The ATO has made a new determination that dividend equivalent payments made under an employee share scheme (ESS) are assessable to an employee as income when they receive the payment for or in connection with services they provide as an employee.

A “dividend equivalent payment” is a cash payment to an employee participant and beneficiary an ESS funded from dividends on which the trustee has been assessed in previous income years because no beneficiary of the trust was entitled to the income at the time.

A trustee that makes a dividend equivalent payment under an ESS must withhold an amount from the payment, even though the trustee is not the employee’s employer.

TIP: The ATO offers a safe harbour from such payments being treated as income under specific circumstances. Get in touch with us to talk about whether your situation makes you eligible.

The new determination applies to dividend equivalent payments paid under the terms and conditions attached to ESS interests granted on or after 1 January 2018.