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WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 24 October

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   UK hotels are concerned that they may have spoilt tourists by offering discounts to counter the recession of the past few years, and that this is a standard expectation of their customers now.

*   The Minister of Finance Pravin Ghordan has announced stringent cost-cutting measures in respect of travel and entertainment, including a ban on first-class air travel (Business Class allowed for Ministers, Directors General and their deputies), B group car rental only,  withdrawal of official credit cards, restricting the size of travel delegations, and banning hotel accommodation, rental accommodation to be used; and banning the purchase of alcohol for state events.

*   Confidence in the Tourism industry is at its highest ever since the Tourism Business Council of South Africa and FNB introduced their Tourism Business Index in 2010,  reaching 116 in the third quarter of this year.  However, Continue reading →

Eat Out 2014 to reduce in size by more than half!

One wonders why New Media Publishing is changing its Eat Out 2014 magazine, announcing on Monday that it is reducing the size of the restaurant magazine by more than half, in carrying only 500 restaurant write-ups, compared to the listing of 1100 restaurants in Eat Out 2013!

The cost saving in reducing the size of the magazine is evident, advertising sales for the magazine probably being a greater challenge this year, given how tight the economy is. Another reason must be the power of the internet, with fewer restaurant lovers paging through the Eat Out magazine, and more Googling information about restaurants, often finding the websites of Food24 and Eat Out, with the largest listings of restaurants.  Bloggers are a threat to these two sites, as increasingly top restaurant bloggers find their reviews on the first page of Google too.   The blog reviews may have greater credibility than the conglomerate restaurant sites, in being more honest.  The conglomerate restaurant sites have been seen to copy restaurant information directly from the restaurant websites, without writing their own reviews in many instances, thus affecting their credibility as an information source.  The Eat Out website has been criticised for carrying out-of-date information about restaurants.

To try to detract attention away from the drastic reduction in the Eat Out 2014 content, New Media Publishing announced that restaurants must apply to be considered to be included in South Africa’s Top 500 restaurant list!  Closing date for applications is 30 June.  The applications will be evaluated ‘by a panel of 50  of ‘South Africa’s top food/restaurant industry experts (to be announced)’. Restaurants will be evaluated on menu composition, ingredient seasonality, wine, service, and ambiance, plus other (unnamed) factors. In case the message is not clear, the Eat Out announcement emphasises that only the Top 500 selected restaurants ‘that impress our 50-strong editorial panel’ will be included in the restaurant magazine next year.  The form to be completed requests a description of the restaurant, the year in which it opened, its seating capacity, its signature dishes and the average price of the main courses (how does this work for a Tasting Menu?), its policy on BYO wine and the corkage fee, and the credit cards accepted by the restaurant.

It is disconcerting that the criteria for inclusion have not been clearly stated.  Of concern too is that one of the most sensitive issues, being that the chef has to have been at the restaurant for a twelve month period from November 2012 onwards, is not mentioned, and one does not know if any/all restaurants, no matter how recently opened, will be included in the Top 500 Restaurant list.  It is also not clear if the Top 20 shortlist, and the ultimate Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list, will be derived from the Top 500 list!

Eat Out Top 500 Restaurants: http://www.myjotform.com/EatOut/restaurant Closing date 30 June. Image: Eat Out

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:   www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Restaurant Tip Tax: SARS declares tips tax free

Last week, taxing tips of waiters and other employees, who receive gratuities from customers for good service, was a hot topic on Twitter and other social media platforms, following the publishing of a clarification of the payment of tax on tips by SARS.  Legal views confirm that employers cannot deduct PAYE, the Skills Development Levy (SDL), and UIF from employee income generated from tips, but it also means that the tip income of employees cannot be used as a basis for pension and medical aid benefits.

