South Africa vs. Tradehold Ltd, May 2012, Supreme Court of Appeal, Case No. 132/11

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Tradehold is an investment holding company, incorporated in South Africa, with its registered office at 36 Stellenberg Road, Parow, Industria, and is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. During the tax year under consideration, being the year of assessment ended 28 February 2003, Tradehold’s only relevant asset was its 100 per cent shareholding in Tradegro Holdings which, in turn, owned 100 per cent of the shares in Tradegro Limited, a company incorporated in Guernsey which owned approximately 65 per cent of the issued share capital in the UK-based company, Brown & Jackson plc.

On 2 July 2002, at a meeting of Tradehold’s board of directors in Luxembourg, it was resolved that all further board meetings would be held in that country. This had the effect that, as from 2 July 2002, Tradehold became effectively managed in Luxembourg. It nevertheless remained a ‘resident’ in the Republic notwithstanding the relocation of the seat of its effective management to Luxembourg by reason of the definition, at that time, of the term ‘resident’ in s 2 of the Act. This status changed with effect from 26 February 2003, when the definition was amended and Tradehold ceased to be a resident of the Republic.

Relying on the provisions of para 12 of the Eighth Schedule to the Act, the Commissioner contended that when the respondent relocated its seat of effective management to Luxembourg on 2 July 2002, or when it ceased to be a resident of the Republic on 26 February 2003, it was deemed to have disposed of its only relevant asset, namely its 100 per cent shareholding in Tradegro Holdings, resulting in a capital gain being realised in the 2003 year of assessment in an amount of R405 039 083. This tax is colloquially referred to as an ‘exit tax’.

Article 13(4) of the DTA provides as follows:

Gains from the alienation of any property other than that referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, shall be taxable only in the Contracting State of which the alienator is a resident.’

The Tax Court rejected the Commissioner’s argument that the reference in Art 13(4) of the DTA to gains from the alienation of property did not include a deemed disposal of property as contemplated in para 12(2)(a) of the Schedule.

The Court concluded:

DTA, art 13:‘Generally speaking when you talk of a thing being deemed to be something, you do not mean to say that it is that which it is deemed to be. It is rather an admission that it is not what it is deemed to be and that, notwithstanding, it is not that particular thing, nevertheless it is deemed to be that thing.’

Whether the term ‘alienation’ as used in the DTA includes within its ambit gains arising from a deemed (as opposed to actual) disposal of assets:

It is of significance that no distinction is drawn in Art 13(4) between capital gains that arise from actual or deemed alienations of property. There is moreover no reason in principle why the parties to the DTA would have intended that Art 13 should apply only to taxes on actual capital gains resulting from actual alienations of property.

Consequently, Art 13(4) of the DTA applies to capital gains that arise from both actual and deemed alienations or disposals of property. It follows therefore that from 2 July 2002, when Tradehold relocated its seat of effective management to Luxembourg, the provisions of the DTA became applicable and that country had exclusive taxing rights in respect of all of Tradehold’s capital gains. This conclusion renders it unnecessary to deal with the Commissioner’s other contentions.

The Revenue Service had incorrectly included a taxable gain resulting from the deemed disposal of Tradehold’s investment in its income for the 2003 year of assessment.

The Court found in favor of taxpayer.

OK Tradehold Ltd (132-11) sca2012-061

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