May 26, 2022
“Taxpayer: One who doesn’t have to pass a civil service exam to work for the government” (Anonymous)
“Tax Freedom Day” is the first day of the year on which we South Africans (we’re talking about the “average” taxpayer here) have finally earned enough to pay off SARS and to start working for ourselves.
This year the predicted date was 12 May 2022. That’s three days later than last year, and a whole calendar month later than in 1994 when we first started recording this.
That’s a depressing trend, but it’s a worldwide one and we certainly aren’t the worst-off country – Belgians for example only get to celebrate on 6 August! Certainly food for thought for anyone thinking of emigrating. Have a look at Wikipedia here for some country-by-country comparisons.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.
March 1, 2022
“But love is blind, and lovers cannot see” (Shakespeare)Note: Please think of sharing this article with any family member, friend or colleague who might benefit from knowing which “red flags” to watch for when using dating apps and social media. Even if you haven’t yet watched the hit Netflix film “The Tinder Swindler”, you will know of the huge problem worldwide of swindlers using dating apps and social media to part victims from substantial amounts of money. Hearts are broken, lives ruined, savings lost, huge and unrepayable debts incurred. It’s easy to think “I would never fall for that” but the reality is that everyone is vulnerable – these “romantic fraud” swindlers are masters at using powerful social engineering techniques to identify suitable victims, draw them in, and fleece them of everything. Norton Security provide a wealth of information to help you navigate these shark-infested waters safely in their article “Romance scams in 2022: What you need to know + online dating scam statistics” here. If you read nothing else, have a look at the ones we’ve highlighted for you –
- “What is a romance scam?” (With a list of 7 common ones)
- “How romance scams work” (with Infographic)
- “Warning signs: Lies romance scammers tell” (6 red flags with Infographic “Is Your Cyber Sweetheart Swindling You?”)
- “10 tips to avoid romance scammers and protect yourself” (with a long list of Do’s and Don’ts)
- “How to report an online dating scam”
- “20+ online dating scam statistics” (Infographic “Heartbreaking Statistics”) [The problem’s huge – victims lost around $304 million in 2020 alone]
- “Romance scams on the rise”
- “The real price tags of online dating”
- “Online dating scams and older adults”
- “Who’s most susceptible to romance scams”
- “Stalker ware is trending up”
- “How a romance scam works” (Infographic)
- “Online Dating Advice” (Infographic)
January 31, 2022
“…cybercrime has increased by over 300% during the COVID-19 pandemic – making it one of the biggest threats to businesses around the globe.” (Property 24 report)The Cybercrimes Act, which has been years in the making, is now (with effect from 1 December 2021) at last largely in force. Although some provisions still remain on hold (most notably some of those relating specifically to “revenge porn” and the granting of protection orders), a whole range of unlawful cyber-related activity has now been specifically criminalized. The police have also been given wide powers of investigation, search, access and seizure, and the penalties for contraventions are substantial. The pandemic-forced shift to a “work from home, shop and communicate online” culture has reportedly seen cybercrime rocketing by 300%. As always our best protection from online criminals is prevention, but for anyone unfortunate enough to fall victim to them at least the new Act now provides us all with a layer of legal protection we haven’t had before – but only if we actually use it and report cybercrime.
The new crime categoriesThe Act’s provisions are detailed and complex, so this is of necessity just a very brief summary. But for most practical purposes what you need to know is that both individuals and organisations now face prosecution for any –
- Unlawful access to a “computer system” or “computer data storage medium” (i.e. “hacking”).
- Unlawful interception of or interference with data, computer programs, data storage mediums and systems.
- Unlawful acquisition, possession, provision or use of passwords, access codes and the like (PINs, access cards and devices included).
- Cyber fraud, forgery, extortion and theft.
- “Malicious communications” (which would by definition include messages sent by email or via Social Media channels, WhatsApp and the like) to the general public, individuals or groups that –
- Incite damage to property or violence to a person or persons,
- Threaten a person or persons with damage to property or violence,
- Disclose a “data message of an intimate image of a person” without that person’s consent, and regardless of whether the victim is identifiable in the image itself or only from a description or other related information. Moreover the image can be “real or simulated”.
