The Tax Impacts of Division 7A Loans for Australian Business Owners

June 3, 2024

Division 7A of the Income Tax Assessment Act is a critical aspect of Australian tax law, targeting private companies that provide financial benefits to shareholders or their associates. If these transactions are not properly managed, they can be deemed unfranked dividends, leading to unexpected tax liabilities.

Small business owners often use Division 7A loans to access funds from their companies without immediately triggering tax liabilities. For instance, if a business owner needs to access funds over and above their salary and transfer $10k out of the business and into their personal bank account to pay for a holiday for example, it will be treated as a Division 7A loan from the business. These loans can provide financial flexibility for personal or business expenses. However, it is crucial to comply with Division 7A requirements to avoid having these loans treated as unfranked dividends. Proper documentation and adherence to loan terms, including prescribed interest rates and repayment schedules, are essential to maintaining compliance and minimising tax implications.

What Are Division 7A Loans?

Division 7A loans involve any form of financial accommodation provided to shareholders or their associates by a private company. These include advances, loans, or other forms of credit. If these loans don't comply with specific criteria, they are treated as dividends and taxed accordingly.

Tax Implications of Division 7A Loans

  1. Deemed Dividends: non-compliant loans are treated as dividends, meaning the loan amount is taxed as income for the recipient without the benefit of franking credits. This increases the tax  liability for the recipient
  2. Loan Agreements: a written agreement must be in place before the company’s tax return lodgment day to avoid loans being deemed dividends. This agreement must detail the loan's terms, including the interest rate (at least the ATO’s benchmark rate) and the repayment schedule
  3. Exclusions and Compliance: certain loans are excluded from being treated as dividends, such as those made to another company or included in assessable income under other tax provisions. Compliance requires meeting criteria like minimum interest rates, maximum loan terms, and having a proper written agreement.

Increased Interest Rate For Division 7A Loans

Further to the second point above, it’s important to note that the ATO’s benchmark interest rate for Division 7A loans was raised as of July 2023 from 4.77% to 8.27%. If you’re a business owner looking to access funds that will fall under this loan provision, do the maths and calculate what that will look like from an interest perspective. It’s a pitfall that catches out many and it’s often an expensive lesson to learn!

Here’s the difference this makes in practical terms for a $100,000 Div7A compliant loan.

Common Issues That Arise From Division 7A Loans 

Common issues include failing to formalise loans by the lodgment day, backdating agreements, not making minimum yearly repayments, and applying incorrect interest rates. Proper management and compliance with Division 7A requirements are crucial to avoid adverse tax consequences.

Due to the complexity and potential for costly mistakes, we strongly encourage business owners to seek professional advice when it comes to Division 7A loans – better yet, get in touch before you access the funds so we can ensure that loaning from the business makes the most sense for your situation.

Written by 
Manik Pujara
June 3, 2024

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