A friend’s accountant suggested that they could reduce interest on non-deductible debt by using company cash to offset their personal mortgage, then transferring the cash back by 30 June. Is this an acceptable strategy?

This might initially sound like a brilliant strategy but what is really happening is that you are using company funds to derive a personal benefit. Doing this once might not attract attention, but doing this more than once might trigger a deemed unfranked dividend under Division 7A. Section 109R is designed for scenarios like this. If this occurs, the repayment you made will be ignored, meaning that a deemed dividend could be triggered in relation to the funds initially borrowed from the company unless a complying loan agreement is put in place, in which case minimum loan repayments would need to be made to prevent a deemed dividend from arising.

For example, let’s assume you are a shareholder of the company (or an associate of a shareholder) and you borrow money from the company on 1 July 2022. This loan would generally fall within the scope of Division 7A, but a deemed dividend can be avoided if the loan is fully repaid by the earlier of the due date and actual lodgement date of the company’s 2023 tax return. 

However, if you repay the loan but it appears that you intend to borrow a similar or larger amount from the company when making the repayment then the repayment can be ignored. The main exception to this is where the repayment is made in a way that is taxable to the individual (e.g., dividends or directors’ fees are set-off against the loan balance).

One of the most common situations where section 109R could apply is where funds are taken from the company bank account and placed into a director’s home loan offset account. Even if the funds are transferred back to the company before the end of the year, there is a significant risk of section 109R applying if the pattern repeats. That is, the money will be treated as a dividend and taxed as assessable income.