Archive for September, 2012

The focus of Softline’s CSR strategy is education. The rationale for this is that today’s investment in education will empower the youth of our country to aspire towards uplifting themselves as well as their broader communities in the future.

The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre was established in 1998 andis dedicated to Holocaust and genocide education and memory. The JHGC works widely in the field of Holocaust, human rights and genocide education.  In 2007, the South African Department of Education implemented a new National Curriculum, which contains a strong human rights focus.  Having operated from temporary premises, the JHGC has recently secured ground on which to build a permanent centre, which  will be a centre of learning for young and old, from all walks of life, to come together to learn from the histories of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.

On August 23, 2012 a contingent from Sage Alchemex, developers of Sage Intelligence Reporting software, returned to South Africa from Sage Summit 2012, Sage North America’s annual partner and end-user conference, last week. This year, Sage Summit was held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, from August 11 to 17. Sage Intelligence was showcased extensively, with seven Sage Alchemex team members in attendance running a total of 32 Intelligence learning sessions over 6 days and manning a busy Sage Intelligence tradeshow booth which allowed demonstrations to groups of 10 and more at a time.


Sage Summit attendees congregating around the Sage Intelligence booth.

Sage Intelligence Reporting is a business intelligence module for a number of Sage ERP and accounting products, which promises richer insight into a business. Using the familiar Microsoft® Excel® interface, it enables more robust reporting and easier access to Sage ERP and accounting data, providing affordable, intuitive business intelligence for small to medium businesses.

Sage Summit 2012 saw the attendance of Sage Alchemex, not as an OEM partner, but as a Sage-owned subsidiary. Alchemex was acquired by Softline, a member of The Sage Group plc, effective October 1, 2011. Charles Teversham, Sage Alchemex MD, says that attending Sage Summit 2012 as part of the Sage Group was “the culmination of a number of exciting developments over the last few years and the launch pad for several exciting initiatives which will take us into the future”.

Sage Summit provided the platform for the launch of these initiatives by the Sage Alchemex team, including:

The Report Designer Add-In for Sage ERP 100 Intelligence Reporting

An addition to the existing Report Designer module, a report layout generator which allows for easy-to-use drag-and-drop financial report design, the Report Designer Add-In presents an alternative method of report design to empower Sage 100 ERP Intelligence Reporting users to take full control of all design aspects of their reporting layouts. It provides drag-and-drop Excel financial formulas which communicate with a new In-Memory processing engine promising excellent performance, maximum control and greatly enhanced flexibility. It promises to provide business partners and consultants in particular with the flexibility they need to create bespoke reports for customers.

Free Report Templates

The vision of Sage Alchemex to fuel a proliferation of report templates, beyond the standard report templates that ship with the Sage Intelligence module, was shared at Sage Summit 2012 and a platform for sharing additional report templates was launched. Report writers can use these templates as a basis for quickly and easily providing customized reports, and thereby added value, for their customers. A number of free report templates were launched on the Free Report Templates Group on the BI Community for use with the Intelligence Reporting module.  Sage Intelligence partners or customers can help themselves to these templates or post reports themselves for sharing amongst the Sage Intelligence community.


Stephen Coull, Sage Alchemex Sales Director, says “Sage Summit gives us the opportunity to connect with Sage colleagues, partners and customers and show them the power of Sage Intelligence. This was our fifth year at Sage Summit, but our first as a member of the Sage family, and our product continues to be well-received. Apart from all the focused activity around showing and teaching the product, the Sage Alchemex team heard overwhelming feedback from partners and customers about how much they had seen added to the product in the last year and how they were really excited about the future of the product following the ‘road ahead’ sessions where the new in-memory Add-in grabbed the most attention. Many Sage ERP 100 delegates stated that this provides a good reason to move off FRx to the Sage Intelligence solution.”

Teversham says, “Our longstanding and very successful partnerships with Softline Pastel and Softline VIP entrenched the use of ‘BI in Excel’ in South Africa via Pastel’s Business Intelligence Centre and VIP Payroll’s Business Intelligence Manager during the last six to seven years. An OEM agreement signed with Sage North America in November 2009 set us up to proliferate the use of our software globally. Then in 2011 we were acquired by Softline, providing us with the opportunity to, together with Sage, address the burgeoning need for business intelligence in their small and mid-sized customer base worldwide. Given the feedback from Sage Summit, and the positive response to our initiatives, Sage Intelligence is poised to become the business intelligence tool of choice for SMMEs world-wide”.

