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Failed trust distributions: Their tax consequences


There is a range of issues that can potentially undermine the intentions of a trustee when attempting to make distributions from the trust to beneficiaries. Failure to address methodically each potential issue in a timely way will lead to unintended outcomes that may be impossible to remedy once discovered. Further, there is increasing evidence that the Australian Taxation Office is acutely aware of many of the issues, and actively conducts compliance activity in the area. This article focuses on a number of the more common scenarios where purported distributions fail, in the context of a typical family discretionary trust with a range of beneficiaries, including family members and related trusts and companies. It also addresses the potential resulting tax consequences.

The article considers trust distributions to a “beneficiary”, distributions to particular beneficiaries, ATO requirements for tracing distributions, areas of ATO focus, and the ramifications of failed distributions.

Author profiles

Matthew Burgess CTA
Photo of author, Matthew BURGESS Matthew Burgess, CTA, co-founded Brisbane based specialist firm View Legal in 2014, having been a partner of one of Australia’s leading independent law firms for over 12 years. Matthew’s passion is helping clients successfully achieve their goals. Matthew specialises in tax, asset protection, estate and succession planning, providing strategic advice to business owners and high net worth individuals, and was recognised in the “Best Lawyers” list for 2014 in relation to trusts and estates. As an author, Matthew is widely recognised as an expert in his field, who constantly creates bespoke revenue-related strategies for the growth, management and protection of wealth. Matthew is regularly published in Australia’s leading monthly tax journal, The Tax Institute’s Taxation in Australia (six articles since 2012), and the leading weekly tax journal, Thomson Reuters’ Weekly Tax Bulletin (10 articles since 2012). He has also written five legal books, one business book and 16 children’s books. - Current at 30 November 2017
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Darius Hii CTA
Darius works alongside accountants and other advisors to provide comprehensive structuring advice in relation to business and personal succession and structuring which includes: 1 preparing effective wills and estate plans for intergenerational asset protection and transfer; 2 wealth protection strategies; and 3 implementing tax effective business succession and restructuring strategies. In addition, Darius has developed a keen interest in and provides advice in relation to trusts, superannuation, land tax and payroll tax. - Current at 16 September 2015
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