Business Report wrote that “Waitrons can keep their hard earned tips for themselves and don’t have to worry about the tax man…  According to the last week’s ruling, the transfer of tips handed over to an employer by an employee for ‘safekeeping’ did not constitute a payment of remuneration”.  This view is based on the Group Tips Policy, by which staff pass on their tips to their employers for safe-keeping whilst they are working.  Legal firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is quoted as saying that the Group Tips Policy sees tips “…as gratuitous payments to which the employees have no entitlement or an expectation of receipt as part of the performance of their duties”, and therefore should not be taxed.

Far more complex is an article by lawyer Stephan Spamer at ENS and candidate attorney Jonathan Sacks, writing on Moneyweb.co.za.    They write that the increased usage of credit cards by customers for safety reasons has led to a large percentage of tips being added to credit card payments, going to the employer instead of the employee.  The employer then has to transfer the tips to the employees.  According to the Fourth Schedule to the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962, ‘gross income’ includes ‘any amount received or accrued in respect of services rendered or to be rendered, including a voluntary award, as well as any amount received or accrued in respect of or by virtue of any employment’.  The lawyers argue that a ‘causal relationship’between payment received and the service provided must exist for that income to be defined as ‘gross income’.  On the basis of this relationship, the writers argue that the tip payment is part of gross income, and is therefore taxable, especially if the expectation at the time of appointment of the employee was to receive tips.  The article becomes confusing when the writers argue that the definition of ‘remuneration’, including ‘all payments and amounts payable, in cash or otherwise, whether or not for services rendered and includes salary and wages, leave pay, bonuses, gratuities, commissions, over time pay and other amounts paid for services rendered as well as allowances and advances’, is similar to that of ‘gross income, but that it does not mean that the employer must deduct the valid taxes and deductions.  They argue that it is not the employer paying the tip – in essence it is the customer paying it via the employer, who just holds the tip on the employees’ behalf, and therefore as this cannot be viewed as remuneration, no taxes and fees have to be deducted from the monies paid to employees.  Employees can, however, request in writing that the employer deduct PAYE to reduced their tax liability.  Given their conclusion that no tax is payable on tips by employees, the writers argue that no SDL and UIF is deductible either. 

Given the complexity and legality of this SARS Tip Tax ruling, we quote an extract of an article on Moneyweb, written by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Employment Law Director Gillian Lumb and associate Pranisha Maharaj: :“The Binding Class Ruling: BCR 027 recently issued by Sars, declared that the transfer of tips (that were handed over to the employer by the employees for safekeeping in terms of the employer’s proposed Group Tips Policy) from the employer’s bank accounts into the employees’ bank accounts does not constitute a payment of remuneration by the employer as contemplated in paragraph 2(1) of the Fourth Schedule of the Income Tax Act. Essentially, this paragraph of the Act provides that an employer who pays or becomes liable to pay any remuneration to any employee must deduct or withhold employee’s tax from such payment. Binding Class Rulings are intended to promote clarity on the interpretation and application of the tax laws to a class of persons who apply for a ruling in respect of a proposed transaction to which it is a party. Accordingly, tips will not form part of the calculation of any benefit calculations for the employees’ remuneration packages, for example pension or medical aid.  The ruling is in line with the Sectoral Determination 14: Hospitality Sector, South Africa  which defines “remuneration” as ‘any payment in money or in kind, or both in money and in kind excluding any gratuity or gift received from a customer for service rendered”.

The new Tip Tax directive by SARS has been back-dated to August 2010, and covers the five year period from that date.  This raises the following questions:

*   Can employees that had PAYE, SDL and UIF deducted between August 2010 and July 2011 receive their tax and other deductions back, from the employer and/or SARS?

*   Can employers deduct the tip income that went through their credit card machines, and was therefore deposited into the business bank account, from their taxable income for the calculation of VAT and income tax?

