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#Budget2019 | South African government not taking on #Eskom’s debt

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Treasury sets out plans to render on to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.


Revenue collection remains a bugbear for government due to weak economic growth and tax administration concerns, which were self-inflicted, South Africa’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told journalist in a Budget press conference.

The revised tax revenue estimate for 2018/19 is R15.4 billion lower than anticipated by the 2018 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) estimate. Thus the projected revenue shortfall of R27.4 billion is now R42.8 billion compared with the 2018 Budget estimate.

This sombre news was revealed by Mboweni in his maiden Budget on Wednesday. To address this shortfall, tax changes designed to raise R15 billion in additional tax revenue in 2019/20 have been introduced.

These among others include:

  • Increasing the tax-free threshold for personal income taxes from R78 150 to R79 000. No changes will be made to personal income tax brackets. 
  • Increasing the fuel levy by 29c/litre, consisting of a 15c/litre increase in the general fuel levy, a 5c/litre increase in the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy and the introduction of a carbon tax on fuel of 9c/litre. 
  • Increasing excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products by between 7.4 per cent and 9 per cent. The targeted excise tax burden for wine, beer and spirits is 11 per cent, 23 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.
  • No change in the monthly medical tax credit for medical scheme contributions.
  • Increase in health promotion levy from 1 April from 2.1c to 2.21c per gram in excess of 4 grams of sugar per 100ml.
  • Limiting the RAF levy diesel refund for primary production industries to ensure that diesel users in these sectors equitably contribute towards their RAF indemnity.
  • The implementation of carbon tax on 1 June 2019.
  • Government proposes to align the tax treatment on ad valorem excise duty on motor vehicles Because of the way ad valorem excise duty is calculated, vehicles produced locally are taxed at a higher rate than imported vehicles.
  • Government intends to publish draft legislation for public comment during 2019 on a gambling tax.
  • Urban development zone tax incentive to be reviewed.
  • South Africa reviewing its oil and gas tax regimes in 2019.
  • Taxing electronic cigarettes and tobacco heating products.
  • Definition of fuel levy goods for tax purposes to be reviewed may include mineral ethanol, illuminating paraffin, aviation kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas – as well as biofuels such as bioethanol and biogas
  • Tax on “single-use” plastics including straws, caps, beverage cups and lids, and containers to curb their use and encourage recycling will be considered.

Although few, government has also introduced a number of tax incentives. These include:

  • From 1 March 2019, employers participating in the Employment tax incentive will be able to claim the maximum value of R1 000 per month for employees earning up to R4 500 monthly, up from R4 000 previously. The incentive value will taper to zero at the maximum monthly income of R6 500. 
  • From 1 April 2019, the list of items for zero-rating for VAT will include white bread flour, cake flour and sanitary pads. 
  • Energy-efficiency savings tax incentive to be extended to 31 December 2022. During 2019, government will review the design and administration of the incentive to improve its ease of use, effectiveness and economic impact. 

Treasury has also recognised that to render on to Caesar, what belongs to Caesar it needs to restore the efficiency of SARS. To do this it plans to:

  • Appoint a new SARS Commissioner in the coming weeks.
  • It has established a new Illicit Economy Unit to fight trade in the illicit economy. 
  • Officially launch the Large business Unit in early April 2019. 
  • Strengthen SARS IT team & systems.
  • Establish information sharing agreements with allies to help fight cross-border tax evasion schemes.
  • Set up an inspector-general for tax administration.
  • Through internal processes, SARS will implement recommendations concerning inappropriate actions, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, unfair labour practices and maladministration. 
  • SARS will review contracts that breached public procurement regulations and will act to recover funds spent. 
  • SARS is normalising refund payments.

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Pioneer For Women In Construction Thandi Ndlovu has died

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The cover of the August (Women’s Month) edition of Forbes Africa beautifully captures the essence of the woman I interviewed only a few weeks ago. Gracious, soft-spoken, brimming with life and energy. Dr Thandi Ndlovu impressed the entire Forbes crew on that afternoon cover shoot with her broad smile, and open yet powerful demeanor.

It is with great sadness that Forbes Africa heard of the accident that took her life on Saturday the 24 August 2019.

READ MORE |COVER: Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She had given so much to South Africa and its people – through the apartheid years and during the 25 years of democracy, literally building a better future, first through her medical practice at Orange Farm and then through her company, Motheo Construction Group and the scholarships for tertiary education granted by her Motheo Children’s Foundation.

That sunny winter’s afternoon, I asked her if she, at the age of 65, was considering retirement, and she laughed. A lively, amiable laugh. She told me she was healthy and strong and easily worked 12 to 13 hour days.

READ MORE | WATCH | Making Of The Women’s Month Cover: Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She loved hiking, and has climbed Kilimanjaro twice, reached the base camps of Mount Everest and Annapurna in Nepal. At the time of the interview, she was training to climb Machu Picchu, the famed ruins in Peru’s mountains.

One of her biggest passions was to make a difference in people’s lives and to motivate people to achieve the best they could. The other was to redress the racial tensions that still remained in South Africa.

Dr Thandi Ndlovu, South Africa is poorer for your passing.

-Jill De Villiers

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Facebook Joins Other Tech Giants In Employing Journalists To Curate News

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Facebook is hiring a small team of journalists to help curate breaking news and repair its strained relationship with news publishers, the social media giant announced Tuesday.

