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Retrenchment – Finance and tax

Here are some tips on how you can get the best after tax payout when you are retrenched.

Download my Retrenchment Budget spreadsheet to assist you with your financial planning during this difficult time:


  1. Be careful of resigning and taking a voluntary retrenchment package

If you are retrenched, you are entitled to a severance package. This is typically 1 week’s remuneration for every completed year of service.

However, if you take a voluntary retrenchment, this is classed as a resignation and the payout is taxed at your normal marginal rate. The generous tax benefits given to normal retrenchments do not apply here.

For example, consider two employees (Jack and Joe) who both joined a company 20 years ago, both are 45 years old and both earn R40 000 a month. Jack elects to take a voluntary retrenchment while Joe is formally retrenched by the company.

The company pays out a severance benefit equal to 1 week of salary for every year worked so both Jack and Joe get 20 years x R10 000 = R200 000

When it comes to tax, the treatment is different. If you are formally retrenched like Joe, the first R500 000 of your benefit does not attract tax. This can have quite an impact on the benefit you get.

Jack (voluntary retrenchment)Joe (formally retrenched)
Gross retrenchment benefit

R200 000

R200 000

Tax payableR200 000 x marginal rate assume this to be 30%

= R60 000

After tax payout
R140 000
R200 00

Employers may offer a slightly better package to encourage you to take a voluntary package.  In this case, it is important that you do the numbers first and take the tax into account before making a commitment.  It is worth chatting to a certified financial planner who can help you make the right choice.

  1. Invest your retirement benefits wisely

When you are retrenched, you are entitled to any money that you have in a company pension or provident fund.  Again, the decisions you make have important consequences so this is not something to do without getting professional advice

Options open to you include:

  • Taking all or part of your retirement benefits in cash. There are tax consequences here and you will be setting yourself up for poverty in later years.  This is generally not recommended
  • Moving your proceeds to a retirement annuity. Here you do not pay any tax but you will not be able to access any of this money before you turn 55
  • Moving your proceeds to a provident fund. You do not pay any tax and you will only be able to access the funds after you turn 55.  However, you will be allowed to make one withdrawal from the provident fund before you turn 55.  This can be a nice option should you run into major financial difficulties.

Retrenchment is an extremely stressful time and you will be called upon to make some important decisions.  It is important that you get a professional to help you make the right call 

Disclaimer The above does not constitute financial advice.  It is offered as a perspective to help you make sense of these important developments.  Each person’s situation is unique and a proper analysis is needed before advice may be given

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