The Tax Court has upheld a decision that a tax deduction allowed by section 24C of the Income Tax Act may be applied to franchisee costs. Section 24C permits the deduction of certain expenses in the current tax year assessment, where those expenses are not yet incurred, on the basis that these expenses will contractually be incurred in future years. This tax allowance protects businesses from being taxed on earmarked funds that bloat their annual earnings.
Where did this decision come?
The appeal involved the taxpayer (restaurant chain) against additional assessments raised by SARS for its 2011 to 2014 years of assessment. They arose from SARS’ refusal of deductions claimed by the taxpayer as allowances in respect of future expenditure in terms of section 24C of the Income Tax Act.
The crux of the dispute lies in whether or not the income received by the taxpayer from sales of meals to its customers can properly be regarded as arising directly from – or put differently, accruing in terms of – the franchise agreement itself. The taxpayer maintains that it can whereas SARS maintains it cannot.
However, as far as franchisees are concerned, it is clear that where a franchise agreement sets out an obligation to incur future expenditure, such expenditure may very well fall within the beneficial parameters of section 24C of the Act.
The Court’s decision
The Tax Court held that there need not be one physical contract document to give rise to section 24C’s benefit. Furthermore, while different parties were involved (the franchisor and the restaurant’s customers), the franchisee’s agreements with each were “inextricably linked” and “not legally independent and separate”.
The income deducted was, therefore, regarded as earned under the same contract as the taxpayer’s future expenditure, fulfilling the requirements of section 24C.
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