Friday, August 24, 2012

Insurance premiums & FBT

As many regular readers would be aware, one particular innovation in recent times in relation to insurance funded business succession arrangements is the so-called 'debt reduction' strategy.
One aspect of the arrangement that is often raised concerns the fringe benefits tax (FBT) implications of the premium payments.
Broadly, there are a number of reasons as to why FBT will normally not apply to the payment of insurance policy premiums.
Generally the accountant for the business will always be best placed to give the guidance, however some of the reasons FBT will not apply can include –

1.    the arrangements not having anything to do with employment;
2.    in some instances, the otherwise deductible rule; or
3.    while for administrative ease the premiums might be paid by the business, the actual tax position is that the amount is included as part of other payments made (for example, a dividend).
It is important to remember that aside from FBT, there are a number of other tax issues that may also be relevant (for example division 7A or capital gains tax) so it is also best to ensure the exact circumstances are considered by the accountant for the particular client.

Until next week.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Difficulties with Advanced Health Directives

In last week’s post, an overview of Advanced Health Directives (AHDs) was provided.

As mentioned in that post, there are a number of significant practical difficulties with AHDs, and in summary, the main issues in this regard include:

1.       The person making the AHD tends to want to be able to have a ‘turn off the switch’ type provision (or perhaps even euthanasia).  No AHD allows this.  Unless the donor has specific religious or personal objectives, many of the questions are somewhat irrelevant.

2.       The attitude of a donor when signing the AHD is not necessarily any indication of their attitude in say, ten years time, when the issue arises.  Anecdotally many doctors are unwilling to rely on a document from years earlier in the heat of the moment (even if they find that document on an urgent basis).

3.       As the document needs to be completed with a GP it is unlikely that the GP is actually going to be involved in any sort of emergency situation in any event – again, another reason why the doctor actually performing the medical treatment etc, would be very unlikely to either try and find the AHD or even if it is found, look to rely on it.

4.       In contrast, doctors will generally place significant weight on whoever is appointed as the enduring power of attorney.  If that enduring power of attorney is also a next of kin and if there is no hint of any dispute in the immediate family group, then the wishes of the person seeking medical treatment will generally be respected.

In next week’s post, there will be links provided to the relevant government websites for AHDs in every Australian State.

Until next week.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What are Advanced Health Directives?

One issue that comes up relatively regularly in estate planning exercises relates to Advanced Health Directives (AHD).

In most jurisdictions, an AHD is essentially a document addressed to a person’s medical practitioner setting out the level of care that they would like to receive in a series of specific situations.  Normally, the document is crafted as a 'multiple choice' questionnaire listing out dozens of typical medical scenarios.  The document is normally completed in conjunction with a client’s GP.

As the document is a medical, not legal, one, most lawyers simply provide access to the standard document rather than providing advice on it.

One important issue to note is that in no Australian state does an AHD create the ability for euthanasia style directions to be articulated.

While a person has legal capacity they may revoke their AHD at any time. 

In an upcoming post, we will look at some of the practical difficulties of AHDs.

Until next week.