Title page for ETD etd-07212011-161516


Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Pretorius, Luzaan
URN etd-07212011-161516
Document Title A critical analysis of the employees' tax implications of loyalty points awarded to employees in South Africa
Degree MCom
Department Taxation
Supervisor
Advisor Name Title
Mr T L Steyn Supervisor
Keywords
  • loyalty points
  • frequent flyer miles
  • fringe benefits
  • employees' tax
  • taxable benefits
  • byvoordele
  • belasbare byvoordeel
  • gereelde vlugmyle
  • loyalty programmes
  • werknemerbelasting
  • lojaliteitspunte
  • lojaliteitsprogramme
Date 2011-04-07
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Since the introduction of frequent flyer miles (e.g. Voyager miles) in South Africa, the concept has evolved in a number of ways. Currently, loyalty programmes are widely used in the consumer industry. Despite the fact that these programmes have been in place for several years, the South African Revenue Service (hereafter referred to as SARS) has failed to issue any legislation or guidance with regard to the treatment of these miles from an employees’ tax perspective.

The fringe benefit implications of frequent flyer miles have been the topic of research both in South Africa and abroad. However, little research has been identified on the tax implications of loyalty programmes. This study re-examined past studies and literature identified on frequent flyer miles and analysed the impact these have on loyalty points earned on personal and corporate credit cards from an employees’ tax perspective. The study also extended past research and investigated loyalty points awarded to employees as an incentive from an employees’ tax perspective.

The study had three specific objectives. The first objective was to analyse past research studies, court cases and other literature in order to establish the theoretical construct of this study. Secondly, it compared the treatment of frequent flyer miles earned by, or awarded to, employees in South Africa to the treatment of these in Australia and Canada. The third objective was to analyse the employees’ tax implications of loyalty points earned by, or awarded to, employees in specific scenarios. These scenarios were limited to loyalty points earned by employers on corporate credit cards and which are awarded to employees for personal use; loyalty points earned on personal credit cards as a result of business expenditure incurred by employees; and loyalty points awarded to an employee, as part of a loyalty programme operated by the employer, as an incentive.

The concluding argument of this study was that loyalty points earned on corporate or personal credit cards, which are used for the benefit of employees, may be considered not to be taxable and that consequently, no employees’ tax obligation will arise. However, this argument is plagued by uncertainties and it is questionable as to whether this view will be supported by the South African courts and SARS. In the scenario where loyalty points are awarded as an incentive to employees, it may clearly be argued that these should be taxable with the result that an employees’ tax obligation will arise. However, the nature and value of the benefit, as well as the point at which the tax event occurs, may create inequities and is therefore uncertain. All these uncertainties highlight the need for guidance in this area from SARS.

AFRIKAANS : Sedert gereelde vlugmyle (bv. Voyager miles) in Suid-Afrika in plek gestel is, het hierdie konsep in verskeie vorms ontwikkel. Vandag word lojaliteitsprogramme algemeen in die verbruikersbedryf gebruik. Ten spyte van die feit dat hierdie programme vir baie jare reeds in plek is, het die Suid-Afrikaanse Inkomstediens (hierna verwys na as SAID) steeds geen wetgewing of leiding uitgereik oor die hantering van hierdie myle uit ’n werknemersbelastingsoogpunt nie.

Alhoewel die byvoordeelimplikasies van gereelde vlugmyle die onderwerp was van navorsing in Suid-Afrika sowel as oorsee is min navorsing geïdentifiseer oor die belastingimplikasies van lojaliteitsprogramme. Hierdie studie heroorweeg bestaande studies en literatuur oor gereelde vlugmyle en analiseer die impak daarvan op lojaliteitspunte verdien op persoonlike en sakekredietkaarte uit ’n werknemersbelastingsoogpunt. Die studie sal ook bestaande navorsing uitbrei deur lojaliteitspunte, wat as ’n aansporing aan werknemers gegee word, uit ’n werknemersbelastingsoogpunt te analiseer.

Die studie het drie spesifieke oogmerke. In die eerste plek is dit om bestaande navorsingstudies, hofsake en ander literatuur te analiseer om ’n teoretiese basis te vestig. Tweedens is dit om die belastinghantering van gereelde vlugmyle verdien deur of toegeken aan werknemers in Suid-Afrika te vergelyk met die hantering hiervan in Australië en Kanada. Die derde oogmerk is om die werknemersbelastingimplikasies van lojaliteitspunte toegeken aan of verdien deur werknemers in spesifieke scenario’s krities te analiseer. Hierdie scenario’s is beperk tot lojaliteitspunte verdien deur werkgewers op sakekredietkaarte en toegeken aan werknemers vir persoonlike gebruik; lojaliteitspunte verdien deur werknemers weens sake-uitgawes aangegaan op persoonlike kredietkaarte; en lojaliteitspunte, wat deel vorm van ’n lojaliteitsprogram wat deur die werkgewer bedryf word, gegee aan werknemers as ’n aansporingsbonus.

Volgens die studie se bevindinge kan daar aangevoer word dat lojaliteitspunte verdien op sake- en persoonlike kredietkaarte vir werknemers se persoonlike gebruik nie belasbaar is nie en gevolglik geen werknemersbelastingverpligting teweeg bring nie. Nietemin gaan hierdie siening gepaard met baie onsekerhede en word bevraagteken of dit deur die Suid-Afrikaanse howe en SAID ondersteun sal word. In die scenario waar lojaliteitspunte aan werknemers as ’n aansporing gegee word, kan dit duidelik aangevoer word dat hierdie voordeel belasbaar is en dus ’n werknemersbelastingverpligting teweegbring. Daar is egter onsekerheid oor die tydstip waarop die voordeel belas moet word, asook die aard en waarde van die belasbare byvoordeel. Hierdie onsekerhede onderstreep die behoefte aan leiding op hierdie onderwerp vanaf SAID.

© 2010, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Pretorius, L 2010, A critical analysis of the employees' tax implications of loyalty points awarded to employees in South Africa, MCom dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07212011-161516/ >

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