A QUESTION OF THE INTEGRITY OF THE DIVIDEND IMPUTATION SYSTEM WHEN CORPORATE TAX RATE CHANGES:AN AUSTRALIAN STUDY
By H. Khiem (Jonathan) Nguyen
This study examines the dividend imputation system adopted in Australia, one of a few OECD countries that still operate a full imputation tax system. The Australian government recently announced corporate tax rate cuts, providing an opportunity to study the potential effects that corporate tax rate changes may bring to an imputation tax system. This paper analyses the proposed changes to the imputation system put forward in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016 and suggests that such changes could potentially cause distortions to the existing imputation system in Australia. The potential distortions include the discrepancy between the tax rate used in computing company’s tax liability and the tax rate employed as a basis for imputation, the additional tax payment required at domestic shareholder’s level upon receiving franked dividends, and the wastage of franking credits arisen from previous corporate tax payments. Furthermore, this paper suggests consideration of an extension period of four or five years, during which companies in Australia can still apply the imputation (franking) rate based on the 30% company tax rate in respect of the dividends paid out of the underlying profits that were previously taxed at the same rate of 30%.