Show download pdf controls
  • Crowdfunding


    Crowdfunding is the practice of using internet platforms, mail-order subscriptions, benefit events and other methods to find supporters and raise funds for a project or venture.

    Crowdfunding is a rapidly evolving industry. This information represents our current view of the tax implications of crowdfunding arrangements. As the industry expands and new developments arise, we will review and update the information.

    If you're involved in crowdfunding – regardless of your role – you need to be aware of the tax consequences. These vary depending on the nature of the arrangement, your role in it and your circumstances.

    It is important to determine whether the money you receive through crowdfunding is income and whether you need to consider GST. If it is income, you will need to include it in your tax return and there may be deductions you can claim.  We also explain the GST requirements if you are subject to GST on transactions.

    Next steps:

    Crowdfunding roles

    There are usually three parties (or roles) in a crowdfunding arrangement:

    • the initiator of the project or venture or the campaign creator (who may act in a personal capacity or use a company or organisation as the vehicle to progress the crowdfunding project or venture) known as the 'promoter'
    • the organisation providing the crowdfunding website or platform, known as the 'intermediary'
    • individuals or entities that contribute or pledge money, known as ‘contributors'.

    Each party may have income tax and GST obligations, depending on their circumstances and the nature of the crowdfunding arrangement.

    Next step:

    Types of crowdfunding

    There are currently four main types (or models) of crowdfunding. Each uses a different strategy to attract funding and each may have different tax consequences for the parties involved.

    In donation-based crowdfunding, a contributor makes a payment (or 'donation') to the project or venture, without receiving anything in return. The contributor's 'donation' may simply be acknowledged – for example, on the crowdfunding website.

    In reward-based crowdfunding, the promoter provides a reward (goods, services or rights) to contributors in return for their payment. For example, the contributor may receive merchandise or a discount. In many cases, there are different levels or types of reward, according to the level of contribution and whether the fundraising reaches the prescribed levels.

    In equity-based crowdfunding, the contributor makes a payment in return for a share (or equity interest) in the company undertaking the project or venture. The share in the company will provide the contributor with certain rights including the right to participate in future profits (dividends), voting rights, and rights to returns of capital upon winding up.

    The Government is currently consulting on the appropriate legislative framework for crowd-sourced equity funding by public companies, including whether the Corporations law should be changed to facilitate access to crowd-sourced equity funding by proprietary companies.

    We will update this guidance for crowdfunding (including examples to assist promoters and contributors) once consultations conclude.

    In debt-based crowdfunding, the contributor lends money to the promoter (or pool of promoters) who, in return, agrees to pay interest and repay principal on the loan.

    Next steps:

    See also:

    Crowdfunding and income tax

    If you earn or receive any money through crowdfunding, some or all of it may be assessable (taxable) income, depending on the nature of the arrangement, your role in it and your circumstances. All assessable income needs to be declared on your tax return.

    Similarly, if any amount is assessable income then some of the costs related to gaining or producing that income may be allowable deductions, providing you have the appropriate records to substantiate your claims.

    The tax laws which apply to investment and financial activity undertaken in a conventional manner (for example, buying goods and services, buying shares, lending money) apply in the same way to investment and financial activity conducted under crowdfunding.

    You must keep records explaining all transactions that relate to your tax affairs, including any crowdfunding arrangement. Generally, you need to keep records of most transactions, in English, for five years. The five years starts from when you prepared or obtained the records, or completed the transactions, whichever is the later.

    Next steps:

    See also:

    Assessable income – promoters

    If you're the promoter in a crowdfunding arrangement, the funds you receive or earn may be assessable income, depending on the nature of the funds and the way in which you receive them.

    Funds you receive or the profit you make through crowdfunding, particularly under a donation-based or a reward-based arrangement, are likely to be assessable income where you:

    • use crowdfunding in the course of your employment
    • enter into a transaction or scheme with the intention or purpose of making a profit or gain
    • receive money or property in the ordinary course of your business (money or property received in exchange for goods and services is income, but money received by way of loan is not).

    Questions you need to consider include:

    • Are you carrying on a business?
    • Is it a profit-making scheme?

    Are you carrying on a business?

    Whether you are carrying on a business and when the business commences are important. For example, you must have made a decision to start your business and have done something about it. If you’re still setting up or preparing to go into business, you might not yet have started the business.

