Discretionary Trusts distributing income to a SMSF and Tax

We have seen that it can be possible for a discretionary trust to distribute income to a SMSF if the SMSF is a beneficiary of the trust. See my legal tip
http://www.structuring.com.au/terry/super/can-a-discretionary-trust-distribute-income-to-a-smsf/

But just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.

Any distribution from a related discretionary trust received by a SMSF will be classed as NALI or ‘Non Arms Length Income’.

NALI income will be taxed in a SMSF at the highest marginal tax rate.

Income from Fixed Trusts to a SMSF can be taxed at normal SMSF rates, 15% generally, but only where the income is genuine non-NALI income. For example a SMSF owning units in a Fixed Unit Trust which owns a factory. Genuine rent can flow through to the SMSF and be taxed at 15%. But if a discretionary trust distributes income to the unit trust this would flow through to the SMSF but be taxed at the top marginal tax rate.

The reasons for these laws are to stop people diverting income to SMSFs to save tax.

Discuss this at https://www.propertychat.com.au/community/threads/tax-tip-196-discretionary-trusts-distributing-income-to-a-smsf.38915/

Can a Discretionary Trust Distribute Income to a SMSF

A SMSF is a trust and a discretionary trust could potentially distribute to another trust. But, the Trustee of a Discretionary Trust can only distribute income to beneficiaries of that trust if the SMSF meets the definition of beneficiary as defined in the deed. If the SMSF is a beneficiary of the discretionary trust then it would be possible for it to receive income and/or capital from the discretionary trust.

BUT (and there is always a but) – just because it could be done doesn’t mean it should be done. See my tax tip for some of the tax consequences.

Discuss this topic at https://www.propertychat.com.au/community/threads/legal-tip-198-legal-tip-can-a-discretionary-trust-distribute-income-to-a-smsf.38916/

Multiple Bucket Companies as an Estate Planning Strategy

A Bucket company is a company set up to receive profits from another entity – usually a discretionary trust. The bucket company usually does nothing else, except receive money and make loans or directly invest perhaps. Over time the value of the bucket company will rise as money is coming in but not going out. Therefore, it will become increasingly important to consider in regards to estate planning and asset protection.

One estate planning strategy is to set up one separate bucket company for each child so that when the controller of the companies dies each company’s control can be passed on rather than having multiple people inherit the control of one company.

Example

Homer has 3 kids. He wants to leave them approximately the same amount of his assets 1/3.

Homer has decided to set up a discretionary trust to use to invest in shares. He seeks legal advice on the difficulties with leaving the control of the trust to more than one person so has that covered. But after a while the dividends of the share investments are building up so Homer sets up 3 bucket companies with 3 separate discretionary trusts with one trust holding the shares in each bucket company.

When the dividends come in, he causes the trustee of the share trust to distribute 1/3 to each company. Over a period of time the companies end up with large amounts of retained earnings which and then lent back to the share trust.

Homer dies.

Each of the bucket companies is then passed to each child – actually nothing is passed but the control of the bucket companies is arranged so that Child A controls Trust A and Bucket Company A.

This way things will be easy to divide. There is no more than one child involved in one company so if they want to cause the company to make loans, invest, pay dividends or close down they can do so without the need to effect or even consult with their siblings.

For a Discussion go to:

https://www.propertychat.com.au/community/threads/legal-tip-195-multiple-bucket-companies-as-an-estate-planning-strategy.38768/

Declarations of Trust and CGT

I have outlined what a declaration of trust is here http://www.structuring.com.au/terry/trusts/declaration-of-trust/ .

What are the CGT consequences of a person declaring that they now hold an asset as trustee? There is no change in title, so most people probably think there are no tax consequences, but there are.

CGT Event E1 (section 104-55(1) ITAA97) happens when someone declares a trust over existing property they own. This is because there is a change of beneficial ownership, even though the legal ownership remains the same.

Example

Homer holds 100 shares in CBA. He makes a declaration of trust that he now holds these shares on trust under the terms of the Simpson Family Trust deed. No change of ownership has happened, but this has triggered CGT just as if there was a sale of those shares to a 3rd party. If the cost base of the shares was $100,000 and the market value is now $200,000 that would mean a $100,000 capital gain is made (which may then get the 50% CGT discount etc).

