With the fast approaching 2019 tax season, taxpayers who have realised a capital gain in a foreign currency should take note of the special rules that apply to the translation of those gains to Rand.
Generally, there are two ways of translating a capital gain or loss into Rand – a “simple method” and a more “comprehensive method”. Under the simple method, the capital gain or loss is determined in the foreign currency and then translated to Rand at the time of disposal. Under the comprehensive method, the expenditure (when acquiring the assets) is converted to Rand at the time it is incurred while the proceeds are translated to Rand at the time the asset is disposed of. The comprehensive method picks up the effect of currency appreciation or depreciation on the cost of the asset.
Paragraph 43(1) of the Eighth Schedule to the Income Tax Act applies when an individual disposes of an asset for proceeds in foreign currency after having incurred expenditure in respect of the asset in the same foreign currency. In these circumstances, the individual must translate the capital gain or loss into the local currency by applying the average exchange rate for the year of assessment in which the asset was disposed of or by using the spot rate on the date of disposal of the asset.
An individual that buys an asset in one foreign currency and disposes of it in another foreign currency must use paragraph 43(1A) to translate the proceeds and expenditure to the local currency as follows:
- l the proceeds into the local currency at the average exchange rate for the year of assessment in which that asset was disposed of or at the spot rate on the date of disposal of that asset; and
- l the expenditure incurred in respect of that asset into the local currency at the average exchange rate for the year of assessment during which that expenditure was incurred or at the spot rate on the date on which that expenditure was incurred.
The term “average exchange rate” (in relation to a year of assessment) is defined in the Income Tax Act as the average exchange rate determined by using the closing spot rates at the end of daily or monthly intervals during a year of assessment. This rate must be applied consistently within that year of assessment.
For ease of reference (although the use of these exchange rates are not compulsory) SARS provides average exchange rates for years of assessment ending on each month since December 2003 for the following currencies: Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar; Euro, Hong Kong Dollar, Indian Rupee, Japanse Yen, Swiss Franc, UK Pound and US Dollar. (you can get these at the following link: https://www.sars.gov.za/Legal/Legal-Publications/Pages/Average-Exchange-Rates.aspx).
“Spot rate”, in turn, is defined as the appropriate quoted exchange rate at a specific time by any authorised dealer in foreign exchange for the delivery of currency. For spot rates, as well, SARS has a handy tool for rate conversions: https://tools.sars.gov.za/rex/rates/MultipleDefault.aspx.
The conversion of foreign currency gains and losses (primarily when incurred in different currencies), can present a practical difficulty, especially given the volatility of the Rand. Taxpayers are advised to consult with their tax practitioners on the conversion of gains and losses in foreign currency, particularly where these gains and losses are material. Making errors in this regard could lead to substantial penalties.