    Not all promoters will be carrying on businesses when they launch, or even complete, crowdfunding projects. To carry on business as a promoter, you need to carry on your activity for commercial reasons and in a commercially viable way. You will undertake activities in a business-like manner including preparing a business plan, acquiring capital assets or inventory in line with the business plan, preparing accounting records, and marketing a business name or product. You have to intend to make a profit or genuinely believe you will make a profit, even if you are unlikely to do so in the short term. There’s usually repetition and regularity to your business activities, although one-off transactions can amount to a business in some cases.

    There may be additional indications that a business is being carried on. For example, promoters who seek to claim the R&D tax incentive must be carrying on a business in order to be eligible for the incentive.

    Money received (or property given) prior to a business being carried on is not generally assessable income. Likewise, you cannot claim deductions incurred prior to the business being carried on.

    See also:

    Is it a profit-making scheme?

    A crowdfunding project will be a profit-making scheme if you launched the project with the intention of making a profit, and the project was entered into and the profit made while carrying out a business operation or commercial transaction.

    It doesn’t matter if:

    • you are not already running a business
    • the project is not part of your usual business activities
    • you don’t have a clear idea of how you will make the profit.

    If you expect to make a profit when you launch a project, and you run the project in a businesslike way, any funds raised by the project will be taken into account in determining your profit.

    Other tax consequences

    There may also be other income tax consequences – for example, assessable recoupment, capital gains tax (CGT) or trading stock may be relevant to your circumstances.

    See also:

    Assessable income – intermediaries

    Typically, promoters make use of crowdfunding websites (or platforms) which provide a way of marketing the project or venture, connecting to potential funders and receiving pledges of support or payments from funders.

    The crowdfunding platform is usually provided by a third party (or intermediary) who typically charges the promoter a flat fee or a percentage of the total funds received.

    If you're the intermediary in a crowdfunding arrangement, the fees you charge and some or all of the total funding may be assessable income.

    Assessable income – contributors

    If you contribute funds to a crowdfunding venture or project, any promised return to you may be assessable income.

    More examples are currently being developed to assist contributors.

    Examples for promoters

    The examples below describe various crowdfunding scenarios and explain whether the money earned or received is assessable income. The examples cover a range of promoter circumstances:

    In the examples, it is assumed that the intermediary carries on a business in Australia and all promoters are Australian residents.

    Personal or private arrangements

    The following example describes a crowdfunding arrangement that is purely personal or private in nature, with no commercial or businesslike activities and no intention to make a profit.

    Example 1: Tiffany's surgery and rehabilitation costs

    Debbie owns a pet poodle, called Tiffany. Tiffany has a congenital heart defect and requires surgery. The surgery, and ancillary rehabilitation, is estimated to cost $10,500 (including GST).

    Debbie cannot afford the surgery, so she establishes a crowdfunding project through intermediary, Crowdfund, a specialist personal-interest crowdfunding platform. Crowdfund charges flat membership fees instead of contingent fees.

    Debbie’s project will last for five days on an ‘all-in’ basis. If the funding target is reached, Debbie will set up a blog to follow Tiffany’s future adventures.

    Debbie’s project is overwhelmingly successful. She receives the funds and they are used exclusively for Tiffany’s surgery and rehabilitation. Debbie’s blog becomes extremely popular, but she hasn't yet been approached by advertisers or internet companies to make a profit from the traffic on her blog.

    End of example

    In example 1, the crowdfunded amount is not part of Debbie’s assessable income because:

    • her actions do not constitute carrying on a business or profit-making scheme
    • she is not receiving any regular or recurring payments, and does not supply anything of value to funders
    • there are no commercial or businesslike operations.

    An alternative analysis might be that Debbie’s crowdfunding project is similar to receiving a gift. A gift is generally not income, and in these circumstances, the funding is based on generosity and goodwill.

    Either analysis is reasonable in Debbie’s circumstances.

    If Debbie later decides to continue with her blog and make a profit from the traffic on her blog, the tax consequences for the amount generated from advertising will depend on her circumstances at that time.

    Activity might become a business in future

    The following example describes a crowdfunding arrangement that currently has no commercial or businesslike characteristics and there is no intention to make a profit. While there may be plans to commercialise the operation in future, there is currently no indication of this.