A particular warning to Social Media usersPosting or sharing anything prohibited by the Act – perhaps particularly any of the types of “malicious communication” referred to above – could land you in some extremely hot water. Think before you post!
What about “revenge porn”?As noted above, some of the Act’s provisions relating specifically to “revenge porn” are not yet in effect, but there are already prohibitions against it in other legislation, plus the offences mentioned above relating to disclosure of “intimate images” should at least partially assist victims in the interim. Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.
October 7, 2021
Many South Africans who need to be aware of this risk will be overseas and/or may not have heard of the High Court decision we discuss below. If you know of any such person, please consider forwarding this to them as soon as possible.
A recent High Court judgment has confirmed that you will lose your South African citizenship if you apply for citizenship of any other country without prior Ministerial permission.
It is irrelevant whether you are South African by birth or not. It is also irrelevant why you want to acquire dual citizenship – perhaps you are living/working overseas, perhaps you want a second passport just to make travelling easier, perhaps you have financial reasons.
How and why you lose your South African citizenship
Dual citizenship itself is allowed, but our Citizenship Act provides that if “by some voluntary and formal act” you acquire citizenship or nationality of another country, you are deprived of your South African citizenship. And Home Affairs is interpreting that to mean that you have voluntarily given up your South African citizenship by your own “formal act” of applying for foreign citizenship.
You are exempt only if …
This loss of citizenship does not apply to –
- Minors (under 18 years of age) and
- Acquisition of another country’s citizenship by marriage.
How to retain your South African citizenship
The good news is that you can apply through Home Affairs for authority to retain your SA citizenship – but your application must be approved before you acquire your second citizenship.
The bad news is that it takes time, so don’t leave it to the last minute! Even before the pandemic, processing time was given as “3 to 6 months” and media reports suggest that delays are now much longer, although perhaps the publicity surrounding the High Court case in question will assist in improving the situation. If you are overseas, you should find the necessary forms and instructions on your local SA Embassy/Mission/Consulate website.
You’ve lost your citizenship – what now?
This is very much second prize, but you can still apply to get your citizenship back –
- If you were a citizen by birth or descent you can apply for reinstatement only if you have returned to, or are living in, South Africa permanently (you still have permanent residence, you just aren’t a citizen).
- If you were a citizen by naturalisation, you must re-apply for permanent residence or apply for exemption thereof, before you can be considered for resumption of citizenship.
- If all else fails, consider taking the legal route. As we discuss below, the High Court has recently held that the relevant provisions of the Citizenship Act pass Constitutional muster, but there is talk of a possible appeal.
High Court: Choose how important your citizenship is to you, and know the law
There has always been speculation that this section of the Citizenship Act could be held to be unconstitutional. However, in rejecting a recent application to that effect by the Democratic Alliance, the High Court has confirmed that it passes constitutional muster and is not “irrational”.
The High Court’s reasoning was that “It is ultimately a matter of personal choice what weight each of us attaches to the idea of our citizenship”, and that this is not a case of automatic loss of citizenship without notice but rather it “is really about personal and individual choices people make about their future and often choices come with consequences.”
The section in question, held the Court, is “not a secret provision but one that every citizen who voluntarily seeks to acquire another citizenship should ordinarily acquaint themselves with … while it may be arguable that citizens cannot be expected to know every feature of the law, those citizens involved in migration and relocation to other countries with the possibility of acquiring citizenship there must surely be expected to acquaint themselves with the law in that area of activity they are involved in.”
There is talk of an appeal but for now at least, if you have already lost your citizenship your options are limited to those set out above.
P.S. Never let your SA passport lapse!
Although you can travel freely around the world on your second passport, you must enter and depart from South Africa on your valid SA passport. Keep renewing it!
January 13, 2021
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” (wise old adage)
2021 could well be a bumper year for Ponzi schemes (and their equally evil cousins, pyramid schemes). They flourish in all countries and at all times, but with our pandemic-related economic woes and general disruption we will no doubt provide the scamsters with particularly fertile ground this year.
