ato logo
Search Suggestion:

Children's share investments

If your child is under 18 years old and they buy shares, find out about quoting a TFN and declaring dividends.

Last updated 29 June 2023

Quoting a tax file number

When you buy shares, you have a choice whether you quote a tax file number (TFN).

If you quote a TFN, you pay taxes on the dividends when you lodge the tax return. If the shareholder is the:

  • child, quote the child's TFN
  • parent, as trustee for the child, and
    • no formal trust exists, quote the parent's TFN
    • there is a formal trust, quote the trust's TFN.

A child can apply for a tax file number (TFN) – there is no minimum age. Children are not exempt from quoting a TFN.

If you don't quote a TFN, pay as you go (PAYG) tax will be withheld at 47% from the unfranked amount of your dividend income.

Declaring dividends

Whoever rightfully owns and controls the shares declares the dividends and any net capital loss or gain from the sale of shares. You need to consider who:

  • provides the money for the shares
  • makes share decisions
  • spends the dividend income.

If there are large amounts of money or a regular turnover, you might need to examine the ownership of the shares further, including finding more information to work out who should declare the dividends.

Income from shares is treated differently to income from interest (for example, from Children's savings accounts).

Lodging a tax return

If your child owns shares and earns more than $416, you must lodge a tax return on their behalf.

If your child earns $416 or less, you may also want to:

  • lodge a tax return on their behalf if too much PAYG tax was withheld, or
  • claim a refund for franking credit by lodging a tax return or completing an Application for refund of franking credit.

For more information on the income tax rates for people under 18, see Your income if you are under 18 years old.


Start of example

Example – declaring dividends under $416 on parents tax return

Peter withdraws $3,000 from his own bank account to buy shares in the name of his daughter Georgia. Peter quotes his TFN when he buys the shares.

He deposits the dividend of $200 into his own bank account and uses it for his own personal expenses.

Peter declares the $200 on his tax return. When he sells the shares, he will also declare any capital gain or loss.

End of example


Start of example

Example – declaring dividends on child's tax return

Sara buys shares for her child, Michael, with money given to him for his birthday. Sara holds the shares for the benefit of Michael with the share broker until he turns 18. No formal trust deed has been created. Sara quotes Michael's TFN when she buys the shares.

All dividends have been reinvested through a dividend reinvestment plan.

The dividends are declared on Michael's tax returns.

When Michael turns 18 years old, the shares will be transferred to him through an off-market transfer. As he remains the beneficial owner of the shares, there will be no capital gain or loss for either Sara or Michael on the transfer.

End of example


Start of example

Example – declaring dividends on child's tax return

Simon withdraws $5,000 from his bank account to buy shares in the name of his son Jordan. He quotes Jordan's TFN when he buys the shares.

Simon makes all the decisions about those shares as Jordan is only 3 years old.

All dividend income and any profit from the sale of those shares are deposited into a bank account in Jordan's name with Simon as trustee.

The dividends and capital gains are declared on Jordan's tax return.

End of example


Start of example

Example – declaring dividends on child's tax return

Jenny buys shares on behalf of her daughter, Talia, with money saved from Talia's part-time job, plus money received for Talia's birthday. Talia and Jenny decide not to quote Talia's TFN.

Dividends of $500 are deposited in Talia's bank account.

Talia declares the $500 on her tax return. She will need to make an adjustment in her tax return so that the proportion of the dividend that relates to her employment income is taxed at normal tax rates. The proportion that relates to the gift money is taxed at a higher rate. When those shares are sold, any capital gain or loss from the sale will belong to Talia.

End of example