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Shuttleworth Loses $20m Battle With S. African Reserve Bank Over Expatriated Funds 117

An anonymous reader writes: Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has lost his long running battle with the South African Reserve Bank over a R250m exit charge ($20.5m) levied on his personal fortune when he tried to ex-patriate to his new home on the Isle of Man in 2009. The exit charge was part of a capital control system since abandoned by the South African government, which Shuttleworth had successfully argued at the Supreme Court of Appeal last year amounted to an unconstitutional tax. The Supreme Court ordered the Reserve Bank to pay Shuttleworth back.

While Shuttleworth had promised to leave the R250m in South Africa as a fund for helping others to press constitutional issues to the highest court in the land, the Reserve Bank appealed to the Constitutional Court for a final appeal — which it won this morning. The upshot being that the bank gets to hold onto the money after all. One judge did offer a dissenting opinion, however, in which he said he would have dismissed the final appeal with costs.
The article notes that "The irony is that the exit charge at the heart of the matter is no longer levied on transfers going out of the country."
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Shuttleworth Loses $20m Battle With S. African Reserve Bank Over Expatriated Funds

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  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday June 18, 2015 @09:21AM (#49936601) Homepage

    So why is this on slashdot exactly? This site is supposed to be about the tech itself, not the financial problems of the people behind it. Thats what The Economist is for.

    • by Stuarticus ( 1205322 ) on Thursday June 18, 2015 @09:26AM (#49936617)
      Tech is made out of people. Who live on the Isle of Man, for entirely legitimate reasons.
      • by wile_e_wonka ( 934864 ) on Thursday June 18, 2015 @09:49AM (#49936791)

        Many of the roads of have no speed limits. That's legitimate enough for me. Also, it is the sister isle to Thomas the Tank Engine's (fictional) Sodor, which might be reason enough for someone else.

        • I suspect that this sentence explains Shuttlesworth's REAL reason for "living" there:

          From the Wikipedia article:
          "The Isle of Man is a low-tax economy with no capital gains tax, wealth tax, stamp duty, or inheritance tax"

          Yeah, if I were a billionaire, I would sure want to "live" there too. I could put my P.O. Box "home" right next to Mark's.

      • Tech is made out of people. Who live on the Isle of Man, for entirely legitimate reasons.

        If you consider funding a homophobic, regressive little hole in exchange for a tax break "legitimate", you mean.

      • Does he even actually live on the Isle of Man, or is his "home" there a P.O. box that he just uses to avoid taxes?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's on Slashdot because it's their own website not yours. So they make the rules and decide what gets posted. If you don't like it, start your own website and leave.

    • This site is supposed to be about the tech itself, not the financial problems of the people behind it.

      Slashdot has been posting non-tech stories for more than a decade now. Get over yourself.

      • This site is supposed to be about the tech itself, not the financial problems of the people behind it.

        Slashdot has been posting mostly non-tech stories for more than a decade now. Get over yourself.

        There, i fixed that for you - you are welcomed!

        • Slashdot's mostly non-tech stories have been left-wing outrage disasrerbation fodder for more than a decade now. Get over yourself.

          There, i fixed that for you - you are welcomed!

          There, i fixed that for you - you are welcomed!

    • So that everyone can stand up in their cubicles and do a little happy dance. It's good for the soul.
    • So why is this on slashdot exactly? This site is supposed to be about the tech itself, not the financial problems of the people behind it.

      Treating this like "Shuttleworth's problem" is losing sight of the big picture. The SA government is desperate to prevent money leaving the country, because if it was easy to get out, a significant chunk of the population would (SA, particularly in the large cities, is not a fun place to live). They may have eliminated the apartheid-era controls, but they've introduced far stricter ones to prevent capital flight from the country. Shuttleworth's case is just one of the more visible ones, there are huge nu

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        So why is this on slashdot exactly? This site is supposed to be about the tech itself, not the financial problems of the people behind it.

        Treating this like "Shuttleworth's problem" is losing sight of the big picture. The SA government is desperate to prevent money leaving the country, because if it was easy to get out, a significant chunk of the population would (SA, particularly in the large cities, is not a fun place to live). They may have eliminated the apartheid-era controls, but they've introduced far stricter ones to prevent capital flight from the country. Shuttleworth's case is just one of the more visible ones, there are huge numbers of people who would leave if they could get their money out.

        I think this is part of a more general problem. You see it more in lousy countries like South Africa, but the same thing really happens to a lesser degree everywhere.

        In every country lots of people are born and die every year, and many people come and go. Those who are born tend to have abilities that fall onto various bell curves, generally reflective of the people who are already there, and the same is true of those who die. Those who come and go are not distributed in the same way. Those with a lot o

    • So why is this on slashdot exactly? This site is supposed to be about the tech itself, not the financial problems of the people behind it. Thats what The Economist is for.