(Homer should have sought legal advice as there are ‘better’ ways of doing this)

Declaration of Trust

A declaration of trust happens when the legal owner of an asset declares that they now hold that asset on trust for another person or persons.

A more technical definition is found in legislation, for example in section 8(3) of the Duties Act 1997 NSW which has:

“declaration of trust” means any declaration (other than by a will or testamentary instrument) that any identified property vested or to be vested in the person making the declaration is or is to be held in trust for the person or persons, or the purpose or purposes, mentioned in the declaration although the beneficial owner of the property, or the person entitled to appoint the property, may not have joined in or assented to the declaration.

Example

Homer owns 123 Smith Street. He is the legal and beneficial owner. One day he decides he wants to begin holding that property but for the benefit of his son Bart. Homer makes a declaration of trust that from this day forward he holds the property as trustee for Bart.

Homer is still the legal owner, but now Bart is the beneficial owner of the property. If Homer goes bankrupt the property is, at face value, not his property and not available to creditors (but…). If Homer dies this property is not one that can pass via his will. If the property is rented out the income will be taxed in the hands of Bart etc.

There are also various tax and duty consequences to making a declaration of trust and I will cover these in a future post.

Tax on Trust Income not Distributed

Where a trust has income and no one is presently entitled to it, the trustee of the trust will be taxed on this income at the top marginal tax rate because of s99A(4) ITAA36

http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/itaa1936240/s99a.html

Note that the income doesn’t necessarily need to be distributed, it could be retained by the trust yet still be taxed in the hands of the beneficiary if they have been made presently entitled to it.

On present entitlements and trusts see this post I wrote a few years ago:

Legal Tip 87: Trusts and Unpaid Present Entitlements

https://propertychat.com.au/community/threads/legal-tip-87-trusts-and-unpaid-present-entitlements.4718/  

Example

Simpson family trust has $10,000 in income in year 1. The trustee makes Bart presently entitled to the income so Bart is the one that is taxed on this income. The trustee may not physical transfer the money, but if the is the case Bart will still be taxed (and he will have an unpaid present entitlement with the trust, which is similar to a loan). Bart has no other income and pays no tax.

In year 2 the trust has $10,000 in income, but the trustee doesn’t make anyone presently entitled – perhaps they forgot, or perhaps their resolutions were defective.

The trustee will pay the tax at the top tax 47%

Setting Up a Trust When You Have No Family

What is the point, you might ask, in setting up a discretionary trust to hold investment assets when you have no family?

A discretionary trust needs at least one beneficiary with the trustee having the option to retain income, or at least 2 beneficiaries where it doesn’t. However, most discretionary trusts will have hundreds of potential beneficiaries as they will be set up with one or two named persons as the primary beneficiary and then there will be secondary and, possibly, tertiary beneficiaries who are relations of the primary beneficiary.

So even though you are on your own now, you might have cousins or distant relatives who could be beneficiaries – this doesn’t mean they need to be recipients of trust income, but just that they could be. You never know when one of your cousins might invest in shares and lose the money and have carried forward income or capital losses.

There is also the issue that even though you may not have any family now, you may get a spouse at a future date. There may even be children and then grandchildren. All these people could and probably would be beneficiaries of the trust. This is generally the case even if they do not ‘exist’ at the time the trust was created.

Perhaps most importantly, a company could also be a beneficiary of the trust. This may allow for use of the bucket company strategy of diverting income to the company to cap the tax rate at 30%. Later on, the retained earnings in the company could be distributed to future family members (providing the shares of the bucket company are held by a different trust).

There are also the asset protection aspects to consider. Not having a spouse may mean holding all assets yourself and taking a risk of not ending up bankrupt. Where the assets are held on trust, the assets are generally much safer from attack should the controller of the trust become bankrupt at some point.

See the discussion at: https://www.propertychat.com.au/community/threads/legal-tip-190-setting-up-a-trust-when-you-have-no-family.36832/

How to Fund a New Discretionary Trust

Discretionary trusts are generally started with just $10 or $20. Mostly trusts are established for a trustee to hold shares or property for the benefit of a beneficiary, so how does the trustee get the deposit or money to do this?

