The Lowdown on Inheritance and Donations Tax

Understanding how your (or your loved one’s) possessions and wealth are treated when you pass away is crucial to how you plan for what will happen to them. This blog is aimed at breaking down an incredibly paper-heavy, jargon-filled process!

When a taxpayer dies, all their assets are placed in an estate, which is commonly referred to as a ‘deceased estate’. Assets can include a property, a car, money in the bank, and even furniture.

Once an executor has completed all the administration and has repaid all the deceased’s debts, the remaining assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries, which can be heirs and/or legatees (a legatee receives a specific asset from the estate, while an heir receives the balance).

Anyone who owns a property in South Africa is forced to comply with South African inheritance laws, and inheritances are governed by The Administration of Estates Act, The Wills Act, and The Intestate Succession Act (yup – paper-heavy!).

There are agreements with certain countries to avoid double taxation in relation to estate duty, such as the UK, USA, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

A brief overview of estate duty

Estate duty is a tax on the transfer of assets from a deceased estate to beneficiaries and, as of February 2018, the rate of estate duty increased from 20% to 25% on estates worth more than ZAR30 million.

A person is liable to pay tax on all income that they receive or accrue up until the time of their death, and an executor will act as the representative taxpayer to settle any outstanding debts. The deceased estate can be tallied up from the date of death, and all assets will be held by the estate until the account has been inspected and finalised. Once this has been done, the assets will be either distributed amongst the heirs or delivered to the trustee.

An estate worth less than ZAR30 million is subject to estate duty of 20%, after a deduction of ZAR3.5 million against the net value of the estate has been taken into account. For example, if the total net value of an estate equates to ZAR4.5 million, an amount of ZAR200,000 will be liable to be paid in estate duty (20% of ZAR1 million, which is the amount exceeding ZAR3.5 million). Generally, the executor will take care of paying the estate duty, but there are times when the beneficiary pays the duty directly.

Inheritance vs. donations tax

The good news is that you don’t need to pay tax on any money that you inherit, as an asset inherited is a ‘capital receipt’ and is not included in your gross income. You also won’t have to pay Capital Gains Tax on an inheritance as, if CGT is applicable, it is usually paid by the estate.

In terms of taxation, an inheritance is treated differently to a donation and a gift. Companies or trusts are exempt from paying tax on up to ZAR10,000 in casual gifts in one tax year, while South African residents can receive up to ZAR100,000 worth of donations tax-free.

However, any donations above this amount are subject to a donations tax of 20%. So, if you are donated ZAR140,000 (whether in a once-off lump sum or over several donations), ZAR8,000 will be payable in donations tax (20% of ZAR40,000, which is the amount exceeding ZAR100,000).

When it comes to property, donations tax is payable at a flat rate of 20% on the value of a donated property. However, donations exceeding ZAR30 million are taxed at a rate of 25%; and only the first ZAR100,000 of property donated each year is exempt from tax.

It is the donor’s responsibility to pay donations tax when donating property, but if they fail to do so within a set time period, the onus falls on both the donee and the donor together. However, donations tax doesn’t apply between spouses, South African group companies and if donations are made to certain public benefit organisations.

In light of these regulations and restrictions, it’s important to decide how you can best arrange your affairs to ensure you maximise the amount you can give to your loved ones. Don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting to discuss your liabilities and options, so that you can ensure your assets aren’t subject to unnecessary deductions.

Information for this blog was sourced from:

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