Legal Consolidated provides no tax advice on a Deed of Debt Forgiveness.
For the tax consequences of a Deed of Debt Forgiveness, generally or in your specific set of circumstances, speak with your accountant or taxation adviser.
The ATO released Draft Taxation Determination 2019/D9. It comes out 7 months after it withdrew ATO ID 2003/589 on 6 February 2019.
In TD 2019/D9, the ATO now takes the view that debts can only be forgiven for “natural love and affection” between humans, acting as humans. Not humans acting, as say, a trustee of a family trust or unit trust.
The ATO’s new view is that “the creditor cannot be a company or an individual acting in the capacity of a trustee”.
As part of the explanation of the ATO’s view, it notes that “the notion of forgiveness is confined by the use of ‘natural love and affection’. That term serves to identify the motivation for forgiveness. The required connection between that motivation and forgiveness is only satisfied when the creditor feels natural love and affection.” It is a human trait. While you can love your car and your dog, perhaps you cannot love your company and your trust! The ATO has made its way into your home and now into your bedroom. The ATO now claims to know your inner thoughts.
TD 2019/D9 turns on its head the ATO’s old interpretation of section 245-40(e) Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
Have a read of section 245-40(e). Nowhere in the legislation is there a requirement that a creditor is a natural person. The only reason for forgiveness is ‘natural love and affection’.
The unelected ATO has now decided to create new law.
The ATO does not “devote compliance resources to debt forgiven prior to 6 February 2019″.
However, Deeds of Debt forgiveness for companies and trusts after that date may well be legal and enforceable, but incur the wrath of the ATO. Tread carefully.
Family Court decisions since 6 February 2019 may have to be reconsidered if there was forgiveness of debt. Legal Consolidated does not give advice in this area of law. And we do not give advice on the taxation implications of a Deed of Debt Forgiveness.
Note the ATO’s position is that neither a trust nor a company, as the creditor, can express ‘feelings’ such as ‘love’ and ‘affection’. Seek advice from your accountant on these matters and the taxation issues BEFORE you sign a Deed of Debt Forgiveness.
Additional issues when you forgive Family Trust UPEs and other debts include:
Legal Consolidated does not provide any advice on these additional taxation issues. Speak with your accountant before you build this Deed of Debt Forgiveness.
Your Family Trust distributes $30,000 to your daughter each year for 10 years. Your Family Trust pays the tax of $2,000 per year on behalf of your daughter. Therefore, there is an ‘Unpaid Present Entitlement’ (like a debt). Your Family Trust owes your daughter $280,000. An ‘Unpaid Present Entitlement’ is the money that the Family Trust owes the beneficiary. You must get her to forgive Family Trust UPEs regularly.
Your daughter, of course, never gets any of this money. You just used her low marginal tax rates to pay less tax. Your accountant reminds you that your daughter (or her ex-husband or trustee in bankruptcy) can now ask for that money. After all, it is her money.
To get rid of the debt she signs a Deed of Debt Forgiveness. Get her to sign the same Deed of Debt Forgiveness each financial year. Therefore, if your daughter goes bankrupt, feral, divorces or dies your Family Trust owes her nothing.
Have a son? Have other children? Distributed to yourself? Build a separate Deed of Debt Forgiveness for each of you.
However, you need to check with your accountant as to the taxation implication of the forgiveness of debt. Legal Consolidated provides no taxation advice. You need to seek your own advice on the taxation issues.
Yes. You need a separate Deed of Debt Forgiveness for each beneficiary. If you want Dad, Mum, Child and Auntie to forgive the debt that the Family Trust owes them, then build four separate Deeds of Debt Forgiveness.
However, that is all you need. As often as our accountant requires print the Deed of Debt Forgiveness and get Dad, Mum, Child and Auntie to sign and date each one. You never need to build another Deed of Debt Forgiveness for them again.
So, for example, you have 7 children. Then you need to build and pay for 7 Deeds of Debt Forgiveness. But that is it. For each child, as your accountant directs, you just photocopy their Deed of Debt Forgiveness for that particular child.
If you had an 8th child then you need to go back online and build, yet another, Deed of Debt Forgiveness.
The Borrower owes you money. In the Deed of Debt Forgiveness, you forgive the debt for ‘love and affection’. The debt has gone. The borrower no longer owes the lender any money. However, get tax advice from your accountant on whether you should do so.