    Example 2: Coastalville Surf Club renovations

    Aaron, Stephen, Cissie and Wendy live in Coastalville. The Coastalville Surf Lifesaving Club (CSLSC) owns a surf club building (surf club) in Coastalville that is in a state of disrepair. The CSLSC cannot afford to update and refurbish the surf club and is considering selling it to Big Smoke, a property developer. The CSLSC is a not-for-profit registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and is a deductible gift recipient.

    Aaron, Stephen, Cissie and Wendy lead a community group opposed to selling the surf club. They use an intermediary to launch a crowdfunding project with the aim of raising funds to update the surf club, including repainting and replacing the slats on the deck.

    CSLSC supports the project (but not in any legal, financial or other arrangement). The community group dedicates its time voluntarily for the project’s duration. The group establish a bank account called ‘the CSLSC improvement fund’ of which Aaron, Stephen, Cissie and Wendy are all signatories. The project is for two months with no cap on the funding or number of contributors.

    The project goes viral due to creative Twitter use by Cissie. At the end of two months, the project has received $2 million (less fees). All the funds received will be used by CSLSC which has authorised the group to carry out its proposed activities; however, CSLSC is still in confidential talks with Big Smoke negotiating a price for selling the surf club.

    End of example

    In Example 2, the funds raised by Aaron, Stephen, Cissie and Wendy are not assessable income because:

    • it is a one-off transaction outside the ordinary course of business
    • there is no indication of a profit-making scheme or that the transaction is commercial in character
    • the group’s actions are not of a businesslike nature.

    While there may be plans to commercialise the operation in future; we cannot draw this conclusion. The current operations and intentions demonstrate an undertaking built on community values and responsibility.

    Too early to be in business

    The following example describes a crowdfunding arrangement where the activity may either be a hobby or in the very early stages of establishing a business, but is not yet operating as a business.

    Example 3: Georgina's film-making project

    Georgina wants to make a film. She doesn't have the funds, so she establishes a project on a crowdfunding website. This is not Georgina’s first film production. She funded her last film herself but did not make a profit (she only sold a handful of copies through social media).

    Georgina is a full-time employee of a large publicly listed company ZYX Ltd which is not connected and does not contribute to the crowdfunding project.

    On the crowdfunding website, Georgina is offering a digital video disc (DVD) of the film in return for funding. She does not intend to offer the film for public sale in any format at this time.

    The intermediary that operates the website does so on an ‘all-in’ or ‘all-or-nothing’ basis (that is, if the funding target is not achieved Georgina does not receive any money).

    If the funding target is met, Georgina will use all the funds for the project and she will not keep any funds for herself or draw personal wages from it. The intermediary charges a flat fee for the service and a percentage fee for transmitting funds.

    End of example

    In Example 3, the money Georgina receives through crowdfunding is not assessable income because:

    • her employer is not contributing to the crowdfunding project, and it is entirely unrelated to her employment
    • Georgina does not show an intention to profit from the film
    • she has not previously profited from her films and the project is not a commercial transaction or business operation
    • her actions do not constitute carrying on a business or businesslike operation
    • she's either in the preparatory stages of establishing a new business or film-making is merely a hobby.

    If Georgina makes plans in the future to sell DVDs, the tax consequences for the money she receives from the sale of the DVDs will depend on her circumstances at that time.

    Starting a business

    The following example describes an activity that is being conducted in a businesslike manner with the intention to make a profit.

    Example 4: The Boiliz kettle

    Liz has invented a new method for boiling water which is about 10 times faster than the common kettle. Liz’s prototype ‘Boiliz’ kettle – funded by her own money with assistance from an Australian Government science grant and donations received through a letterbox drop and door knocking initiative – cost her $45,000.

    She estimates that, if she can produce approximately 10,000 kettles and they are all sold at $80 each, she will break even. Although this would include buying some new machinery and hiring contractors, she decides to attempt this production. Liz establishes an incorporated entity called Boiliz Pty Ltd (she is the only shareholder/director) and hires a financial adviser to manage her accounts.

    Liz engages an intermediary to establish a project on its crowdfunding platform to obtain her funding. The intermediary charges Boiliz Pty Ltd 4.5% of all funding as a fee.

    The Boiliz crowdfunding project has the following parameters:

    • contributors can pledge from a minimum of $80 to a maximum of $1,000
    • each contributor is guaranteed one Boiliz kettle (regardless of the amount pledged), delivered to them within 24 months of the end of the project
    • the target is $80,000 (under which she would receive nothing), however there is no upper limit on the funding,
    • the project will run for three months.

