your total estimated taxable income for the tax year for your first payment. This is due from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020.
  2. You can pay 15%% of your tax payment for the second provisional tax payment. This is due between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

“To avoid interest, SMEs must pay the full tax liability, which comes to 35 in total, when they make their third provisional tax payment,” said Du Toit.

To qualify, SMEs must:

  • Have a gross income of R100 million or less
  • Be fully tax compliant

Here’s an example calculation from the National Treasury:

Provisional tax relief calculator for SMEs

Try our simple provisional tax relief calculator to estimate your payments.

PAYE

You can also defer 35% of your PAYE payments without any penalties.

Daniel said SMES can defer their PAYE liability, starting with the payment due on 7 May 2020 and ending with the payment due on 7 August 2020.

“SMEs will need to pay the deferred tax liability to SARS in equal instalments over six months. The first payment must be made on 7 September 2020,” added Daniel.

The Ministry of Finance estimates this initiative will assist 75 000 SMMEs.

Additional tax measures

On 22 April, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced additional tax measures, including:

  • Four-month holiday for skills development levies
  • Fast-tracking VAT refunds
  • Three-month delay for filing and first payment of carbon tax

COVID-19 support resource for SMEs

For more information, here are a few resources

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 6 April 2020 and has been updated based on new measures.