No doubt you are aware of the Labor Party policy that if elected at the next federal election they will no longer permit unused franking credits to be refunded to taxpayers and self-managed super funds (SMSF’s) in pension phase. You may also be aware an exemption has been provided to Age Pension recipients.
The planning for retirement for many SMSF’s was done so on the premise that excess franking credits would be received to supplement investment earnings the fund’s assets generated. This effectively would result in the return on equities paying fully franked dividends to be increased by 30% or the amount of company tax that was paid on that profit the company has decided to distribute to you.
Many of our client’s portfolios hold shares in CBA (Commonwealth Bank) which has a current yield of 5.95%. The dividends CBA pays are 100% franked which means the true yield to a taxpayer entitled to receive a refund of those franking credit becomes 8.5% (5.95% / 70% * 100%). A rather compelling reason to hold CBA in this low-interest rate environment some might argue…but that’s for another time…
Let’s assume you have a 2 member SMSF that is in full pension phase and you are not eligible for the Age Pension. Let’s also assume the SMSF’s portfolio receives $30,000 of fully franked dividend income which once grossed up for franking results in a total dollar return of $42,857. An additional amount of $12,857 or 30% of the total return has been received due to the refunding of the franking credits. Under Labor’s policy, the $12,857 will be lost!!
One interesting change in the SMSF landscape happens on 1 July 2019. From that date, the membership rules of an SMSF change in that the number of members permitted will increase from 4 to 6. What does this have to do with my SMSF losing my franking credits I hear you say? Well, a lot!!
A strategy worth considering is increasing the number of members in your fund to include those in accumulation phase because the earnings attributable to their member accounts will be taxed at the rate of 15%. The advantage of this strategy is; rather than lose an entitlement to receive those franking credits altogether, they can be offset against the tax raised against the income attributable to the members in accumulation phase.
|Fully franked dividend income||$30,000|
|Proportion of members in pension phase||60%|
|Proportion of members in accumulation phase||40%|
|Tax rate applicable to a super fund||15%|
|Less: franking credits that can be used||-$3,471.42|
A further advantage of adding members in accumulation mode into the SMSF is their taxable contributions are not pro-rated. This means the contributions tax of 15% levied on those concessional/taxable contributions can be also be soaked up by franking credits to mitigate the net tax position.As you can see for the hypothetical example above, by including members into the SMSF who are in accumulation mode, part of the franking credits can be used to reduce any potential tax liability to nil. Whilst this is not as advantageous as receiving a full refund of those excess franking credits there is a minor advantage gained in reducing the amount of tax the SMSF pays overall.
As the great Kerry Packer said at the House of Representatives Select Committee on Print Media way back in November 1991:
“I pay whatever tax I am required to pay under the law, not a penny more, not a penny less…if anybody in this country doesn’t minimise their tax they want their heads read because as a government I can tell you you’re not spending it that well that we should be donating extra.”
Please note this article only provides general advice, it has not taken your personal or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored financial advice, please contact us today. One of our advisers would be delighted to speak with you.