    The project goes viral and receives $750,000 from contributors. Liz realises that she will now require much more sophisticated equipment and she has received advice that she should restructure her business operations more generally. This process has begun.

    End of example

    In Example 4, the $750,000 received from the crowdfunding project is assessable income of Boiliz Pty Ltd. Based on Liz’s actions, it's reasonable to conclude that Boiliz Pty Ltd is carrying on a business and it's not just an intention to engage in business:

    • the scale of the business increased from a mere prototype to a commercial production line
    • the activities are conducted in a businesslike manner – that is, in a systematic and organised way through an incorporated entity.

    It is reasonable to conclude that Boiliz Pty Ltd is carrying on a business.

    Expanding an existing business

    The following example describes a crowdfunding project directly related to expanding an existing business.

    Example 5: Production of alpaca yarns

    Anita carries a business of selling yarns, including those sourced from six alpacas on her farm. In the past, she has entered into contracts with third parties to use the fibres from her alpacas’ fleeces to spin it into yarns and dye the resulting yarns.

    Anita would like to extend her business by spinning and dyeing the alpaca yarns herself and increasing the number of alpacas to increase the quantity of yarn she can sell.

    In order to fund this expanded production, Anita engages an intermediary to establish a crowdfunding project on their crowdfunding platform. The intermediary charges Anita a fee of 5% of all funds raised.

    Anita has a blog and writes about the project on her website. She also advertises the project on various other websites to attract contributors from the knitting community. She offers to give each contributor yarns produced by her in exchange for their contribution, on a sliding scale. The project is hugely successful. Anita receives pledges sufficient to carry out the extension of her business and also has new customers that have come to her as contributors.

    End of example

    In Example 5, the amounts Anita received through the crowdfunding project are assessable income because:

    • the project was entered into as an ordinary part of carrying on a business
    • she is in the business of selling yarns and the project is directly related to expanding a product line within that business.

    Factors such as advertising to actively seek contributors, the use of contributions for expansion, the provision of yarns to contributors in return for their contributions and an intention to increase the number of alpacas all point to commercial purpose of production and sale of alpaca yarns as part of a business of selling yarns.

    Income tax implications of different crowdfunding models

    The following commentary of the four crowdfunding models assumes that the promoter is carrying on a business or has a profit making intention or purpose. If the promoter is not carrying on a business and does not have a profit-making intention or purpose, then the following commentary is not applicable.

    Reward-based crowdfunding model

    Under this crowdfunding model, contributors provide money to the promoter in return for the supply of goods or services.

    The exact nature of the legal obligation of the promoter to supply the goods or services to the contributor may vary significantly under this model. Generally speaking, the promoter will be legally bound to any promise or commitment they have made to contributors.

    Are contributions received by the promoter income?

    Where the promoter is carrying on a business, the reward-based crowdfunding model can be characterised as the ordinary business of making sales to customers with an obligation to deliver goods or services. Since the supply of the goods or services is the business of the promoter, the funds are received in the ordinary course of business and are ordinary income.

    Recognition or timing of the income depends on whether the promoter accounts for the income on a cash (receipts) or accruals (earnings) basis.

    Under cash accounting, income is usually derived when it is received (either actually or constructively). However, cash accounting may not give a true indication of the promoter’s income and depending on the promoter’s circumstances, it may not be appropriate.

    Under accruals accounting, income is derived when it is earned (that is, a recoverable debt is created). In certain scenarios, this may not occur until the goods or services are provided to the contributors. In the case of crowdfunding, this may require a certain fundraising target being met. If the goods and services are not provided and the funds are refunded (for example, see Kickstarter terms), no income would have been earned.

    See also:

    The cost of goods or services provided by the promoter to the contributor, and other associated expenses, may be deductible for the promoter provided the general tax deductibility rulesExternal Link are satisfied (for example, deductions may be claimed for the cost of goods sold). The deduction arises when the expense is incurred (that is, when a current legal obligation arises to pay for the required inputs to provide the goods or services to the contributor), subject to the operation of the trading stock rulesExternal Link.

    Tax consequences for the contributor

    The tax consequences for each contributor will depend on that contributor’s circumstances and the purpose for acquiring the goods or services. For many, the acquisition of the goods or services will be purely private in nature and not deductible. However, for some contributors the goods or services may be acquired as part of an ongoing business and the cost may be a deductible business expense, subject to satisfying the general deductibility rules.

