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Distributable surplus

How to calculate the distributable surplus of a private company and its effect on amounts treated as dividends.

Last updated 7 February 2017

The total of all deemed dividends that a private company is taken to pay under Division 7A is limited to its distributable surplus for that income year. The amount of a private company's distributable surplus for its income year is calculated according to the distributable surplus formula.

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    • Distributable surplus formula
    • Division 7A amounts
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    • Non-commercial loans
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    • Paid up share value
    • Written statement.

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Retained earnings and distributable surplus

A private company's retained earnings and its distributable surplus will not necessarily be the same.

For example, when working out a private company's distributable surplus the definition of 'net assets' provides that only present legal obligations and certain provisions are taken into account. In contrast, a company may choose to include additional provisions for accounting purposes. If so, the retained earnings figure in a private company's balance sheet may be less than the distributable surplus.

Effect of distributable surplus on dividends

The total amount treated as dividends under Division 7A in an income year is limited to the private company's distributable surplus.

If the total amount that would be treated as dividends (if not for this limitation) is greater than the private company's distributable surplus, the amount of the provisional dividend is reduced to reflect the lower amount of the distributable surplus as follows:

Provisional dividend multiplied by distributable surplus for the income year divided by total of provisional dividends for the income year

Start of example

Example 1 – distributable surplus limits shareholder's dividend

On 3 March 2015, DJ's Pty Ltd loaned $500 to its shareholder Jenn. Assuming the $500 loan is treated as a dividend, on 30 June 2015 DJ's Pty Ltd is taken to pay a dividend of $500 to Jenn.

For the income year ended 30 June 2015, DJ's Pty Ltd has a distributable surplus of $900. The value of loans and payments by DJ's Pty Ltd to shareholders and its associates which would be treated as dividends for that year (including Jenn's loan) is $1,000. This is the total of provisional dividends.

The amount that is therefore treated as a dividend to Jenn is $450, worked out as follows:

$500 multiplied by $900 divided by $1,000 equals $450

This example shows the calculation of the amount treated as a dividend and illustrates the proportional reduction of provisional dividend where the distributable surplus is less than the total of provisional dividends.

Jenn includes $450 in her 2015 tax return as an unfranked dividend.

End of example

Requirement to issue a written statement

If an amount treated as a dividend is reduced because it is limited to the private company's distributable surplus, the private company must issue a written statement to the shareholder or shareholder's associate.

The written statement must state the private company's distributable surplus and the total of dividends, called the 'provisional dividends', for its income year.

The written statement will allow the shareholder or their associate to work out by how much each dividend is to be reduced.

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