Plan your business sale early to maximise your after tax return

Plan your business sale early to maximise your after tax return

Last month we discussed retirement planning, and the need to get in early to make sure you’ve done all you can to maximise your wealth and can enjoy the lifestyle you want when you retire.

For entrepreneurs, part of this is regularly reviewing your business structure to ensure that it provides both asset protection and tax efficiency.  Often circumstances change, and factors like business expansion to new locations, addition of new product lines, introduction of new business partners, children reach adulthood, can all impact on the appropriateness of a business structure and be a reason for change.  Planning for a potential business sale is also an important factor to consider and you should make reviewing your structure a priority as soon as any thought of a sale enters your mind.

One problem that must be addressed when you restructure a business is Capital Gains Tax (“CGT”).  This is because the value of business assets, such as goodwill, have generally increased since the business commenced or was acquired, and moving it from one entity to another can result in an assessable capital gain.  There are a number of options to minimise or eliminate the impact of this, but if you qualify for them the Small Business CGT Concessions (“the Concessions”) are extremely attractive.

The Concessions are quite complicated and much care is required in applying them to your individual circumstances.  In general though, they are intended to provide capital gains tax relief for owners of small businesses.  If your business turnover is less than $2m per year or the value of your family group’s net assets (excluding your home and superannuation) is less than $6m, you are a good chance of qualifying for the Concessions.

As an illustration of how the Concessions might help you in restructuring your business in preparation for retirement, let’s assume you are operating a business that you started from scratch in a family trust.  The business now turns over $1.8m and is growing, and your family has accumulated net assets worth $5m, some of which are owned by your family trust, including the business which is worth around $1.5m.  You’re not ready to sell and retire yet, but looking to do so in 5 to 10 years.

Based on these facts, you currently qualify for the Concessions, but may not in a couple of years.  In other words, if you were to sell your business now for $1.5m, you could potentially pay no capital gains tax on the gain, but if you sell it in 5 years when you no longer qualify, you would pay up to $367,500 on the same $1.5m gain.

In reviewing your circumstances, it may make sense to transfer the business to a new separate trust.  This would provide asset protection for the assets you have accumulated in the trust by moving the business risk into the new trust.  For capital gains tax purposes, the transfer would be deemed to have been at arm’s length value, resulting in a capital gain for the trust of $1.5m.  Since you qualify for the Concessions, however, you may be able to completely eliminate tax on the gain. This will depend on which Concessions you choose to apply.  You can refer to this information sheet for a bit more explanation of these, or call us to discuss them.

Importantly, the new trust will be deemed to have acquired the business for $1.5m, so when it eventually sells it any capital gain will be based on a cost base of $1.5m (i.e. you will only pay tax on any further increase in business value).  Even though you may not qualify for the Concessions at that time, you have already locked in the benefits by applying them while you did qualify.

So in short, by being forward looking, this restructure could save $367,500.  That can make a big difference to your quality of life in retirement.  It is definitely worth taking the time to review your circumstances and discuss them with us regularly.

*Correct as of December 2014

*Disclaimer – this article has been produced by Kreston Stanley Williamson as a service to its clients and associates. The information contained in the article is of general comment only and is not intended to be advice on any particular matter. Before acting on any areas contained in this article, it is imperative you seek specific advice relating to your particular circumstances. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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