New 39% personal tax rate effective 1 April 2021

The top personal marginal tax rate increases to 39% on income over $180,000, with effect from 1 April 2021. Businesses should consider what the flow-on effects are and forward plan to ensure they are not caught off guard. Two key areas are discussed in this article.

Simplistically put, a company pays income tax at 28%. Imputation credits arise from that tax paid and are used to reduce the tax payable by shareholders when dividends are paid. Further tax may be payable by the shareholder if the tax liability on the dividends is more than the imputation credits.

If shares in a company are ultimately held by an individual, consideration should be given to declaring a dividend prior to 1 April 2021, in which case it will be taxed to the individual at 33% (rather than 39% to the extent income would exceed $180,000 from 1 April 2021).This requires a comparison between the income tax liability that will be triggered upon declaring a dividend prior to 1 April 2021, versus the expected future income tax liability that will be triggered if a dividend is declared on or after 1 April 2021.

The FBT regime ensures tax is paid on non-cash benefits provided to employees, such as company vehicles and fuel cards. When calculating FBT, employers have the option of using one of the following methods:

  1. The single rate option, where a single rate of 49.25% is applied to all benefits provided to employees.
  2. The short-form alternate option, where rates of 49.25% and 42.86% are applied to attributed and non-attributed benefits, respectively. This appeals to employers who predominantly provide attributed benefits to employees who earn more than $70k.
  3. The full alternate rate option, where a separate calculation is undertaken for each employee who has received attributed benefits with  reference to each employee's salary. A rate of 42.86% is applied to non-attributed benefits. This appeals to employers who predominantly provide benefits to employees who earn less than $70k.

Typically, benefits that are subject to FBT are provided to higher-earners, and consequently, the 49.25% FBT rate under the default FBT method equates to the current top marginal personal tax rate of 33%, which keeps the FBT filing process simple.

The full alternate rate option takes considerably more time to calculate, and as a result, employers that value time and efficiency tend to use the single rate or short-form alternate rate option, irrespective of the cash savings that the full alternate rate can provide.

With the introduction of the 39% marginal tax rate, the 49.25% and 42.86% FBT rates will be increasing to 63.93% and 49.25% respectively from 1 April 2021. This effectively means employers that use the single-rate option will be paying FBT as if all employees earn more than $180,000, when in reality the 39% rate is expected to apply to only 2% of New Zealanders. As a result, employers may wish to consider undertaking the short-form or full alternate rate calculation from 1 April 2021, as the cash saving may exceed the additional time and effort.

For passive investments, individuals should make sure current and future investments are held in the most appropriate entity for their circumstances (PIE's, investment companies or trusts) . However any restructuring needs to be for genuine commercial reasons ( such as asset protection) or family reasons, otherwise there is a risk the IRD will view the change as tax avoidance. 

We have been reviewing our clients structures to explore different options to ensure tax efficiencies are achieved while considering the IRD views on changes and have been discussing these with a number of client.  Generally if we haven't contact you to discuss this then we have found you are not affected , however please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to know more. 

 

****************************************************************************************************************************

Please note: The above E-newsletter notes and the related articles on our website are of a general nature and therefore we urge clients who may be affected by these changes to contact us to discuss your specific circumstances before making any changes or drawing any conclusions.

If you do not wish to receive these E-newsletters please use the unsubscribe option below.

Get in contact

  • Takapuna Office

    Ground Floor, Takapuna Finance Centre
    159 Hurstmere Road
    P O Box 331 626
    Takapuna, Auckland

    Phone +64 9 414 4050
    Fax +64 9 447 1645
    Make appointment
    Get Directions