      The Economist hasn't been about economics or finance for the longest time that I can remember. It's always been a mouthpiece for a bunch of opinionated Know-it-alls about things not just in Britain but worldwide. Yeah, they do comment a bit on economics & finance - just like the business section of any political magazine like a Newsweek or TIME

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Thursday June 18, 2015 @09:29AM (#49936641)

    I've never seen a government that ever willingly gives you your money back. Once they have it they'll try every conceivable way to keep it. Whether or not it's legal or morally right to keep it, they don't care.

    • I've never seen a government that ever willingly gives you your money back.

      Really? The US government willingly gives back tax refunds to many millions of people every year.

      • willingly? so you forget all that business about tax returns, turbo tax, accountants. That's not willing.

        • willingly?

          Yep. I've never once had the IRS do anything but send my tax return even faster than their estimated time after filing my return.

          so you forget all that business about tax returns, turbo tax, accountants. That's not willing.

          So because you have to file a tax return that means they don't willingly give you the refund? That logic doesn't follow.

          • Obviously that should have been tax *refund*.

          • having dealt with the IRS multiple times on paperwork bullshit, I can still attest there's nothing "willing" about it.

          • One year instead of getting my ~$500 refund in the mail, I got a letter saying "Sorry we're SUPER busy, we'll get you your check in six weeks." I wanted my $500 (I was a lot poorer back then, but still, $500 is $500) but I waited patiently. Six weeks and two days later (I know exactly because I really wanted that $500) I got a letter that said "Yo, peep this, we need another six weeks. See ya."

            WTF SRSLY?! I know I can 'file an extension' but I never have and could I just keep filing them over and over forev

        • by Desler ( 1608317 )

          Yes, the IRS is more than willingly to give you a refund after filing a tax return that shows that you paid more than you owed. It's pretty much codified in the tax code that they have to do that.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday June 18, 2015 @10:04AM (#49936877)

        Stop and think about that for a second. A tax refund implies they are taxing you beyond what you owe, up front, and keeping the money as long as possible. Depending on your filing timing, some of that money could have been held by the government for nearly 18 months before you get money the government shouldn't have taken back.

        And they don't just "give it back" -- YOU have to follow their rules and their forms and justify to them that you deserve to get the money back.

        The system is really "we'll take this money from you now, a year later you can use our forms and tables to figure out if we've taken too much, and then we'll give it back, based on our criteria".

        You can't use the IRS tax refunds as a sign of the gentle benevolence of the government.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by LVSlushdat ( 854194 )

          You can't use the IRS tax refunds as a sign of the gentle benevolence of the government.

          The words "gentle" and "benevolence" and "government" have NO business in the same sentence... Especially when you're talking about the IRS.. The IRS belongs back in the old USSR, not what passes for a "free" country..

          • The words "gentle" and "benevolence" and "government" have NO business in the same sentence...

            In your country maybe. I just had some big issues with my eye. Red, blurred vision, bleeding and all sorts of crazy shit like a vampire. Went to the doctor for free, got prescribed some antibiotics and a referral to an optometrist. Optometrist performed a Slit Lamp exam for free and advised to rest and keep the eye clean. After a few days it wasn't improving so went back to the doctor for free for another check, got the all clear and advised to rest. A few days later all clear back to normal, total cost $10

        • by Anonymous Coward

          That's silly. You have the ability to decide how much is withheld from your pay during the year. If you under-withhold too much, there can be penalties. But choosing to overpay and then get a refund is indeed a choice.

          *Barring some situation where your expected tax liability for a year suddenly drops towards the end of the year.

          • Here in Argentina, if you forget to make a payment, or if AFIP (our tax office) believes you under-withheld more than just a tiny bit, they might FREEZE ALL YOUR ASSETS countrywide without any warning, including your personal *and* business accounts, credit cards, etc. That is their way of letting you know that you forgot to make a payment - they treat you like you were a first-class criminal. Be grateful you live in a country where the government shows a little respect for its citizens.

        • The IRS gives money back on corrections pretty quickly, I should know, I work on them on a quarterly basis. As a matter of fact, they surprisingly also give you interest money on those corrections.

    • Really? The HMRC in the UK is very quick at giving overpayments and corrections back - on a few occasions I have had cheques simply turn up without any requests or even knowing I was due one.

      • You and your silly "facts". How dare you try to bring those into his narrative.

      • Really? The HMRC in the UK is very quick at giving overpayments and corrections back - on a few occasions I have had cheques simply turn up without any requests or even knowing I was due one.

        Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is THE ONLY goverment organization that after interacting with it i did not felt as raped - and it was about taking money from them... PLUS: i am a Greek - that i had to do some of my interactions with them by phone (i am terrible with writen English, and even worse when speaking them - they even offered me live translation services if i ever needed it!).

        As a Greek Nationalist, i now must ask from you: please stand up for the national anthem! [youtube.com]

        • This may be a uniquely American point of view, but doesn't it piss you off that you have to think of one person birthed into a legally protected class, and call her "majesty"? I don't call ANYBODY majesty, and sure as shit not just for a person who simply floated into a lucky womb. I've heard she's super duper nice, which is awesome, but then couldn't you all get together and VOTE for her? Doesn't having actual, real royals walking around make you feel like you are living in some kind of absurd time warp?

          • by Ormy ( 1430821 )
            There aren't royals "walking around", there's less than a dozen of them really. They constitute less of our population than prolific serial killers constitute of yours. I know which I'd prefer. If you want to talk about useless financial burdens on the taxpayer, start with the big fish (miltary industrial complex much?) of which both our nations have plenty. The royal family certainly is not a big fish, especially if you count the significant tourism they bring here from.... oh look at that, it's Americ
            • Yeah, I get it, it's not an actual large extant problem for the average Brit on the average day, but still, you have no problem walking around with the thought in your head that some people are born into titles of nobility, they are legally superior people to you for no good reason. I don't know it just seems totally crazy. How can it persist in this day and age? And it's not just the Brits it's half of Europe. Hell even Canada puts the royals on their money.

          • Don't pretend people aren't born into privilege [newyorker.com] in the US too. As far as I can tell (as a Canadian) the difference between Prince William and Paris Hilton is Prince William has class.

            • Yeah, totally, and that's a problem but it's a hard problem, right it's a social problem. But the easy problem is the legal question: yes or no, some people are legally superior to other people based on an inherited title of nobility? Well, my answer is... no, duh that's totally stupid. Americans aren't all equal in all ways but we have the bare-minimum of equality which is at least the nominal presumption of legal equality. It's a low ethical bar, sure, but compare that to "Hey, that newborn over there, we

          • It's surely a deep American point of view (that i respect very much - i am Greek, you Yankees are more Greek than what you may think!), plus i know that little thing between British and Americans (very recently i made a little joke about that "thing" with my -a bit rough- Greek humor that didn't went so well!), but i am a Greek ethnicaly and citizen (i have been in UK -for business and/or pleasure- just a few times, and totaly not more than few months), so that "majesty" from me was only a "recognition" to
      • You are lucky to live in a 1st world country. Here in Argentina, AFIP will never send you a cheque, even when they *know* you paid twice. In some cases, you can apply overpayments to future payments, in most cases you can't.

      • You obviously don't work in a job that is contact with HMRC. Just because you've had good luck doesn't mean it's the norm. We have clients that have had to sit and wait months for refunds. Also, the centre the adjudicates on whether a refund is accepted is a black box that front line people inside HMRC can't directly be in contact with and can't get word out from. TL:DR It's a shambles
    • This is South Africa. Feel free to hire an army to take the money back.
    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Should five per cent appear too small
      Be thankful I don't take it all
      'Cause I'm the taxman
      Yeah, I'm the taxman

    • In Russia, it's actually possible to be fined for paying too much taxes - I have personally witnessed that (naturally, they didn't return anything, either - the fine was on top of that).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The fundamental problem is wealth redistribution. It sounds good to some people but it all comes back to robbing Peter to pay Paul; most people call it stealing.

    • by Ormy ( 1430821 )
      From a rich person to a bank? How is that redistribution? If the bank gave it all away, to charity, to its poorer customers, its poorer employees, or even just threw it out the window one day, I'd be all for them taking the money from the rich guy and so would most people I'd wager, stealing or not. In reality it will flow into the pockets of other rich guys, that is not redistribution.
    • If Peter robbed Paul first, it seems fine by me.
    • Is it better if Paul robs Peter then fucks him in the ass? What is this Fox News?
  • The real irony is that if it carries on like this the exit charge will be less than the legal costs
  • I think I heard from this guy. I got an email the other day that started "Greetings and blessings to you. I am the right honorable Alfred Depiero, attorney at law for the honorable Mark Shuttleworth. You seem being a person of good moral standing, and such we need your help to move R250m out the country of South Africa. Your fee for performing such service will be $US 5M American dollars payable directly to you." All they wanted was my banking information.

  • How much of a chunk out of his fortune was $20m?

    Since he was willing to donate it as some form of legal aid, I'm assuming it was relatively insiginficant.

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