Franking credits are a kind of tax credit that allows Australian companies to pass on the tax paid at a company level to shareholders. Franking credits can reduce the income tax paid on dividends or potentially be received as a tax refund.
Where a company distributes fully franked dividends (and those dividends are included in the taxable income of the taxpayer) the taxpayer can claim a credit against their taxable income for the tax that has already been paid by the company from which the dividend was paid.
Since the 2016-17 income year, the standard formula for calculating the maximum franking credits is:
Franking credit = (dividend amount / (1-company tax rate)) – dividend amount
Franking credits are paid to investors in a 0-30% tax bracket, proportionally to the investor’s tax rate. If an individual’s top tax rate is less than the company’s tax rate, the ATO will refund the difference. Therefore, an investor with a 0% tax rate will receive the full tax payment paid by the company to the ATO as a tax credit. Franking credit payouts decrease proportionally as an investor’s tax rate increases. Investors with a tax rate above 30% do not receive franking credits with dividends and may even have had to pay additional tax.
There can be eligibility requirements that must be met before franking credits can be paid, such as that you must hold the shares ‘at risk’ for at least 45 days to receive a total franking credits entitlement of $5,000 or more. There are also rules that can apply to buying, holding and selling shares with franking credits attached.