background image
Australia Consults on Strengthening Interest Limitation Rules — Orbitax Tax News & Alerts

The Australian Treasury has launched a public consultation on a new draft law containing measures to strengthen Australia's interest limitation (thin capitalization) rules in line with OECD best practice guidance with effect from 1 July 2023. The explanatory memorandum summarizes the new law as follows. The deadline for comments is 13 April 2023.


Summary of new law

The Bill introduces new thin capitalisation earnings-based tests for 'general class investors', specifically, a fixed ratio test that replaces the existing safe harbour test, and a group ratio test that replaces the existing worldwide gearing test. In addition, the Bill introduces an external third party debt test for general class investors and financial entities that are not ADIs. The new thin capitalisation rules may disallow all or part of a general class investor's debt deductions for an income year.

The 'general class investor' concept represents a consolidation of the existing 'general' classes of entities, being 'outward investor (general)', 'inward investment vehicle (general)' and 'inward investor (general)'. Entities which previously fell into one of those classes of entities will now fall under the new 'general class investor' definition. This approach simplifies elements of the thin capitalisation regime, while being clear that financial entities and ADIs are not within the scope of that concept.

Fixed ratio test

The fixed ratio test allows an entity to claim net debt deductions up to 30 per cent of its 'tax EBITDA', which is broadly, the entity's taxable income or tax loss adding back deductions for interest, decline in value, capital works and prior year tax losses. This ensures that a portion of an entity's profits remains subject to tax in Australia and cannot be eroded by excessive debt deductions.

Under the fixed ratio test, a special deduction is allowed for debt deductions that were previously disallowed under the fixed ratio test if the entity's net debt deductions are less than 30 per cent of its 'tax EBITDA' for an income year. Debt deductions disallowed over the previous 15 years can be claimed under this special deduction rule

The special deduction is included as part of the fixed ratio test to address year-on-year earnings volatility concerns for businesses which limit their ability to claim debt deductions depending on their economic performance for an income year.

Group ratio test

The group ratio test can be used as an alternative to the fixed ratio test for more highly leveraged groups. The group ratio test allows an entity in a highly leveraged group to deduct net debt deductions in excess of the amount permitted under the fixed ratio rule, based on a relevant financial ratio of the worldwide group.

If the group ratio test applies, the amount of debt deductions of an entity for an income year that are disallowed is the amount by which the entity's net debt deductions exceed the entity's group ratio earnings limit for the income year.

External third party debt test

The external third party debt test allows all debt deductions which are attributable to third party debt and that satisfy certain other conditions. This test replaces the arm's length debt test for all entities previously subject to the arm's length debt test.