EOFY trust distribution considerations

Trust Distribution concept image | Three family members stand together in a farm field discussing the business.

In recent years the ATO have clamped down on trust distributions and the tax arrangements around them. Trust distribution arrangements need to be carefully considered by trustees before taking steps to appoint or distribute income to beneficiaries.


What does your trust deed say you can do?

An area of concern is that trustees are not considering the trust deed before income is appointed. The trust deed dictates what the trust can do and who it can allocate income to. This should therefore be your first point of call when considering distributions.

Review your deed

  • Conduct a review of the trust deed and any amendments to ensure trustees are making decisions consistent with the terms of the deed;
  • Check the trust vesting date. The trust deed will specify what happens when the trust vests. If the trust vests, the trustees might be directed to distribute the income and property of the trust to particular beneficiaries. The trustee may no longer have the discretion to decide who to appoint income or capital to;
  • Check who the intended beneficiaries are, and also keep in mind that some beneficiaries might have different entitlements to income and capital under the trust deed;
  • Timing and requirements for resolutions – Check the deed for any conditions and requirements for trustee resolutions, including the need to have the resolution in writing and the timing of when it’s required to be made. For example, the deed might require trustees to take certain actions before 30 June;
  • If you are looking to stream capital gains or franked distributions to certain beneficiaries, check the trust deed doesn’t prevent this and the streaming requirements have been met.


Family trust and interposed entity elections

A family trust election helps wrap the workings of the trust around a specific individual’s family group. These elections can help protect trust losses, company losses, and franking credits but can also cause significant tax problems if they are used incorrectly.

An interposed entity election makes an entity a member of the family group of an individual.

Where these elections are in place, it is essential that trustees understand the implications before making any decisions on distributions. Distributions of trust income outside the specified individual’s family group will trigger family trust distribution tax at penalty rates.


Has the beneficiary actually received the benefit?

The ATO is also on the lookout for arrangements where amounts are allocated or appointed to beneficiaries, but they don’t receive the real financial benefit of the distribution. If the arrangement has the effect of reducing the overall tax paid on the income of the trust, then this will normally increase the level of risk involved and attract the ATO’s attention.


Increased reporting on tax returns

Changes have been made to capture more information on the tax return about how trusts distribute income. These include:

  • Trust tax return – four new capital gains tax labels have been added. This information should be provided to beneficiaries to match what is reported in their returns.
  • Beneficiaries – all beneficiaries of trust income will be required to lodge a new trust income schedule. This schedule should align to your distributions as set out in the trust’s statement of distribution.


Advice for trustees

Trusts can be an excellent vehicle for many reasons including the flexibility to determine how income is distributed. However, the cost of that flexibility is increased complexity the risk and the ramifications of getting it wrong.

Keep in mind that keep in mind that whatever distribution arrangements you’ve had in the past may not be appropriate going forward. You should seek professional advice so you can be sure you are properly discharging your Trustee responsibilities.

If you would like to talk to our experts, please contact us.


Working with us

You can find out more about working with Marsh & Partners here. As your Absolute.Account.Ability partner we’re on a mission to make your business life better.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get tax updates and business tips delivered straight to your inbox.