The ATO has cautioned companies about raising capital to fund franked distributions. The ATO is reviewing arrangements where companies raise new capital to fund franked distributions and release accumulated franking credits to shareholders.

In a typical case, the ATO is seeing companies issue rights to shareholders and use funds raised to make franked distributions via special dividends or an off-market share buy-back. The ATO said these arrangements are distinct from ordinary dividend reinvestment plans involving regular dividends.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Tim Dyce said the distributions are unusually large compared to ordinary dividends and occur at a similar time, and in a similar amount, to the capital raised. “So, a potentially large amount of franking credits is released with minimal net changes to the company’s economic position. There is also minimal impact on the shareholders, except in some cases they may receive refunds of franking credits and in the case of buy-backs they may also get improved capital gains tax outcomes,” he added.

The ATO considers that the arrangements may not be compliant with the tax law. In particular, the ATO has warned of the potential application of the general anti-avoidance rules. It has also warned that penalties may apply to participants.


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