    See also:

    Example 6: Maria's designer jewellery

    Maria runs her own designer jewellery business. She recently travelled to Spain and saw some additional jewellery designs that she would like to introduce into her business.

    As Maria has a shortage of working capital she seeks additional funds through a crowdfunding platform to help introduce the new jewellery line.

    Under the terms of the crowdfunding agreement, contributors are invited to participate by pledging $100 for which they are guaranteed two pieces of jewellery from the new line.

    After a few months the crowdfunding target of $10,000 is met and Maria fulfils the orders.

    Since Maria is carrying on a business, and the supply of jewellery is the business of the company, the funds will be ordinary income and a tax deduction will arise for the cost of goods sold (that is, the cost of providing the new jewellery).

    As Maria accounts for income on an accruals (or earnings) basis, the $10,000 received is recognised as income when the jewellery is delivered to contributors.

    End of example

    Donation-based crowdfunding model

    Under the donation-based crowdfunding model (and promoters are carrying on a business or have a profit-making intention), promoters do not commit to provide anything of material value to contributors. Instead, the promoter may simply acknowledge the contributions made, often in the form of a list of contributors on its website, and use the money for the purpose stated in the crowdfunding campaign.

    Are the contributions received by the promoter income?

    Whether the receipt of a voluntary payment is assessable income will often need to be determined on a case by case basis. The courts have established a number of principles for deciding whether voluntary payments are assessable income.

    The most decisive principle is whether it is connected enough for the funds to be considered a product of the income-producing activities of the promoter.

    In many cases it will be possible to identify a common understanding between a promotor and a contributor. A typical crowdfunding campaign will often state a broad purpose funds will be used for (for example, to fund production). Likewise, the contributor will often commit to a production timeline, including milestones such as full production and first shipments.

    In other words, the common understanding is that the funds will be received to further the business of the promoter, indicating the funds are a product of the income-producing activities of the promoter.

    Similar to the reward-based crowdfunding model, recognition or timing of the income depends on whether the promoter:

    • accounts for the income on a cash (receipts) or accruals (earnings) basis;
    • is under an legal or practical obligation to refund the donations (including as damages).

    Tax consequences for the contributor

    Funds contributed by an individual who is not carrying on a business are not deductible. Donations made to deductible gift recipients may be deductible. However, funds contributed in the course of carrying on a business may be deductible as ordinary business expenses (for example, sponsorship and marketing) if they satisfy the requirements of section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997.

    See also:

    Example 7: Environment-friendly waste cement disposal

    New Action is in the business of supplying concrete, sand and aggregate to the local region. The management of the company is concerned about the impact that leftover ready-mix cement can have on the environment.

    To help explore innovative ways to dispose of the leftover cement, they invite public participation through a donation-based crowdfunding platform to help them identify ways to address the problem. They have been experimenting with a special process and additive for some time with promising results but do not yet have the funds to drive development further and create a commercially-viable product.

    Management explains to potential contributors that, in addition to helping the environment, if their idea takes off it will help grow the business and allow them to exploit further business opportunities with the product.

    The business turns to a crowdfunding platform to help raise the $75,000 needed to drive development. Contributors are not provided with any return or reward for their contribution but are satisfied that the contribution they make will help the environment. Their contribution will be acknowledged on the company’s website.

    After a few months the $75,000 crowdfunding target is met. Since New Action is carrying on a business of supplying concrete, sand and aggregate, the funds are ordinary income. The fact that New Action actively solicited the funding to pursue its future income-producing activities is relevant in this conclusion.

    New Action accounts for income on an accruals basis and is legally obliged to repay the funds if it does not spend at least $75,000 on the experimentation with special processes. The income is recognised by New Action at the earlier of when the funds are spent,or when the funds are no longer required to be repaid.

    One of the contributors is a business which supplies the additive and makes a donation (in the form of a grant) to encourage development of the new process. If the new process is successful it is likely to result in an immediate increase in their sales of the additive. In this case, a deduction may be available for the contributor's donation as an ordinary business expense.

    A further contributor is a local business selling hamburgers near the New Action plant, who makes a donation on the condition they will get acknowledgement and publicity for their support of the project. As a result of the positive publicity, hamburger sales increase dramatically. In these cases a deduction may be available to the contributor for the contributor's donation as an ordinary business expense.