And these schemes just never go away. As soon as one collapses or is shut down, it is immediately replaced by a new one – or more (like the Hydra’s heads, cut off one and two grow back).
Who is at risk?
Everyone! It’s not just pensioners and retrenched employees desperate to recoup their 2020 investment losses. Past schemes have counted some of South Africa’s wealthiest and most savvy citizens as victims, the problem being of course that the con artists who originate them are highly skilled at picking their targets and at creating cover stories to make everything seem legitimate. Perhaps most importantly, they are skilled at the social engineering side of it, building trust and credibility in their target markets with endorsements and “success” stories.
2020’s R9.45bn parting shot at us
There’s often big money involved too. Witness 2020’s parting shot at us in the form of the late-December provisional liquidation of Mirror Trading International (MTI), reportedly involving some R9.45bn worth of Bitcoin and some 280,000 investors from all over the world, lured by promised returns of up to 10% per month. At time of writing MTI apparently still denies that it runs a Ponzi scheme or indeed that anything is amiss, plus its website is still up, but a flood of media reports to the contrary no doubt have investors panicking and wondering whether they have just lost everything.
See also the recent press reports of the Asset Forfeiture Unit’s seizure of R106m worth of assets (11 chunks of land, 5 aircraft and a motor vehicle) linked to a suspected pyramid scheme.
During the lockdown, another alleged scheme took R42m in deposits from over 230,000 unsuspecting investors.
Stand by for more…and protect yourself and others by knowing the warning signs.
Red flags to watch for
See Sanlam’s Infographic below for a summary of how to spot a Ponzi scheme.
As the infographic suggests, let your watchword be: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.
Another possible indicator of a fraud is a promoter with no physical address – and if you are given a physical address, make sure it is real!If your proposed investment is presented as a being a part of a legitimate multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme, it may or may not be genuine – tread very carefully and read “Understanding pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing” here for some pointers.
Warn others (including your staff and the “early birds”)
Please think of passing on this warning, and if you are an employer alert all your staff. These criminals often target workplaces because of the trust factor between fellow employees and colleagues.
Tell everyone not to fall into the trap of thinking that they can be winners by “getting in early”. Statistically, 88% of “investors” lose everything. And, as a number of South African court cases have shown, even the 12% “early bird winners” must, if sued by a liquidator or trustee, cough up not only their “profits” but also their initial stakes.
That’s because a liquidator (“trustee” in the case of a person or a trust) can recover any monies paid out by a liquidated scheme during the 6-month period prior to liquidation, unless the recipient can prove that the disposition was made “in the ordinary course of business” and without intention to prefer one creditor above another. That’s likely to be impossible to prove with an illegal scheme. Even after 6 months the investor is still at risk, although the onus of proof then shifts to the liquidator.
In other words, even the “early birds” stand to lose everything.
So the bottom line is this – if you are approached by anyone with a “too good to be true” deal, don’t part with a cent until you are 100% sure it is legitimate!
December 17, 2020
It’s been a hard year but at long last the Summer Holidays are here! Here’s a selection of websites to help you enjoy your break –
Holiday safely in the time of COVID-19
Read Daily Maverick’s “How to go on holiday safely in the time of Covid-19: A practical guide” here for some thoughts on how to travel to your holiday destination, what to do on arrival, and how to have fun – all with minimal risk.
Dodging the dangers – an interactive graphic
Then from Spain (which knows a thing or two about this virus!) comes an interactive and somewhat alarming graphic showing how Covid-19 spreads through the air, how transmission works, and how you can avoid it.
See “A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air” on the El País website here.
And Now for Something Completely Different – “Tax Can Be Fun!” and Other Online Curiosities
“What a strange world we live in” said Alice to the Queen of Hearts (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)
Finally, after such a surreal and challenging year let’s follow through with a few of the many strange webpages out there.
For a start here’s one that’s definitely worth a visit, and it comes courtesy of our very own SARS (not the virus 😀) on its “Tax Can Be Fun!” page.