The company says it will employ journalists to select breaking news and top stories that will appear in its soon-to-be-launched feature called News Tab, rather than using algorithms to determine what is shared with its vast network of users.

With the move, Facebook is part of a growing trend in the tech industry. Apple, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat have all employed journalists to help their companies sort through the news and cozy up to news organizations.

READ MORE | Facebook Recommits To A More Personalized Dating App, Your Privacy

Apple, for example, has used some form of human curation since its subscription Apple News app launched in 2015. In June 2017, the company hired former New York magazine executive editor Lauren Kern as the app’s editor-in-chief. Twitter has also employed some form of human news curation since 2015. 

Even with a team of in-house journalists, companies like Twitter continue to struggle in the fight against misinformation. On Monday, Twitter announcedit will no longer accept advertising from state-controlled media, in large part as a response to the discovery that China ran a misinformation campaign to combat Hong Kong protesters.

Facebook, facing similar scrutiny for the same Chinese misinformation campaign, said that employing journalists will help “surface more high quality news.”

“Our goal with the News tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships said in a statement sent to Forbes. “The majority of stories people will see will appear in the tab via algorithmic selection. To start, for the Top News section of the tab we’re pulling together a small team of journalists to ensure we’re highlighting the right stories.”

READ MORE | Google, Facebook, Twitter Fail To Live Up To Fake News Pledge

Facebook says the team will take into account user controls, pages and publisher as well as the news that users interact with or share, and other unnamed signals from its vast network to personalize content. 

The company has been under pressure to mitigate its misinformation problem since it was revealed in 2016 that Russian operatives carried out a misinformation campaign in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” on the network, as it was described by special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The Mueller Report found that Russia spent $1.25 million per month on digital advertisements in an effort to sow discord in the U.S. and influence the presidential election. On Monday, Facebook came under fire for taking money from China to spread disinformation about Hong Kong protests.

The social media giant remains an important part of many Americans lives, much more than its rivals Twitter and Snapchat. According to Pew Research, about 69% of American adults use Facebook, and of those who use it, about 74% visit the site once a day. By comparison, only one in five U.S. adults (22%) use Twitter.

According to a survey conducted in 2018, about four in ten (43%) U.S. adults get at least some news from Facebook.

READ MORE | How To Use Twitter To  Boost Your Business

In January 2017, Facebook hired Campbell Brown, a former television news anchor, to lead its news partnerships team. She remains a key figure in easing the tension between large national news outlets—those who have historically provided an endless trove of free content for the social media giant—and the company.

Publishing executives have slammed Facebook for siphoning advertising revenue away from traditional news publishers while also demanding that those same companies provide content for free. Following years of backlash, the social media company is now trying to work with publishers to create a more even relationship.

Facebook’s news partnership program involves deals that are potentially worth millions of dollars. The Wall Street Journal reports that several news outlets including the Washington Post, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, and the New York Times have discussed receiving as much as $3 million per year to license news content.

The News Tab, which has not been publicly viewed, is being positioned in stark contrast to the company’s Trending Topics news section, which shut down in 2016 following increasing pressure from users.

In 2016, the tech website Gizmodo published an article alleging contractors hired to curate the now-defunct Trending Topics feed were actively suppressing conservative news stories. In a letter to Congress, Facebook said, “We could not reconstruct reliable data logs from before December 2014, so were unable to examine each of the reviewer decisions from that period,” thus suggesting that it may have very well suppressed conservative news when the tool first launched.

-Michael Nuñez; Forbes

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Walmart Sues Tesla Over Solar Panels That Allegedly Caught Fire

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Topline: Walmart is alleging in a lawsuit that Tesla solar panels caused fires on the roofs of seven Walmart stores, and is accusing Tesla of breach of contract, gross negligence and failure to comply with industry standards. 

  • Walmart claims that Tesla installed faulty solar panels that eventually spontaneously combusted and caught fire at seven Walmart stores around the country.
  • The lawsuit alleges that Tesla inspectors didn’t notice defects that were visible to the naked eye, used cable connectors that weren’t compatible with one another and failed to see that loose and hanging wires were present at multiple sites.

READ MORE | Jeff Bezos And Elon Musk Want To Get To The Moon—They Just Disagree On How To Get There

  • Walmart says in the lawsuit it believes the failures were the result of rushed installation because Tesla’s solar division “adopted an ill-considered business model that required it to install solar panel systems haphazardly and as quickly as possible in order to turn a profit, and the contractors and subcontractors who performed the original installation work had not been properly hired, trained, and supervised.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.

Key Background: Tesla got into the solar business after it acquired SolarCity in 2016 for $2.6 billion. But production of its residential solar panels under Tesla has been mired with delays and plunging sales. 

Just this week, CEO Elon Musk announced a revamped pricing plan in an effort to boost the slowing business. The new pricing model allows residents in six states to rent solar power systems starting at $50 a month ($65 a month in California) instead of buying them up front.

Further Reading: Read the full lawsuit here.

-Rachel Sandler, Forbes


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Crazy Aviators: The Eerie Similarities Between Billionaire Howard Hughes And Elon Musk

Not So Fast: Can Elon Musk Really Open Tesla’s China Gigafactory This Year?

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