    End of example

    Equity-based crowdfunding model

    Although equity-based funding is only available in limited circumstances in Australia, certain proposed regulatory changes may facilitate increased use of this model.

    Under the equity-based crowdfunding model, contributors provide money to the promoter in return for a share or other equity interest in the company undertaking the project or venture.

    Are the contributions received by the promoter income?

    In contrast to reward-based funding and donation-based crowdfunding funding models funds received by the promoter will not be income in their hands. Instead, they will form part of the share capital of the company undertaking the project or venture.

    Providing a share or equity interest in the promoter may confer certain rights to the contributor, including dividend rights, voting rights, and rights to returns of capital upon winding up.

    Dividends paid to contributors holding shares or other equity interests will be non-deductible for the promoter, but they may be able to frank those distributions. The promoter will need to consider whether withholding tax applies to distributions made to overseas shareholdings.

    Tax consequences for the contributor

    For contributors, the funds they contribute to promoters are not deductible.

    Dividends paid to contributors will be assessable income in their hands, while returns of capital are not assessable but generally reduce the cost base of the share or equity interest. The subsequent disposal of shares in a company may also trigger CGT consequences.

    Contributors may be able to claim a deduction for interest charged on money borrowed for the crowdfunding investment, which produces assessable dividend income. However, only interest expenses incurred for an income-producing purpose are deductible. If the money borrowed is used for both private and income-producing purposes, the interest expense needs to be apportioned between each purpose.

    Example 8: Innovative crop spraying

    Turner and Co is in the business of making fertilizers for farmers. To help grow the business, it wants to develop a drone that will allow farmers to spray their crops without the need for employing a specialist (flying) crop duster.

    Turner and Co has had some promising results with a drone developed in collaboration with a drone manufacturer. It wants to expand the idea and develop the drone into a commercially available product. It does not have sufficient funds to develop the product itself so it approaches a crowdfunding platform to help raise the $50,000 needed to drive development. As part of the crowdfunding arrangement, contributors are provided with ordinary shares in Turner and Co for their investment, with the amount of shares allocated to each contributor based on the amount invested.

    Turner and Co raises the $50,000 needed to go into production. The funds received by the company will not be income in its hands, but will form part of the share capital of Turner and Co. The provision of shares to contributors provides contributors with ownership rights. Dividends paid to contributors will be assessable in contributors’ hands and are capable of being franked.

    End of example

    See also:

    Debt-based crowdfunding model

    Debt-based crowdfunding involves a loan by a contributor to a promoter, who in return agrees to pay interest to the contributor and repay the principal.

    Are the contributions received by the promoter income?

    Where a contributor lends funds to a crowdfunding promoter, the promoter will not be assessed on receipt of those funds.

    The interest expense incurred by the promoter will be deductible if they satisfy the tax deductibility rules in section 8-1 or Division 230 of the ITAA 1997. If the interest is paid to non-resident contributors, the promoter will need to consider whether relevant withholding tax applies.

    Tax consequences for the contributor

    The interest income derived by the contributor will be assessable income. The income will generally be derived when received, although certain contributors may be required to recognise the income on an accruals basis.

    Contributors may be able to claim a deduction for certain fees and other costs (such as borrowing costs) for managing their loans.

    Example 9: Software Application

    Rajit Industries are IT developers and consultants. They are in the process of developing a new computer software application to help consumers find tradesmen to perform work at their home or workplace.

    They want to develop the app further and make it commercially available, but they do not have sufficient funds. They approach a crowdfunding platform to help raise the $30,000 needed to drive development. As part of the crowdfunding arrangement, contributors are invited to loan funds for which Rajit agrees to pay interest and repay the principal.

    Rajit Industries raises the $30,000 needed to develop the application. The funds received by them will not be income in their hands. Interest repayments made to contributors will be deductible for Rajit.

    End of example

    See also:

    Innovation incentives

    Tax incentive for early stage investors

    Parliament has passed measures which will give concessional tax treatment to investors promoting investment in innovative, high-growth potential start-up companies.

    The incentive applies to interests issued by an early stage innovation company (ESIC), which is an Australian-incorporated company that is:

    • at an early stage of its development; and
    • developing new or significantly improved innovations for the purpose of commercialising and generating an economic return.

