Before You Start a New Small Business in 2020 ...

"Just do it!" (Nike)

You and your fantastic business idea can't wait to chuck up the 9 to 5 job and launch your own new venture. 2020 here we come! But is this the right time to do it?

Of course no one knows for sure whether 2020 will see our economy glide happily into recovery mode or continue bumping along in the mud at the bottom. But one of the great things about starting a new small business is that it doesn't really matter. Provided, that is, that you plan carefully and remain agile and adaptive to whatever may come our way.

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Must You Pay Tax on Your Rental Income?

"Few of us ever test our powers of deduction, except when filling out an income tax form" (Laurence J. Peter of The Peter Principle)

Letting out property can give you an excellent "annuity" income, and if that concept appeals to you and a buy-to-let property comes your way at the right price put an offer in right now; before the current 'buyer's market' runs its course.

In your financial planning however remember the tax implications, because as a landlord you must add your rental income to your salary and other taxable income in your tax return every year. Not to do so is tax evasion, and that carries heavy financial penalties as well as the very real threat of criminal prosecution.

Having to pay tax on your rental income could be make-or-break when it comes to deciding on how much you should pay for a particular property, so do your homework before you put your offer in.

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January is "Divorce Month": Beware the Dangers of DIY

"What's the only thing divorce proves? Whose mother was right in the first place" (Anon)

The festivities are over, the bills are coming in and everyone is returning to reality. Couples who for most of the year only have to live with each other after work hours, have suddenly spent a whole lot more 24/7 time in each other's close company. Little irritations have magnified, habits have got on each other's nerves, in-laws visiting for the annual family bun fight have heightened tensions...

Whatever the reasons, and whether only one party was at fault or both, January's worldwide reputation as "divorce month" applies equally here in South Africa. Which means that the legal and personal risks associated with divorce are peaking now, in January.

On the legal side of things a particular risk to be aware of is the temptation for couples splitting on an "uncontested" (i.e. by mutual agreement) basis to opt for a "DIY" divorce.

Beware, that's a siren's call...

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Your Written Contract Should Cover Everything - No Oral Evidence Allowed!

Here's another warning from our courts to make sure that all your contracts are properly drawn to reflect both accurately and fully what you have agreed to.

The problem with leaving anything out - or agreeing to something that isn't then fully recorded in your contract - is a principle in our law known as "the rule of parol evidence". 

A recent SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) decision illustrates the rule in action, and the facts will resonate with the many farmers, businesses and city dwellers facing empty dams in drought-stricken areas...

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Property Sales and Trusts: Demand Proof of Trustee Authority

"If you want to make your house easy to sell, make it easy to buy" (Anon)

You are overjoyed at receiving a good offer for your property - not easily achieved in these hard times and of course you certainly don't want to do anything to jeopardise the sale.

But perhaps do that little bit extra homework before accepting the offer if it comes from a trust. The pitfall here - and it's one that perennially takes sellers by surprise - is that the trustee/s signing the offer to purchase/sale agreement must have the necessary authority to do so. Drop the ball on that one and you will find yourself without any sale at all.

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