The case McCarthy v Saltwood Pty Ltd  TASSC 19 is a Tasmanian Supreme Court decision. It is a dispute between a beneficiary and the trustee of a discretionary trust. It arises from a dead beneficiary loan account.
It highlights the poor habits of some clients. Make sure that trustee resolutions and director minutes are legally prepared. Journal entries are a waste of time.
Saltwood Pty Ltd is the trustee of the McCarthy Family Trust. The Family Trust carries out farming. The same Family Trust also owns the farming land. To own both the trading business and the land in the same trust is poor asset protection.
John McCarthy runs the farm and controls the Family Trust. John is married to Eunice McCarthy. They have 6 children.
Andrew, a son, works on the farm all his life. Andrew claims his Dad said:
When I die, Andrew, you take over the farming business and get part of the farming property.
John ran the farm. John controlled the family trust accounts.
John distributes the family trust profits to himself and his wife and Eunice. But, as is usually the case, the family trust does not actually pay the money to John and his wife. Instead, a type of loan called an ‘unpaid present entitlement is created. This results in a joint ‘loan’ account. The family trust owes money to John and his wife.
On John’s death, Eunice claims that John’s share of the loan passed to her. This is under John’s Will. Like a car or a house, a UPE is an asset of the deceased estate.
The family trust, now controlled by Andrew, rejects Eunice’s claim. The family trust disputes the ‘loan’ balance on the family trust financial statements. The family trust claims that income distributions made to John and Eunice were invalid. This is because there was no annual family trust distribution statement. Therefore, the annual trust distribution meetings did not satisfy the requirements. This is under the Trustee company’s constitution.
John’s accountant quickly puts together some journal entries after John dies. The Court looks at the accountant’s journal entry for $791,698.
This reduces the money that the family trust owes Eunice. The journal entry claims that Eunice had forgiven the loan account.
The accountant claims the forgiving of $791,698 by Eunice allows the transfer of the farmland from the family trust to Andrew. But in effect, the accountant has aided and abetted an attempted theft of $791,698 from Eunice. Smells like elder abuse.
The accountant correctly notes that family trust assets do not form part of John’s estate. The accountant’s journal entries made the loan accounts to other beneficiaries “disappear and seem to be absorbed into the joint loan account of [Eunice] and John”. The Court sees no legal basis for such transactions.
The Court holds that the trust income distributions are valid. The family trust must pay the ‘loan’ amount owing to Eunice. Andrew seemed a little shocked by this. Andrew hoped to inherit the farming operations after his father’s death. This is without the debt.
Andrew is a trusting fool. The accountant while a good servant to his dead master, messed it up.
Warning: do not use journal entries for family trust distributions. Instead, get legally prepared family trust distribution statements.
What makes a journal entry effective? There must be a legal basis for the transaction. This requires documents and deeds that support that legal basis.
Question: Dear Dr Davies, some of our family trust clients have children approaching 18 years of age. (Therefore, the minor’s 66% penalty tax rate no longer applies.)
The Family Trust’s Trustee is often Dad (the man or straw) or his corporate trustee. Dad wants to now start distributing serious amounts of money to his 18-year-old child. This is generally between $18,200 to $180,000.
In effect, the Family Trust will owe the child this money. Or, as you like to call it, an Unpaid President Entitlement (UPEs).
Trustee Dad distributes $20k pa to his daughter. This is for 10 years. This is between 18 and 28 years old. The girl is owed $200k at 28 years old.
Should we, therefore, recommend to Family Trust trustees that all credit balances of beneficiary unpaid entitlements, be paid out to the young adult?
So that this credit balance is not an asset for bankruptcy and divorce.
Further, most of the Family Trusts do not have the ready cash to actually pay out the Family Trust distributions.
Answer: I agree with the problem. I do not agree with your solution.
It is a great idea to use up the 18-year old’s low marginal tax rates. But if the Family Trust physically pays the money to the child then the Bankruptcy Court and Family Courts end up getting it. All you have done is move the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Whether the child is owed $200K from the Family Trust, or the child has $200K in their bank account is the same thing.
You do not need to lodge this document in the ACT, WA, VIC, NSW, TAS, NT, QLD or SA. There is no duty payable in those States.
Adj Professor, Dr Brett Davies, CTA, AIAMA, BJuris, LLB, Dip Ed, BArts(Hons), LLM, MBA, SJD
Legal Consolidated Barristers and Solicitors
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