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    How the tax on dividends is calculated

    Why you should hire a tax accountant to maximise your profits

    Alex | Oneflare

    What is an investment?

    An investment is an asset that is purchased with the intention of making a profit in the future. The asset can be stocks, a piece of property, or something such as precious metals or coins. You can wait to receive payment when the asset is sold, or you can gain a profit from it along the way. Some examples of these types of assets include rent from property, dividends from shares, and interest from a bank account. The ATO treats different kinds of assets differently, and you can soon see your profits dwindling when tax time comes around if you are not careful.

    What investment income must you declare?

    • Interest: When you open a savings account or other interest-bearing account at a bank, you will receive a certain percentage of additional money from the bank. This is typically a certain percentage based on the amount of the account.
    • Dividends: The shareholder of companies receives dividends. They are taken from profits and usually paid on a semi-annual basis.
    • Rent: Rent is money that someone pays you for living on your property. It is in the form of a regular monthly income.
    • Managed investment funds: A managed investment is an asset, such as a trust, that someone else manages for you. Some of them are set up to pay regular sums of money. Some different types of trusts include cash management, money market, mortgage, unit, or managed fund.
    • Capital gains: Capital gains are realised when you sell an asset, such as when you sell your home or a stock. A capital gain is a profit that you earn from the sale.


    Dividends are one of the most misunderstood assets of many people. Let’s start from the beginning.

    When a company needs money for something such as an expansion, new equipment, or to increase capacity, they have several different tools to use to obtain what they need. They can go to a lending institution and get it through traditional means, apply for grants, or try to find a private investor.

    Another method that they have is to offer shares of their company up to the public. The public can buy shares with the hopes of making a profit in the future when they sell them. In this case, the public acts as the lender. Some stocks pay dividends, which can provide regular income for as long as you hold the stock. Here is a bit more about what a dividend is and how it works.

    How do they work?

    When a company makes a profit, they can choose to keep some or all of it. They can also choose to make owning shares in their company more enticing by sharing some of the windfalls with their shareholders. These funds are typically distributed to shareholders in July and December.

    How are they paid?

    The most common form of dividend payment is in the form of cash. This means that for tax purposes, they are taxes as a cash payment. This can have significant tax repercussions. Sometimes, the dividends can be paid through a trust or share club. Also, you can arrange to have the dividends reinvested instead of being sent to you. All of these options have different tax consequences.

    Why are dividends so important when declaring investment income?

    If you are a shareholder, when the company makes a dividend distribution, it counts as income for the shareholder. It must be reported as such on taxes. It is always wise to keep your dividend statements because you will need them when you file your taxes.

    How are dividends taxed between residents and non-residents of Australia?

    How dividends work depends on whether you are a resident or non-resident. A non-resident of Australia can own stock in an Australian company. Residents and non-residents are taxed differently and have different tax burdens when it comes to dividends.

    If you are a non-resident and became a resident later in the year, you might not have had the proper withholding taken out. In this case, you need to report the dividends on your tax form. If you are a non-resident, you cannot use a tax offset for franked dividends. However, you can use it to offset other Australian income. You will have to pay a withholding tax on unfranked dividends. You do not have to pay tax on unfranked dividends because it is considered conduit foreign income.

    If you are an Australian resident, you will pay taxes based on an imputation system. This system dictates how the taxes paid on company profits should be allocated. It determines whether the tax burden belongs to the company, the shareholder, or a portion to each. This system is to make sure that a double tax is not paid on the same profits by two different entities.

    A tax accountant can help you to maximise your profits from investments / Source: ASR Partners

    What is the difference between franked and unfranked dividends?

    When a company makes a profit, they must pay a certain amount of tax on it, typically around 30% for most companies. When an individual shareholder receives income via dividends, they pay a tax on share profit. Without the franking system, double tax jeopardy can occur where both the company and the individual pay taxes on the same profits.

    When shares are franked, it means that the company has paid the taxes on the shares held by the individual. If the individual receives franked dividends, they receive a credit for tax on shares that they own. The difference between franked shares and unfranked shares is who is responsible for the tax burden on the profits.

    Franked dividend:

    To receive a franked dividend, you must purchase franked shares. These are shares that are already marked as having the taxes paid on them. Dividends can be fully franked or partially franked. A fully franked dividend means that the shareholder will receive a full tax credit for the shared. A partially franked dividend means that the tax burden is shared between the company and the shareholder. The franked dividend tax rate depends on which tax bracket you fall into based on your total income. If your tax rate is below the corporate tax rate of 30%, the ATO will refund the difference to you.

    Unfranked dividend:

    Unfranked dividends are just like regular stocks or investment instruments. You will have to pay the full amount of tax on any dividends or other taxes that you earn from them. They count as income and will increase your overall revenue, which could bump you up into a different tax bracket.

    What are franking credits?

    Franking credits refer to the offset that you receive when your tax bracket is less than what the company paid for the credits. For instance, if you own 1,000 shares of a company and the company makes $5 per share in profit. They will have to pay 30% on those shares, which is $1.75 per share. This leaves $3.50 that they can keep or distribute to shareholders as dividends. The shareholder would then receive a 30% imputation credit. This means that for 1,000 shares, the shareholder gets $2,500 in taxable income. Of this, $1,170 is dividend income, and $750 is franking credit.

    How to hire a tax accountant

    As you can see, the topic of dividends can become complicated when it is tax time. Hiring a good tax accountant can help you wade through the regulations and keep the amount to which you are entitled. Here are a few tips for hiring a tax accountant.

    How to create an accurate estimate

    You can help your tax accountant by taking a few simple steps. These steps will help your professional make sure that you get the proper franking credit for your stocks.

    • Keep your dividend statements and other income records in a safe place.
    • Make your accountant aware of any changes that have occurred, such as residency.
    • Keep your receipts for any buying or selling transactions.

    Licencing and qualifications

    To practice in Australia, a tax accountant must meet at least the following minimum requirements.

    • Complete a Bachelor’s in some form of accounting.
    • Pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) program.
    • Be a member of a qualifying trade organisation.

    How to save money hiring a tax accountant

    Everyone likes to save money at tax time. Here are a few tips to help you save on accounting fees and the taxes owed.

    • Save every receipt and write down what it is.
    • Keep your files organised so that your accountant does not miss anything.
    • Ask about fees before you agree to an accountant’s services.
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