“Curiouser and curiouser”, cried Alice
To end, a whole collection of strange webpages (warning: there is some really interesting, even useful, stuff here – but you are about to waste a lot of time prospecting for the gems!) on The Black Stump’s “Latest Bizarre, Oddball and Weird Sites” webpage.
September 21, 2020
Fraudulent SIM swaps were involved in around 13,300 reported digital banking fraud incidents across online and mobile banking and banking apps in 2019 (up 16% from 2018) and all indications are that the lockdown will see another spike in incidents.
Read “What to do if you are a victim of SIM-swap fraud” on My Broadband for advice on the dangers, how to protect yourself from becoming a victim, how to tell if you are under attack, and what to do about it if it happens.
Stay safe out there!
August 19, 2020
Breaking any of our lockdown laws can be an expensive business, risking heavy penalties.
If you are accused of a contravention and offered the option of paying an “admission of guilt” fine to avoid a court appearance, beware! It may seem like the easy way out to pay up and put the whole thing behind you but it could land you with a criminal record.
You really don’t want to have a criminal record!
Having a criminal record comes with serious and lifelong negative consequences. Even an old and long-forgotten minor offence can hang around in the background until it suddenly pops up at the worst possible times – such as when you apply for a travel visa or a new job.
When are you most at risk?
The general rule is that you will acquire a criminal record if you are arrested, if the police open a docket and take fingerprints, and if you are thereafter convicted of a crime.
The problem with admission of guilt fines is that they may well leave you with a “deemed” conviction and sentence which will end up in the CRC (SAPS Criminal Record Centre) database. Although there was talk in the past of the CRC capturing convictions with just your name and I.D. number the main risk seems to still be in having your fingerprints taken.
It’s not easy to get rid of a criminal record
And once you have a criminal record, it’s not easy to get rid of it.
- Firstly, you can apply for “expungement” of the record to remove it from the CRC database, but that option is only available to you after 10 years and for certain “minor offences”. It will also take a long time to process – “20 – 28 weeks” per SAPS. Note that some specified minor convictions fall away automatically after 10 years – ask for specific advice.
- Secondly, you could ask a court to set aside your conviction and sentence – costly, not quick and not guaranteed to succeed.
- Thirdly, you could hope that planned amendments to our criminal procedure laws will retrospectively come to your aid – speculative and not yet in the pipeline.
The bottom line – if you are offered the option of paying an admission of guilt fine, ask for advice before you accept!
June 30, 2020
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” (Socrates)
One wonders how many office-based businesses, having been forced to work remotely during the lockdown, will now abandon or minimise their office spaces on a permanent basis rather than return to the “old normal”.
Regardless, if you and your staff are currently working from home, you need to configure the arrangement for maximum productivity and quality of life.
Career Karma’s “A Complete Guide to Working from Home in 2020” on its website shares 10 tips on “How to Succeed as a Remote Worker”, offers a free PDF download “Remote Working: The Ultimate Guide”, and addresses 3 common myths about home working that both employers and employees should get to grips with.
April 17, 2020
“Never let a good crisis go to waste” (Winston Churchill)
The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis will, like all crises, eventually give way to economic and societal recovery.
Even before that inevitable upturn actually sets in, entrepreneurs should remember that times of great risk and challenge are also times of great opportunity. So get your team together now and brainstorm what new needs and new niches you can fill. Witness for example the “remote destination” businesses like game lodges now offering safe and luxurious havens for those wanting to self-isolate and to practice social distancing far from the city hotspots. That’s a win-win for everyone – businesses, their employees, their clients, and their suppliers.
And when a sustained recovery does make its welcome appearance, make sure that you are way ahead of the pack by using this current time of fear and negativity to maximise your planning. What will the recovery look like? How will you take advantage of it? What staff and resources will you need?
Get off to a good start with “Growth opportunities for small business in SONA and the Budget” on the Catalyst Magazine website which highlights some of the many opportunities still open to businesses big and small –
- The Infrastructure Fund
- The Tourism Equity Fund
- The African Continental Free Trade Area
- Incentive Programmes For Small Businesses