What are franking credits
Franking credits are commonly referred to as imputation credits. It is a tax credit attached to the dividend a company issues to its shareholders. It is a way to reduce or eliminate the double taxation of dividends.
In Australia, companies pay tax on the net earnings at the end of the year at the rate of 30%. The company then distributes the income to its shareholders in a way of dividends. Because companies have already paid 30% tax on the dividends, its shareholders would get a tax credit. Shareholders can include the tax credit in their personal tax returns to reduce tax payable or to get a refund from the ATO.
Types of franking credits
- Fully franked dividends
If the dividend is fully franked, it means the company has paid 30% tax on the amount you are receiving. A full franked dividend effectively gives you an exemption on the first 30% of tax. If your tax rate is more than 30%, you will need to pay for the difference.
- Partially franked dividends
If the payment is only partially franked, it means the dividend has a franked proportion and unfranked proportion.
- Dividends not franked at all
If the dividend is not franked at all, you will not get any tax credits and must pay tax on the payment basis on your personal tax rate.
The benefits of franking credits
The benefits of franking credits cannot be overlooked. Basically the more tax a company pays, the more franking credits SMSFs can claim. It can be up to 30% of the total dividends. In particular, if your SMSF is in the pension phase, your SMSF will get a full tax credit refund from the ATO.
The ATO implemented the 45 day rule to prevent shareholders from abusing the tax system (called dividend stripping). The 45 day rule states that investors must hold their shares for at least 45 days (excluding the acquisition date) for any franking credits to be claimed.
For more information on tax treatment, please refer to our tax page.