Bonus shares



This information may not apply to the current year. Check the content carefully to ensure it is applicable to your circumstances.

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Bonus shares are additional shares a shareholder receives in relation to an existing holding of shares in a company. If you dispose of bonus shares received on or after 20 September 1985, then you may make a capital gain. You may also have to modify the cost base and reduced cost base of your existing shares in the company if you receive bonus shares.

The cost base and reduced cost base of bonus shares depend on whether the bonus shares are assessable as a dividend.

As a result of changes to the company law and taxation laws, the paid-up value of bonus shares is now generally not assessable as a dividend. An exception to this rule is where you have the choice of being paid a cash dividend or of being issued shares under a dividend reinvestment plan. These shares are treated as dividends and the amount of the dividend is included in your assessable income.

The following table explains how the time of issue of your bonus shares affects whether the paid-up value of the bonus shares is assessed as a dividend.


Implications of timing of bonus shares

From 20 September 1985 to 30 June 1987 inclusive

Many bonus shares issued were paid out of a company's asset revaluation reserve or from a share premium account. These bonus shares are not usually assessable dividends.

From 1 July 1987 to 30 June 1998 inclusive

The paid-up value of bonus shares issued is assessed as a dividend unless paid from a share premium account.

From 1 July 1998

The paid-up value of bonus shares issued is not assessed as a dividend unless part of the dividend was paid in cash or paid as part of a dividend reinvestment plan.

There are other, less common circumstances where bonus shares will be assessed as a dividend - for example, where:

  • the bonus shares are being substituted for a dividend to give a tax advantage, or
  • the company directs bonus shares to some shareholders and dividends to others to give them a tax benefit.

Flowchart 1 in appendix 3 summarises the different rules applying to different bonus shares issued on or after 20 September 1985.

For more information about bonus shares, refer to Bonus shares issued where no amount is assessed as a dividend

Last modified: 04 Mar 2016QC 27527