By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
When accountant Mxolisi resigned from a cushy job working for the Auditor General, a role that saw him auditing public entities such as the City of Johannesburg, The City Of Ekurhuleni and the Gauteng Provincial Government, among others in 2018 to embark on a journey of entrepreneurship, he aimed at assisting small businesses to get their books in order. This is after spending two years doing his articles at leading accounting Firm Price Waterhouse Coopers, a company that had offered him a bursary to study accounting at the University of Johannesburg in the first place. He however cut short his articles journey to take up a job with the Auditor General for a year.
As fate would have it, the accountant’s interest in art, like many young people of his age, was restricted to popular genres such as rap music. He had no interest nor knowledge about other art forms such as visual art and institutions that are associated with such art practice, such as galleries.
Ironically however today Mxolisi’ main business is to provide accounting services to artists who are battling the issue of compliance with the Tax Man, a statutory a legal obligation for every citizen earning a leaving as an employee or earning a living by engaging in business. In fact compliance is an essential fact for especially artists who wish to do business with government agencies or wish acquire services offered to the arts sector by the public sector, such as project funding.
However many an artist experiences a headache when it comes to being compliant, missing out on several opportunities in the public sector, regarding funding and other services offered to the arts sector by government. This is simply because artists’ books are often not in order, and in several cases, artists simply do not file Annual Returns with the South African Revenue Services, due to a number of factors, such as ignorance of the process or simply having no clue about how to go about this. This however denies such artists for example to apply for funding with arts agencies such as the National Arts Council Project funding for creatives.
A typical example of this is when the Government last year introduced the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package, (PESP) meant to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the creative sector and to stimulate economic activities in the sector after the devastation of the global pandemic, Covid-19. Although some of the problems related to the PESP disbursement were as a result of the National Arts Council’s own weaknesses, the creatives were also to blame for the chaos that followed the disbursement of these funds as a number of them were excluded from benefitting from these funds, simply because the organisations they run in the main were not compliant and therefore were disqualified by the adjudicators of the PESP. PESP applicants needed to be complaint to be considered as possible beneficiaries to the PESP funds.
This is where Mxolisi comes in, and through his company Sehoole & Associates, he is relieving a number of creatives of this perennial headache and pain by providing a number of services to artists, tailored to the specific needs of the industry, given its informal nature.
“When I started the company in 2018, my idea was to provided accounting services to the small business sector in general, and I had no idea that I would be operating in the creative sector. How I stumbled in this sector and the business opportunities available to accountants in this sector was through an introduction to a gallery by a friend of mine, who asked me to assist a relative of hers who managed an art gallery by providing accounting services to it as she was leaving the accounting profession for training as a pilot.
She is a person I had met at the University of Johannesburg where both of us studied accounting. At the time I never knew what a gallery is to tell you the truth, let alone knowing that a gallery was a business in the arts. I accepted the offer and ended up offering the gallery my services, as one of the very first clients in the creative sector.
From there on I have never looked back and currently my company has signed a big number of clients in the creative sector offering a number of accounting services, such as sorting out their compliance issues as well as offering them accounting management services,” the accountant who is accredited by leading accounting professional bodies such as the South African Institute Business Accounting and the South African Tax Practitioners Association, designations that give him recognition as accounting professionals, revealed.
This journey has been so transformative for this figures man to the extent that these days the accountant is a common figure at major art events such as the Cape Town Art Fair, Turbine Art Fair and is a regular at exhibition openings to the extent that If he has not introduced himself, it is easy to mistake him for one of the artists at exhibition openings. He attends these events to network with artists and inform them of the services he offers to the creative sector.
“Ja. Some people even mistake me for an artist and yet I am actually an accountant, who a few years ago, did not even know what an art gallery is,” he says and amid laughter during this interview with CITYLIFE/AETS conducted in Melville’s Spilt Milk Social Cafe on 7th Street, recently.
And so next time you see Mxolisi at an art exhibition, If you are an artist, remember that he is one of you, not as an artist himself, but an accountant to relieve you of the headache regarding your tax and accounting issues.
Mxolisi can be contact through:firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com