There are basically just 3 options to consider:

  1. Gift

A gift is an irreversible transfer from one person to another.

It is better than a loan for asset protection against bankruptcy because if the gift giver goes bankrupt generally the gift will not be available to creditors (but the claw back laws need to be considered).

Gifts to discretionary trusts may not be ideal though because when you die the gift will not form part of your assets and cannot be passed via your will.

If the gift giver is borrowing money to gift to a trust the interest will not be deductible.

Gifts should be documented with a deed.

2. Loans with interest

A loan can be made with interest accruing. However, interest is income to the receiver. Interest may be deductible to the trust if it is using the borrowed money invest, s 8-1 ITAA97.

The interest rate could at market, under market rates or higher than market rates. Each has different consequences.

But a person cannot contract with themselves, so you could not lend to yourself if you are the trustee.

Generally, someone borrowing money to lend to the trustee should consider charging interest to the trust. This interest would need to be at least the same interest that the bank is charging you. But the question you should be asking is if the bank has a first mortgage security over real property and charges say 4% to you, if you lend to the trust at 4% without security would this be a market interest rate? Are there any Part IVA consequences?

A loan should be documented with a written loan agreement which would be either a contract or a deed.

3. Interest free loans

Many like to make interest free loans to trusts because there are no direct tax consequences and the loaned money would generally come back to the lender at death and therefore form part of their estate and can then pass into a testamentary discretionary trust.

But a major issue with loans is the various state limitations acts. This could cause a loan to become unenforceable if there has been no activity with a loan for 6 years (NSW law). So, a loan made say 7 years ago which is interest free and no transactions have happened will not be recoverable if the borrower refuses to pay back. You might think that you are not going to sue a related trust, but you must remember that if you set up a trust you are just in control temporarily. If you lose capacity, go bankrupt or die the control of the trust will pass to someone else.

Interest fee loans should be documented in the same way as loans with interest.

Which method should you use?

You should all get specific legal advice from a lawyer, but as a guide:

  1. If you have cash and are concerned about bankruptcy a gift might be worth considering
  2. If you are not concerned about bankruptcy and have cash, then an interest free loan may be worth considering
  3. If you are borrowing and on-lending the money to the trust a loan with interest may be worth considering.

If you do make a loan you must adhere to the terms of the loan for it to be effective.

Can a Trust Distribute Franking Credits to Someone Other than the Dividend Recipient?

No.

Franking credits are not income as defined in the tax acts nor are they assets of a trust. They therefore cannot be allocated to someone, but they must flow out as directed by Division 207 of the ITAA36.

It was previously thought that the franking credits could be distributed separately but this ‘bifurcation assumption’ was recently held be to be legally ineffective by the High Court in the case of Federal Commissioner of Taxation v Thomas [2018] HCA 31

Written by Terry Waugh, Solicitor at www.structuringlawyers.com.au

Transactions to Defeat Family Law Claims

Section 106B of the Family Law Act allows a court to set aside certain transactions designed to defeat an existing or proposed order relating to a party to a marriage or defacto relationship.

This can include transactions that are:

  • Gifts
  • Sales
  • Bankruptcy related
  • Rights attaching to an interest in a company or trust
  • changing Appointor positions in trusts
  • Varying powers under a trust

Example

Bart is about to divorce his wife and resigns as appointor of the family trust and appoints his friend Millhouse. Bart also causes the trust to be varied so that neither Bart nor his wife are beneficiaries of the trust. The trustee is also controlled by Millhouse.

Bart then gifts money to the trustee of the trust. Bart borrows this money back and lets the trustee take a mortgage over his house as security for the loan. Bart sells another property he owns for $1 to the trustee of the trust.

This series of transactions involving Bart could be attacked in several ways. Including:

  1. Court reversing the amendments to the trust
  2. The gift could be clawed back
  3. The loan set aside
  4. The mortgage set aside
  5. The transfer of the property could be set aside.
  6. The court may not do any of the above, but to simply take the value of the assets into account when working out the division of property between the spouses.

Keep in mind that just because a transaction can potentially be attached does not mean that you should not do this.

Legal advice should be sought if seeking asset protection.

Written by Terry Waugh, lawyer at Structuring Lawyers, www.structuringlawyers.com.au