    An investor in an ESIC may be eligible for the following incentives if they do not hold a more than 30% interest in the ESIC:

    • a 20% non-refundable carry-forward tax offset (based on the value of the investment), capped at $200,000 per investor per year (retail investors are subject to an investment limit of $50,000 per investor per year); and
    • a 10 year exemption on CGT, provided investments are held for 12 months or more.

    The tax offset will be available upon investment, not when the funds are used by the ESIC, and any sale of the shares will be taxed on a 'deemed capital account' basis.

    These incentives apply to the 2016-17 and subsequent income years.

    See also:

    Crowdfunding and GST

    Crowdfunding transactions may be subject to GST, depending on the type and nature of the arrangement.

    See also:

    Crowdfunding and disaster assistance

    Some crowdfunding platform appeals seek funds to assist businesses, including primary producers affected by severe drought conditions or natural disasters such as bushfires or floods.

    How these campaigns affect your assessable income depends on whether you are a promoter or intermediary of these platforms, or if you contribute to a campaign run on these platforms.

    Businesses who receive assistance from crowdfunding platforms must consider how these payments affect their tax.

    Tax consequences for recipients of drought or disaster assistance

    If you or your business receive assistance payments from private funds, charitable groups or crowdfunding platforms the effect on your tax depends on how you use the funds.

    Where the payments are intended to be used for business expenses they must be declared as assessable income. However, you may also be able to claim the associated business expenses as tax deductions. For example, if you spent all the money buying livestock feed (a deductible expense) there will be no net effect on your income tax. The increase in assessable income will be offset by the increase in deductions claimed.

    If the amounts received are intended to be used for personal emergency relief such as food or clothing, or other such non-business purposes, they are not included in your assessable income.

    See also:

    Example 10: Crowdfunding amounts used for business expenses

    Kevin is a farmer who receives money from a crowdfunding campaign fund set up to raise money to help farmers cope with the drought.

    Kevin receives $130,000 for his business. He spends $120,000 on deductible expenses such as hay and water for his livestock.

    Kevin declares $130,000 in his assessable income and deducts $120,000 as deductible expenses. The GST treatment of Kevin's purchases is as normal.

    End of example


    Example 11: Crowdfunding amounts used to buy capital assets

    Oliver is a farmer who receives money from a crowdfunding campaign fund set up to raise money to help farmers who have been impacted by recent bushfires.

    Oliver receives $50,000 for his business. He spends $30,000 on fencing supplies and $20,000 replacing quad bikes that were destroyed in the fires. These are capital assets for the business.

    Oliver includes the $50,000 in his assessable income at the end of the year. The amounts he spent on capital assets will be deductible in the year they were first used as they are each below the applicable instant asset write-off threshold.

    End of example

    Tax consequences for contributors to drought assistance

    If you are an individual not carrying on a business, money you contribute to a drought help crowdfunding platform is not deductible.

    However, donations made to deductible gift recipients are generally deductible.

    Example 12: Contributing to crowdfunding for drought assistance

    Steve has decided to give $30,000 to drought-affected farmers. Steve uses ABN lookup to check the deductible gift recipient statusExternal Link of the entities he plans to donate to.

    He donates $12,000 to a charity that is running a ‘Buy a Bale’ campaign. As the charity is a deductible gift recipient Steve can claim a tax deduction for that amount.

    Steve also calls a feedstock retailer in Tamworth and pays for $10,000 worth of hay (including the delivery fees) to be delivered to anyone in need locally. Steve is not entitled to a tax deduction for this.

    Finally, Steve goes to a crowdfunding website and donates $8,000 to a farmer who has requested assistance to keep his business afloat. The farmer is not a deductible gift recipient. Steve is not entitled to a tax deduction for this donation.

    End of example

    See also:

    More information

    If you're unsure of your circumstances you may need to seek professional advice from us or a registered tax professional.

    Even if you receive professional advice or use a tax professional to prepare your return, you're still responsible for providing proof of your income and deductions. Penalties may apply if you don't report your income correctly or if you claim deductions you're not entitled to.

    We provide tailored technical assistance in some circumstances, orally or in writing, depending on the nature and complexity of your query. If the information on our website does not answer all of your questions, the quickest way to get in touch with our technical experts is to send a short email, including your name and contact details, to (note: as email is not a secure channel do not include your tax file number. Please include your name and contact number for assistance).

      Last modified: 31 Jan 2020QC 46617