Company tax franking credits: overview

The purpose of the franking credit trading rules is to prevent the unintended use of franking credits.

Franking credit trading allow persons who are not the economic owners of shares (that is, persons who are not exposed, or have only a small exposure, to the risks of loss and opportunities for gain arising from share ownership) to obtain access to the value of franking credits, which generally would not have been used fully but for the scheme.

The 45-day rule aims to eliminate franking credit trading where franking benefits are received by someone other than the true economic owner of the underlying shares. The rule requires resident taxpayers to hold shares for at least 45 days to be eligible to receive franking benefits from dividends paid on shares. Furthermore, even if the shares were held for at least 45 days, the franking credit is denied if the resident taxpayer has eliminated 70 per cent or more of the ownership risk through other financial transactions during that period. Hence, the rule also specifies a 30 per cent minimum level of ownership risk.

The 45-day rule applies to direct and indirect holdings. However, special considerations apply in relation to interests in shares held through trusts where the interest is itself inherently risk-free.

There are several exceptions to the 45-day rule. One of these is the small shareholder exemption which exempts shareholders from applying the 45-day rule by electing to limit the amount of total franking rebates to which they are entitled. The threshold for the full franking rebate under this rule was $2000.

Why change?

The period for holding shares may be reduced to decrease the restrictions on capital markets while still being sufficient to deter franking credit trading.

Increasing the exemption threshold for franking rebates ensured that small investors are not adversely affected.

What is the change?

The holding period for the holding period rule may be reduced, with the length of the reduced holding period to be decided after further analysis and consultations. In particular, this analysis will assess whether a 15-day holding period, as recommended in Review of Business Taxation: A Tax System Redesigned, is sufficient to deter franking credit trading.

The threshold for the exemption for small shareholders has been increased from $2000 to $5000. The exemption now applies to all individual taxpayers with a total franking rebate entitlement of $5000 or less.

The rules applying to trusts will also be simplified and clarified.

Where can this law be found?

An amendment to section 160APHT of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, inserted by Part 4 of Schedule 3 of the New Business Tax System (Miscellaneous) Act (No. 2) 2000, increases the small shareholder exemption threshold from $2000 to $5000.

There is no legislation yet for the other parts of this measure.

    Last modified: 02 Aug 2016QC 16427