Are Division 7A loans bad? This query has echoed louder in the financial corridors with the recent uptick in interest rates. This article unpacks the intricacies and ramifications of Division 7A loans, shedding light on their real impact amidst evolving financial landscapes.


What are Division 7A Loans?

Division 7A loans are a provision within the Australian tax law designed to prevent private companies from making tax-free distributions to shareholders or their associates. 

So, if a private company lends money to a shareholder or an associate of a shareholder or forgives a debt, it can be treated as a dividend unless it’s under a specific Division 7A compliant agreement. 

Essentially, this provision ensures that companies don’t disguise dividends, which are typically taxable, as loans or other payments, thereby avoiding tax obligations.

The Recent Surge in Interest Rates

The Division 7A loan interest rate, which was previously at 4.77% in the last financial year, has now escalated to 8.27% as of July 1, 2023. This change isn’t just a minor fluctuation; it represents a substantial shift in the financial obligations of those who have taken out these loans.

For example, let’s say an employee takes out a compliant loan of $200,000. Previously, the minimum payment for the 2023 financial year would have been $34,276. With the new rates, the minimum repayment for the 2024 year is projected to be $38,223—which is essentially an increase of nearly $4,000 in minimum annual repayments.

The Broader Implications of the Rate Increase

While an additional $4,000 might not seem monumental on its own, the broader implications are significant. Clients may face additional tax liabilities due to this increase. And those with multiple loans or larger loan amounts will feel the pinch even more.

You also need to consider the long-term impact. An additional $4,000 annually over five years amounts to an extra $20,000, which isn’t a small amount. 

And if the loan holder doesn’t meet the minimum yearly repayments, the ATO will deem the shortfall amount to be a Division 7A dividend for that income year. 

This dividend is unfranked, meaning it doesn’t come with tax credits. So, the shareholder or associate who holds the loan will be taxed on this dividend at their marginal tax rate, leading to potential significant tax liabilities over the years.

The need to pay tax on the deemed dividend can strain the shareholder’s or associate’s cash flow, especially if they are unprepared for this additional tax burden. Over time, this can accumulate and put financial stress on the individual or entity. 

So, the long-term consequences can be substantial and far-reaching.


What About the Impact on Bank Covenants?


Another critical aspect is how these loans might influence bank covenants, especially with the increased interest rates.

In this context, bank covenants refer to conditions or stipulations set by banks in their loan agreements to ensure borrowers maintain certain financial health standards. These covenants protect the bank’s interests by setting operational and financial benchmarks or restrictions. 

In the case of Division 7A loans, a bank might include covenants to ensure that the borrower remains compliant with the specific requirements and that the bank clearly understands the borrower’s true financial position.

The interest paid on a Division 7A loan typically appears as an interest expense on profit and loss statements. This can sometimes give a skewed representation of the actual cost of servicing the debt, especially if the bank is unaware that the interest remains within the borrower’s group. 

This discrepancy can lead to challenges in obtaining business loans, as it can create a gap between accounting profit and tax profit.

Strategies for Addressing These Challenges


While the increased interest rates and their implications might seem daunting, they don’t necessarily make Division 7A loans “bad”. It’s about how they’re managed:

  • Stay Informed: Understanding the nuances of Division 7A loans and the recent interest rate hike can empower clients to make informed decisions.
  • Strategic Repayment: For those with positive cash flow, considering a faster repayment strategy can help mitigate the long-term impact of the interest rate increase.
  • Comprehensive Tax Strategy: Engaging in proactive tax planning can help clients navigate the financial implications.

Key Takeaways

Division 7A loans, like any financial instrument, come with their own set of challenges and benefits. 

While the recent interest rate hike has introduced new complexities, these loans can be effectively navigated with the right strategies and proactive management. It’s not about labelling them as “good” or “bad”, but understanding their nuances and making informed decisions.

If you need help managing your Div. 7A loans, contact the Box Advisory Services team today. 


What Is the Primary Purpose of Division 7A Loans?

The primary purpose is to prevent private companies from making tax-free distributions to shareholders or their associates, ensuring that companies don’t disguise dividends as loans or other payments to avoid tax obligations.

Are All Loans from a Company to Its Shareholders Considered Division 7A Loans?

No, only those loans that are not made under a Division 7A-compliant agreement are treated as dividends. There are specific criteria and exceptions.

How Can a Company Ensure Its Loans Are Division 7A Compliant?

Companies can ensure compliance by setting up a written loan agreement with minimum yearly repayments and charging an appropriate interest rate, among other requirements.

What Happens If a Loan Is Deemed a Division 7A Loan?

If a loan is deemed a Division 7A loan, it is treated as a dividend and can be taxable to the shareholder or their associate.

Can a Division 7A Loan Be Repaid?

Yes, a Division 7A loan can be repaid. Repayments reduce the outstanding loan balance, and if made under a compliant agreement, they can prevent the loan from being treated as a dividend.

What Is the Difference Between a Division 7A Loan and a Regular Business Loan?

A regular business loan doesn’t have the tax implications of a Division 7A loan. Division 7A specifically deals with loans or payments from private companies to shareholders or their associates.

Are There Any Exceptions to Division 7A?

Yes, there are several exceptions, including certain loans made in the ordinary course of business or loans that are fully repaid by the company’s lodgement day.

Division 7A Loans