How to buy shares for children
Want to invest in the stock market for your kids? Keep reading to find out how.
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If you want to create a brighter financial future for your kids, you might be considering buying shares for your children. With interest rates currently at all-time lows, stocks offer the potential for much higher returns – albeit with a greater level of risk.
But buying shares for kids isn't easy. Not only will most brokers not allow children under 18 to buy shares, but there are also tax implications to consider when investing in your child's name.
This guide will look at the options available to you if you're looking to invest in the stock market for your kids.
Can children own shares?
If you're planning on buying a parcel of shares and giving them to your child straight away, it's not that easy. Most brokers won't allow you to buy shares in your child's name, even though the ATO says it is possible for children to own shares.
High tax rates also apply on investment income (e.g. dividends) earned by minors, so you'll need to consider other options if you want to buy shares for your children.
Let's take a closer look at a few of the available choices.
Open a share trading account
The first option when you want to set up a stock portfolio for your children is to open an online share trading account. However, instead of opening the account in your child's name, you can open a "minor" account in your own name and act as a trustee.
Once your child turns 18, you can then transfer the shares into a brokerage account held in their name. The advantage of this approach is that capital gains tax typically won't apply when you transfer the shares to your child – the shares were always meant for them, so there's no change in beneficial ownership.
It's also easy to set up a trust account. With CommSec, for example, you can select "Trust" when choosing what type of account you'd like to open.
An alternative option is to simply invest in shares in your name via your own online trading account. Then, once your child reaches 18 years of age, you can transfer the shares to them via an off-market transfer – a private transaction that doesn't take place through the share market. However, you'll need to pay a fee that varies from approximately $25 to $60, while gifting shares is also classified by the tax office as a capital gains tax event.
Compare share trading accounts
Important: Share trading can be financially risky and the value of your investment can go down as well as up. “Standard brokerage” fee is the cost to trade $1,000 or less of ASX-listed shares and ETFs without any qualifications or special eligibility. If ASX shares aren’t available, the fee shown is for US shares. Where both CHESS sponsored and custodian shares are offered, we display the cheapest option.
Open a robo-advice account
If you're new to investing or just want to take more of a hands-off approach, you may want to sign up for an account with a robo-advice service. Robo advisers are essentially digital investment advisers, automatically managing your investments on your behalf based on your appetite for risk and financial goals.
Once again, it's possible to use a robo-advice service to invest on your child's behalf. The investments are held in your name for legal and tax purposes, but you act as a trustee for your child until they turn 18.
Of course, you'll need to consider any monthly or annual fees the robo-advisor charges as well as whether there's a minimum investment limit. Check out our comprehensive guide to robo-advisors for more information.
Set up a trust
For some parents, the best approach may be to set up a discretionary family trust. The trust then purchases shares, ETFs or other investments, and your kids can be made beneficiaries of the trust.
Setting up a trust can provide tax benefits, but it can also be a complicated and expensive exercise. For most mum and dad investors who are creating an investment plan for their children, other approaches are simpler and more affordable.
However, if you think a trust could be worthwhile, contact your accountant or financial adviser for details on how to get started.
How to gift shares to children
Another option is to build an investment portfolio in your own name, and then gift those shares to your children once they turn 18. Your child can then hold the shares in an account in their own name or cash out the investments to spend the money elsewhere.
If you're considering this approach, it's a good idea to check with your broker to find out what process you'll need to complete in order to transfer shares to your child. For example, some brokers make it as simple as filling out an online form. You'll also need to check what fees apply, plus consider the capital gains tax implications.
You'll find lots more useful information in our guide to buying shares as a gift.
Buy insurance bonds for children
Insurance bonds, also known as investment bonds, are offered by insurance companies and friendly societies. These long-term investments are similar to super funds, and they combine an investment portfolio and a life insurance policy together in the one package.
You can nominate the date when ownership of the bond is transferred to your child, while investments within the bond are taxed at a rate of 30%. And if you hold the bond for at least 10 years without making any withdrawals, no further tax applies when you do decide to withdraw the funds.
However, you will need to be aware of annual investment management fees. Find out more in our insurance bonds guide.
Tax implications when investing for children
As you've no doubt gathered by now, there are many tax implications to consider no matter which investment option you select for your kids.
The person that owns and controls the shares must declare any dividends as well as capital gains and losses from share sales to the ATO. But it's worth noting that the ATO has rules in place to stop parents trying to dodge their tax responsibilities by hiding investments in their child's name.
As a result, if your child holds shares in their name and earns more than $416 in investment income during a financial year, you'll need to lodge a tax return on their behalf. Unfortunately, they can be taxed at a rate of up to 66%.
If a parent owns the shares in their own name, or if the parent invests as a trustee, they must declare dividend payments and capital gains tax events on their own tax return. With this in mind, it's a good idea for couples to put any such investments in the lower income earner's name.
Buying shares for children is a great way to help provide a more secure financial future for your kids, but it's also complicated. It's well worth seeking advice from an accountant to help you compare and choose investment options for your children.
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