JOHANNESBURG – Almost one year after the regulatory introduction of tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), Allan Gray’s offering has become available.

Its tax-free investment is a platform product, which offers access to 28 underlying funds, including its own Balanced Fund. An additional fixed fee class has been created for its Balanced Fund, which normally charge performance fees. In terms of the regulations, funds that levy performance fees are not eligible for inclusion within the tax-free savings wrapper.

TFSAs were introduced on March 1 last year. Investors are allowed to invest up to R30 000 per annum in these accounts. The lifetime capital contribution limit is R500 000. All proceeds earned within the accounts are completely tax-free. The launch of these products is an effort by National Treasury to encourage consumers to save and to reduce their financial vulnerability.

Richard Carter, head of product development at Allan Gray, says while they disagree with the outright ban on performance fees in these products, they are keen for clients to benefit from the legislation.

“We believe that well-designed performance fees mean clients pay lower fees when a unit trust underperforms and higher fees for outperformance. This ultimately gives clients better value for money.”

The fact that many other investment firms have already launched their products and “have a bit of a head start” is not an issue.

“Over time this is going to become quite a significant product and the fact that we were a few months after everyone else won’t matter at all,” he says.

According to their research a TFSA can generate considerable value compared to a basic unit trust investment over the very long term.

“The potential after 15 years could be as much as an extra 30%, driven by the value of compounding all gains tax-free.”

When TFSAs were first introduced, Allan Gray and its rival Coronation were two of the big firms that did not offer any products in the TFSA arena as they were still in discussions with Treasury about the requirements.

Coronation launched its offering in October 2015.

Eligible funds

Carter says all the eligible (fixed fee) funds available on its platform are offered as underlying investments in the tax-free investment product. A few managers were also approached to create a fixed fee class of their funds. Over time more funds should become available.

To create a fixed fee class of an existing fund that charges performance fees is not a significant issue if the fund does not invest into any other funds, he says.

However, if the fund invests into other funds (to gain offshore exposure for example), these underlying investments have to charge fixed fees as well and to create these structures is somewhat more complex.

Carter says while they acknowledge that the investment limits are somewhat constraining for some investors and that these investments are not the only regulated savings products to offer tax benefits, they recognise the need of some clients for this product.

“With no tax on gains or income, no restrictions on withdrawals and fewer investment restrictions than retirement funds, it makes sense to use a tax-free product for the first R30 000 if you are investing for the long term.”