Understanding Capital Gains Tax on Trusts in South Africa

If you are a trustee or beneficiary of a trust in South Africa, it is essential to understand the capital gains tax (CGT) obligations that come with managing and distributing assets held within the trust. This guide will provide an overview of CGT on trusts in South Africa and cover some key considerations to keep in mind when managing your trust.

What is Capital Gains Tax?

Capital gains tax is a type of tax levied by the government on profits realized from selling or disposing of assets that have increased in value over time. It applies to various types of assets, including property, shares, and other investments. In South Africa, individuals and companies are subject to CGT when they sell or dispose of their assets.

How Does Capital Gains Tax Apply to Trusts?

Trusts are also subject to CGT when they sell or dispose of assets that have increased in value since acquisition. However, there are some differences between how CGT applies to trusts compared with individuals and companies.

Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • When calculating the gain for CGT purposes, trustees need to use the market value at 1 October 2001 as their base cost.
  • The maximum effective rate for CGT on trusts is currently 36%, which can be higher than individual rates.
  • Trustees may benefit from certain exemptions and deductions related specifically to trusts. For example:
  • A small business exemption may apply if the asset disposed was used solely for carrying out a small business;
  • An annual exclusion amount applicable per year can be claimed by distributions made from discretionary trusts;
  • Retirement benefits flowing directly into retirement annuity funds don’t attract any capital gains taxes regardless of whether beneficiaries meet specific conditions;

Responsibilities for Compliance Reporting

Trustees must report all taxable income earned within their trust during each tax year through submitting an annual income tax return that includes details of the trust’s income, expenses, and gains earned from any sales or disposals made during the year.

Additionally, if the disposal of an asset results in a capital gain exceeding R2 million, trustees are required to submit a special CGT return to SARS within 30 days after disposal.


In conclusion, when managing a trust in South Africa, it is essential to be aware of CGT obligations. Trustees must keep accurate records and ensure compliance with reporting requirements set out by SARS. Understanding how CGT applies to trusts can help you make informed decisions about asset management and distribution within your trust. If you need further guidance on how CGT affects your specific situation or require assistance with tax compliance reporting for your trust we recommend consulting a professional tax consultant expert on this field.

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Sure, Here are three popular FAQs along with their answers for Understanding Capital Gains Tax on Trusts in South Africa:

Q: What is capital gains tax (CGT) in South Africa?

A: CGT is a tax that you may need to pay when you sell or dispose of an asset and make a profit. The gain or profit you make on the disposal of an asset is taxed, not the amount you receive from the sale. CGT applies to both residents and non-residents who own assets in South Africa.

Q: Does my trust have to pay capital gains tax?

A: Yes, trusts are liable to pay capital gains tax on any profits made from disposing of assets. In South Africa, trusts are considered separate legal entities and are taxed accordingly. Trustees must declare any taxable capital gains as part of their annual income tax return using form ITR12T.

Q: How much capital gains tax does my trust have to pay?

A: Trusts currently enjoy a lower effective rates of CGT than individuals but this can change depending on administrative interpretation by SARS or changes in legislation.

As at 2021, A Trust will suffer CGT at a rate equal to only 27.32% x (40% – marginal rate) with the effective top Capital Gains Tax Rate being 18%. This means that if your trust makes a taxable gain through selling an asset it owns there will be Capital Gains Tax payable at either 7.2 % as per property sales; or otherwise at maxumum effective rate of 18%.

It’s important for trustees to understand how these taxes work so they can plan accordingly when making decisions about selling trust-owned assets.