Retrenchment benefits may seem few and far between but make sure you know your rights in terms of what is due to you and structure your package optimally.

Financial worries can be minimised if you know your rights and get good planning advice to grow your retirement capital.

 What can you expect as payment on retrenchment?

1. Severance pay should be at least one week’s remuneration per completed year of service. Remuneration is calculated including basic salary and payments in kind.
2. Outstanding leave must be paid out in full.
3. Notice pay may vary depending on your employment contract.
4. In the absence of a contract, you are entitled to notice pay as follows:

  • If you have been employed for 1-4 weeks: 1 weeks’ notice pay
  • If you have been employed for 4 weeks – 1 year: 2 weeks’ notice pay
  • If you have been employed for more than a year: 4 weeks’ notice pay

Depending on your employment contract, again, you may be entitled to a pro-rata payment of your annual bonus, and the balance of any pension or provident fund benefits.

Tax Issues for Retrenchment Benefits

In South Africa the taxman gives you the first R315,000 of you retrenchment lump-sum free of taxation based on the retirement tax table.

The portion of your lump-sum that exceeds this exemption amount will be taxed based on the same tables.

How to Reduce Tax on Retrenchment Benefit

  • Lump it all together
    Ensure your company puts all your payments due as part of your lump-sum.
  • Assets instead of Cash
    If the company gives you an asset in lieu of cash, you pay perks tax on the market value of the asset. This may range from ‘negligible’ (in the   case of a laptop computer) to ‘substantial with attendant running cost’ (for the company car). So think carefully.

Guard Your Retirement Portion of Retrenchment Benefits

You have three possible options with your pension or provident fund payout.

  • Spend it
    This is the worst possible option. Firstly, you will make a large,   ‘voluntary’ contribution to the Taxman’s coffers and secondly, in all likelihood you will never build the capital up again.
  • Invest via a retirement annuity
    With this option, you cannot withdraw any of the capital until you reach the age of 55. This has the advantage of locking in your     retirement savings and you pay no tax on the transfer.     
  • Invest via a preservation fund
    This is similar to a retirement annuity, but such a fund allows a single withdrawal of up to 100% of the amount before the age of 55. Again, you pay no tax on the transfer.

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