Interestingly, yet not surprising, the hotel association FEDHASA has not officially published a guideline about this Tip Tax amendment for their hotel and restaurant members!   On Twitter, the FEDHASA Cape Director for the Restaurant sector, Rey Franco, wrote that tips received via credit card are taxable, and that only cash tips received by waiters directly are not taxable.  We believe that, in the light of the above, he is incorrect.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

World Cup anniversary: South Africa was ‘ripped off’!

It is interesting that a review of the advantages and disadvantages of South Africa hosting the World Cup, which started on 11 June last year, and particularly the downside of this world event, is only emerging now.

Yesterday we wrote about the tourism slump that has been caused by the World Cup. In yesterday’s Weekend Argus, a very critical article was published, summarising the book to be published in September and to be entitled “South Africa’s World Cup: A Legacy for Whom?”, written by Eddie Cottle, ‘regional policy and campaign officer for the Building and Wood Workers International, a global trade union federation’.

Cottle is given a prominent space in the paper, and in summary he argues that “…the promises made about the benefits of hosting the soccer World Cup were nothing but ‘bald lies'”!  His introduction is complimentary and gentle, praising the benefits of the event, in there being few technical hitches and little crime. The negatives far outweigh the event, he writes, and he says that South Africa fell for the ‘sales pitch’ of the positives of a mega-event, despite “…the volumes of academic studies on the negative impact of mega-sporting events such as the World Cup”.  He says that the promises made about the financial benefit that was the drawcard for South Africa hosting the event, with its resultant contribution to the GDP, tax revenues and job creation, which was promised by the government, FIFA, the local organising committee and tourism consultancy Grant Thornton,  were “…bald lies, wrapped up in the haze of developmental spin. There was no serious study of the opportunity cost of the investment to be made by the government; the impact on the environment; nor the contribution of the event towards the country’s debt position or the social costs of hosting the event.”  He adds that the official economic report was kept secret, and not open to public scrutiny, because of the flaws it contains.

Grant Thornton made many projection errors, not just in overestimating the number of international visitors to the country for the event, but also in the expected expenditure of tourists while in the country, which was only 16 % of the estimated R55 billion. 

The cost to the government for hosting the event was initially estimated in 2003 to be a ‘mere’ R2,3 billion, but given an estimate of R7,2 billion tax revenue, the event was packaged as generating profit.  In reality, the event cost R39 billion. This figure may not reflect the final cost tally.  The Reserve Bank estimated the cost to the state on capital formation to have been just under R130 billion, creating a deficit of R 63 billion.  What is causing a large income hole is that FIFA took R25 billion profit made by the event out of the country without paying any tax! It was the largest profit that FIFA has ever made out of a World Cup, Cottle states.

South Africa was also misled by projections of the employment benefits of the World Cup, 695000 jobs to have been created, of which just less than half were estimated to be retained after the World Cup.  This scenario proved to be incorrect, in that employment decreased by 5 % in the second quarter of 2010.  The losses of jobs in the construction sector was even higher, at 7 %.  Cottle says that as only a handful of construction companies, including Aveng, Murray & Roberts, WBHO, Group Five and Basil Read, built the insfrstastructure for the World Cup, their quotes were higher than required, a ‘grand theft’, he says.   

South Africans were caught up in the spirit of the World Cup, and went on a spending spree using their credit cards, which they are feeling the after-effects of now, partly as locals were led to believe that things would be better financially as a result of the World Cup.  Informal traders were moved out of their normal trading locations, on the basis of FIFA’s rules of a non-trade zone around stadia, impacting on the incomes of such traders.

Cottle concludes: “Indeed, a considerable negative impact has been left through higher levels of both public and individual indebtedness, the high opportunity costs associated with the event, the displacement of local spending and the reinforcing of already high social inequalities in income among and within cities.”  He states that the government’s decision to not bid for the 2020 Olympic Games ‘surely is a wise decision’!   

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: Southern African Tourism Update  reports today that the Department of Sport and Recreation will request the government to re-consider the Olympic Games bid for Durban for 2020, before the bid deadline of September.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com   Twitter:@Whale Cottage