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Franking dividends in Australia: an insightful guide for Australian investors

11/11/2023 by
The Marketing Team
Are you curious about how franking dividends work in Australia? This Business Kitz article serves as your comprehensive guide. You will understand what franking dividends signify, its history and purpose, and the significant tax implications it carries. Furthermore, you'll discover the specifics of setting up a franking account and utilising franking credits. We will also […]

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Are you curious about how franking dividends work in Australia? This Business Kitz article serves as your comprehensive guide. You will understand what franking dividends signify, its history and purpose, and the significant tax implications it carries.

Furthermore, you'll discover the specifics of setting up a franking account and utilising franking credits. We will also delve into the contemporary debates, criticisms, and possible changes to the system. By the end of this guide, you'll be fully equipped to navigate the complex world of franking dividends with confidence.

How does the functioning of frank dividends in Australia work?

In the landscape of Australian finance and investing, one concept that is critical for every investor to comprehend is dividend franking. Let's dive in to understand this complex yet rewarding financial phenomenon.

Definition of franking dividends

Franking dividends, also known as imputation dividends, are payments made to shareholders by corporations that have already paid taxes on their profits. This means that the burden of double taxation, i.e., on corporate profits and personal dividends, is averted. This practice is distinct to Australia and a few other countries.

How dividend franking works

When Australian corporations pay tax on their profits, they receive franking credits. When these profits are subsequently shared as dividends, the shareholders, along with the dividends, also receive these franking credits. These credits can be used to offset the personal income tax of the shareholder.

The history and purpose of dividend franking

The dividend franking system was introduced in Australia in July 1987. The primary goal was to foster equity among investors by mitigating the double taxation that occurred - first at a corporate level and then at a personal level through dividends. Over time, this system has evolved and is much appreciated by the Australian investment community.

Advantages of dividend franking

Dividend franking brings notable advantages to shareholders. Firstly, it offsets personal income tax liabilities, hence lowering the overall tax burden. Secondly, it encourages the Australian corporate sector to pay taxes honestly and promptly. Lastly, it incentivises shareholders to invest in Australian companies, ultimately strengthening the Australian economy.

What is a franking account and franking credits?

Setting up a franking account in Australia may appear daunting at first, but it's a straightforward procedure once you understand the mechanics behind it. Let's dive deeper to comprehend better this concept and how it can benefit Australian investors.

How to set up a franking account

To set up a franking account, the first step involves contacting your financial institution or advisor. They can assist with setting up the account, ensuring it complies with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) regulations. Additionally, understanding your investment strategy is crucial in setting up an account that best supports it.

Understanding franking credits

Franking credits are tax payments made to shareholders by corporations, essentially reducing or providing relief to those shareholders from double taxation. Essentially, if a company paid tax on its profit, shareholders receive a franked dividend and a franking credit, representing the tax already paid by the company.

Earning and using franking credits

A shareholder can earn franking credits when she or he gets a franked dividend from an Australian corporation. They can be used to offset your income tax liability. Furthermore, if the total of your franking credits exceeds your income tax liability in the current financial year, you might be eligible for a franking credit refund.

Common FAQ about franking credits

Some commonly asked questions include, "How do franking credits work?", "What are the eligibility requirements?", and "Can I claim a refund?". The ATO provides detailed guidance and FAQs on their website and your financial advisor can also be a valuable resource in answering these queries.

What are the tax implications of franking dividends?

As an investor, it's essential to understand the tax implications of franking dividends. These concepts can significantly affect your overall returns and long-term investment strategies. Here’s all you need to know about the tax implications of franking dividends in Australia.

Tax treatment of franked dividends

In Australia, the tax treatment of franked dividends can be quite beneficial for investors. When a company pays out a dividend that has been franked, the company has already paid the corporate tax on that income. The investor is then credited for that tax paid. Consequently, your tax payable can be significantly reduced, or you could even get a tax refund if your marginal tax rate is lower than the corporate tax rate.

Claiming franking credit refunds

Franking credits, or imputation credits, are a type of tax credit that shareholders can use to offset their tax liability. If the total of an investor's franking credits exceed their tax liability for the year, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) refunds the excess credits to the investor. Keep in mind the necessary steps to be eligible for a refund, such as the 45-day holding period rule, which stipulates that, to claim a franking credit refund, you must hold the shares 'at risk' for a minimum of 45 days.

The impact of tax rates on franked dividends

It's important to understand that your personal tax rate impacts how much benefit you derive from franked dividends. If your personal tax rate is less than the company's tax rate, you might get a refund for the difference. Conversely, if your personal tax rate is higher, you will owe the difference. This is the essence of the dividend imputation system, ensuring that income is taxed at the shareholder’s marginal rate, preventing double taxation.

What are the criticisms and controversies surrounding dividend franking?

Despite the potential benefits, dividend franking is not without its criticisms and controversies. It has been subject to extensive debates and potential reforms to address the perceived issues.

Arguments for and against dividend franking

The main argument in favour of franking dividends is that it prevents double taxation of profits. However, critics argue that the system primarily benefits the wealthier individuals who have substantial share investments. This leads to a significant loss of tax revenue for the government, which could be used for public services or infrastructure.

Recent debates on dividend franking policies

The dividend franking system was a hot topic in the 2019 Australian Federal Election. The proposed policy changes sparked widespread discussion about taxation fairness and the impact on different groups of Australians, particularly retirees who rely on franking credit refunds as part of their income.

Possible reforms to the dividend franking system

Some of the potential reforms for the dividend franking system include restricting refunds of excess franking credits or abolishing the system entirely. However, these proposed changes are contentious and come with their own economic and social implications. As an investor, keeping informed about these potential changes is integral to making sound investment decisions.

Wrapping up your franking journey

At this stage, you've had an extensive look into the concept of dividend franking, its history, purpose, and the benefits it brings forth. You now understand the mechanism by which dividend franking operates in Australia.

You've also delved into what a franking account is and how franking credits come into the picture. Furthermore, you have learned how to create a franking account, earn, and use franking credits, as well as answered some frequently asked questions.

In your exploration of tax implications, you've come to understand how franked dividends are taxed, how to claim franking credit refunds, and what impact tax rates have on these dividends. You are also knowledgeable about the critical debates, proposed reforms, and various criticisms and controversies surrounding dividend franking.

Using this knowledge, you are well equipped to navigate the intricacies of dividend franking in Australia, making informed decisions for a better financial future.

If you require further assistance, our sister company, Legal Kitz may be able to assist! You can also request to schedule a FREE consultation with one of their experienced professionals by clicking here, or get in touch at info@legalkitz.com.au or 1300 988 954.

About
The Marketing Team
Business Kitz Marketing team are experts in their field. You can expect the best business guides and updates on employment law here.

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