By Rob Cooper, Softline VIP payroll and legislative expert

Proposed changes to the Income Tax Act were issued for public comment in July 2012, some of which have a direct impact on employers and computerised payroll systems.

Rob Cooper

Rob Cooper

One change in particular constitutes a major shift in approach from the legislators, but first, a brief overview of the other changes.

Medical Tax Credit Principle to be Extended

From March 2012, we saw the introduction of medical tax credits (tax rebates) for employees under 65 years of age who contribute to a medical scheme.  Changes were also made to the income tax relief granted on assessment to individuals for their out-of-pocket medical expenses subject to certain conditions.

The draft changes now extend the medical tax credit principle for contributions to include those employees who are 65 years of age or older.  The values proposed for their tax credits are the same as those currently used for under 65 year old employees, and are based on the number of dependents.

Then the deduction system of income tax relief for out-of-pocket medical expenses has been replaced by a medical tax credit system, with varying degrees of relief for over and under 65 year old employees, and for those who are disabled or with a disabled spouse or child dependent.

What is of concern is that the tax relief granted for medical contributions and out-of-pocket medical expenses has been whittled away by the changes made last year and the proposed changes in the draft legislation, particular for those taxpayers who earn above the 30% marginal tax rate.

Individuals over the age of 65 and those who are pensioners in particular have been hit hard in recent years by dividend tax changes and interest tax relief amongst other measures.  A further reduction in the assistance from the state for medical contributions and medical expenses is going to hurt these individuals.

The same can be said for families with a disabled person – surely these individuals deserve more support, not less?

Employment-related Insurance Policies

The taxation of employer-owned insurance policies that impact on employees has been the subject of complex changes to the law over the past two tax years.  Just when it seemed that the dust had settled, the draft legislation proposes some more changes that are too complex and too confusing to discuss here.

The words “unintended consequences” again come to mind …


Some fine tuning has been made to the provisions which allow employers a deduction from income of R30 000 at the start and the end of a learnership.  These changes address the delays in registration of the learnership with a SETA which can reduce the value of the incentive, as well as the disallowance of the incentive will be limited to learnerships that the employee failed while working for the current employer.

Accrual of Variable Remuneration

One of the pillars that our tax law stands upon is the concept of ‘accrual’.

Amounts are generally interpreted to have accrued when there is an unconditional entitlement to that amount.  This causes problems for payroll systems that have to withhold employees’ tax on amounts that accrued in one tax year, but were only quantified and processed in the next tax year.  Adjustments to monthly payments to SARS, tax certificates and reconciliations are the inevitable result of adjusting amounts back into a tax year that has already closed.

In one of the most significant changes to employees’ tax requirements in decades, the accrual principle is proposed to be relaxed for variable remuneration items such as commissions, travel payments, overtime and bonuses.

At this early stage, much thought still has to be put into the practical implications of this change, but there is no doubt that it will significantly simply payroll administration over the tax year end for employers and for SARS and is to be welcomed.

Closing thoughts

Lastly, there are some items that have been proposed in the Budget by the Minister of Finance for a number of years and which, while still bubbling away, have not yet made their way into draft legislation.

These include the standardisation of taxation rules for retirement funds, and some changes to the Unemployment Insurance Legislation.

Unfortunately, the political football that the Youth Subsidy has become has been booted into touch, to be replaced by a Job Seeker grant system which has not even been discussed or quantified.

Deciding to spend money on a software solution to tighten financial control is a useful and prudent decision for small businesses.  Owners and managers must choose wisely to ensure the solution matches the overall business requirements and that they are not purchasing a solution favoured only by the accountant or IT manager.

Many small business owners often turn to their accountant with the question of what software to use.  In larger companies, the IT department recommends a solution that matches their preferred technical platform and not software that might be incorrect for their financial requirements. This is where issues often arise.

It is vital to find the right software solution that not only details where you have been, but more importantly, helps you to navigate where you are going. By providing both an overview, and then delving deeper into the details, owners are better equipped to evaluate the business environment.

So, how should a SME owner or manager go about choosing accounting software, and who should be involved?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Define your scope and understand your functional requirements
  2. Determine who might be involved in the process and how much you’re able to spend
  3. Match points 1 and 2 to the solutions available in the market.

Since the evaluation process can be fairly lengthy and require time from your team, it is worth narrowing the field as soon as possible and considering in detail those products that are likely options.

Remember, you might not need hefty solutions with a plethora of features. The right vendor will assist you in finding a solution with sufficient functionality to support your company well into the future, assuring far greater fiscal discipline and laying a firm foundation for financial success.