Traditionally, Discretionary Trusts (commonly referred to as Family Trusts) have been a very useful vehicle for tax purposes and in many instances have been used primarily for this purpose.
However, it light of recent legislative proposals that may be seen to affect the tax effectiveness of a Family Trust, many new businesses may not feel that a Family Trust structure is as attractive as it once was and therefore may be reluctant to consider it due to recent legislative proposals that are being considered such as:
A proposal to tax Family Trusts in the same way and at the same rate as Companies
A proposal to tax all income earned through a Family Trust or Companies the same way that personal income is taxed where the majority of the income in the Family Trust has been earned from personal exertion from one source.
Regardless of these proposed changes, the fact remains that a Family Trust does a whole lot more than just provide tax related advantages. The Family Trust structure needs to be considered holistically and together with all the other benefits of a Family Trust.
Other Benefits of a Family Trust
As well as the tax benefits, and regardless of the legislative proposals currently being considered, the Family Trust is still a useful structure and brings with it the following benefits:
Effective Tax Planning for business and families – a Family Trust is flexible, each year the Trustee is able to split income and distribute it among a range of beneficiaries who are not paying tax at the top marginal rate to lessen the overall tax liability.
Protecting your assets – because beneficiaries of a discretionary trust do not legally own the assets in the Trust, the assets in the Trust can be better protected from any legal action involving beneficiaries or misuse of those assets. This is particularly true in the case of bankruptcy and divorce where the assets could be protected from claims by creditors or ex-spouses.
Effective Estate Planning – a properly structured Family Trust can enable the succession of assets from one generation to the next, and not necessarily trigger a transfer of the trust property thus avoiding a liability for stamp duty or Capital Gains Tax.
Whether you set up a Family Trust (Discretionary Trust) to hold investments or carry on a business, when used appropriately and structure correctly, a Family Trust offers many advantages over other tax structures like a Partnership or Company. However, it is important that you seek financial advice from an accountant to ensure that it meets your particular, individual needs and goals.
Paul Baggetta, Founding Partner and Principal of Baggetta & Co, has been a Taxation Accountant for over 32 years, a Financial Planner since 1998 and in 1983 qualified as a Real Estate Licensee holding a Triennial Certificate (currently not trading), and operated his own Real Estate business for over 5 years as a second business.
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