The Government is looking to provide clarity in relation to the capital gains tax (CGT) treatment of earn-out arrangements in connection with a sale or purchase of a business.

An earn-out arrangement is an arrangement whereby, as part of the sale of a business, the buyer and seller agree that subsequent financial benefits may be provided based on the future performance of the business. For example, two parties are negotiating the sale of the business where a significant part of the value of the business is tied to its customer base – that is its goodwill. There is considerable uncertainty about how the sale and other factors may impact upon this goodwill. The parties could agree to an earn-out arrangement under which part of the consideration for the sale is linked to the future economic performance of the business.

The proposed rules aim to provide “look-through” CGT treatment to earn-out arrangements. That is, under the changes, taxpayers may disregard capital gains or losses that arise in relation to the qualifying right to financial benefits. Instead, taxpayers must include financial benefits provided or received under or in relation to such rights in determining the capital proceeds of the disposal of the underlying asset (for the seller) or the cost base and reduced cost base of the underlying asset for the buyer.

It is proposed that the changes would apply from the exposure draft legislation release date (ie 23 April 2015).


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