The ATO has issued two taxation determinations on the application of the foreign equity distribution rules in Subdiv 768-A of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA 1997) where the recipient is a corporate partner in a partnership or a corporate beneficiary of a trust.
Under Subdiv 768-A, a foreign equity distribution is treated as non-assessable, non-exempt income (NANE income) if the recipient is an Australian corporate tax entity that holds a participation interest of at least 10% in the foreign company making the distribution. This treatment applies whether the distribution is received directly from the foreign company or indirectly through interposed partnerships or trusts.
The ATO's view is that a partnership or trust can hold a direct control interest in a foreign company for Subdiv 768-A purposes, so that an Australian corporate tax entity can have an indirect participation interest in the foreign company via the partnership or trust.
Specifically, TD 2017/21 states that a corporate partner in a partnership can have a participation interest in the foreign company for the purpose of satisfying the 10% participation test.
Similarly, TD 2017/22 provides that a corporate beneficiary of a trust can have a participation interest in the foreign company for the purpose of satisfying the 10% participation test. This aspect of TD 2017/22 differs from the draft (TD 2016/D7), which expressly stated that a corporate beneficiary of a discretionary trust can have a participation interest in a foreign company. However, the finalised determination notes that because a discretionary trustee will usually only exercise its discretion concerning the trust income and corpus at the end of the income year, a beneficiary would not have an entitlement at the test time if the foreign equity distribution is made before year-end.