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Do you own some shares you want to sell? Maybe you inherited them from a relative, maybe they were given to you as a gift or maybe you bought them a long time ago. Whatever the case, you want to find a quick, easy and affordable way to sell your shares – but where do you start?
To sell shares you'll first need to work out where your shares are being held and whether they're CHESS-sponsored, issuer-sponsored or held by a custodian (such as overseas shares). In many cases you can open an account with a stock broker or online share trading platform, transfer your shares to over and then pay a small brokerage fee to sell.
In this guide, we’ll show you what options are available so you can offload your shares with a minimum of fuss.
How are your shares sponsored?
The first factor you need to work out is how your legal title to the shares is registered. Shares can be either broker sponsored or issuer sponsored.
- Broker-sponsored shares. These are also commonly referred to as CHESS holdings or CHESS-sponsored shares. CHESS stands for Clearing House Electronic Subregister System, which is the system the ASX uses to record shareholdings and manage trade settlement. Broker-sponsored shares are managed by the ASX via a sponsoring broker, for example CommSec or nabtrade. If you hold this type of shares you’ll be issued with a Holding Identification Number (HIN). This starts with an “X” and will be listed on your latest dividend or holding statement.
- Issuer-sponsored shares. These shares are managed by the company that issued them. Most companies use a share registry such as Computershare to administer the registry on their behalf. If you inherited shares or they were gifted to you by someone else, there’s a good chance they’ll be issuer-sponsored shares. If you own issuer-sponsored shares, you’ll have been allocated a Securityholder Reference Number (SRN). This starts with an “I” and will be listed on your latest dividend or holding statement.
- Custodian. If your shares are held in a custodian model account and the share trading platform used to purchase them no longer exists, you may need to contact the custodian to organise the sale of your shares.
Once you’ve figured out which type of shares you own, it’s time to find a way to sell them. However, the sale process differs for broker-sponsored and issuer-sponsored shares.
Selling broker-sponsored shares
If you have CHESS-sponsored shares, you can sell them through the same broker you used to purchase them.
If you want to sell them through a different broker, you’ll need to transfer the shares to your account with that new broker. Compare share trading platforms to find one that’s right for you, then open an account on the platform you choose.
To transfer the shares over, you’ll need to fill out a transfer form with your new broker. It will then contact your old broker to arrange the transfer and once it’s complete you can place a sell order through your online share trading account.
Selling issuer-sponsored shares
Selling issuer-sponsored shares is a little more complicated. There are a couple of options available:
- Selling through the share registry. The first option is to sell your shares directly through the registry, such as Computershare or Link Market Services. You’ll need to provide your SRN, contact details and proof of ID. It’s possible to complete the sale online. However, fees and transaction limits do apply.
- Selling through a broker. The second option is to transfer the shares from the registry to your broker and then sell them. To do this, you’ll typically need to provide your SRN and complete the transfer via your online share trading account. Your broker will be able to provide step-by-step instructions on the exact process for doing this.
However, it’s worth noting that some major brokers don’t offer one-off share trading services. This means that you’ll need to set up a share trading account, which includes providing proof of ID and linking up a bank account, before you can sell your shares.
There are some platforms that support one-off sales for people who don’t want or need a trading account. You’ll need to compare these providers and the fees they offer to find one that’s right for you.
How much does it cost to sell shares?
Whenever you sell shares, a brokerage fee applies. This fee varies between platforms and depending on whether you’re making a one-off sale or selling through a regular online share trading account. Fees also vary depending on the size of the transaction, so check the fine print for full details.
If you’re selling through a share trading account with one of the Big Four banks, the following fees apply:
- CommSec: From $10 for trades of up to $1,000.
- Nabtrade: From $14.95 for trades of up to $5,000.
- ANZ Share Investing: From $19.95 for trades of up to $5,000.
- Westpac Share Trading: Fees from $19.95 or 0.11% of trade value.
It’s also worth noting that an additional fee of around $10–$15 applies when you sell issuer-sponsored shares via a broker. Our guide to finding cheap stock brokerage can help you save on fees and charges when selling shares.
Brokerage fees also apply if you sell your issuer-sponsored shares through a share registry. As an example, Computershare charges brokerage of $110 on trades of up to $5,000.
Finally, if you’re making a one-off sale through a broker that supports this service, you could be charged a flat brokerage fee (usually between $40 and $200) or a fee calculated as a percentage of your transaction amount, whichever is greater.
Selling inherited shares
If you’ve inherited shares from a relative who has died, the process for selling them can also vary.
If ownership of the shares has been transferred into your name, the sale process is relatively simple and you can follow the steps outlined above. But if the shares are still held in the name of the deceased estate, you’ll need to provide additional documentation, such as copies of the probate or of the will and death certificate.
You should also keep in mind that while you don’t have to pay tax on shares you inherit, you may be liable for capital gains tax when you sell them.
Another scenario you may face is if you receive an offer from a company to buy back some or even all of the shares you own. This is known as a share buyback.
Buybacks allow companies to offer higher returns to their shareholders, consolidate ownership and boost the value of its shares. Buybacks can take place off-market, which is when the company approaches shareholders directly, or when the company buys its own shares through the ASX.
You’ll also need to consider your capital gains tax obligations if you participate in a share buyback. These are slightly more complicated for off-market buybacks, so be sure to ask your accountant for advice.
Another option is to give your shares to someone else as a gift. You can do this without actually selling shares on a stock exchange by performing what is known as an off-market transfer, which allows you to transfer ownership of shares to a third party.
The exact process for completing an off-market transfer varies depending on the broker or share registry that manages the shares. You’ll typically need to fill out a form with the name, contact details, SRN/HIN and trading account details of you and the recipient – contact the broker or share registry for full instructions.
You’ll also need to pay an off-market transfer fee. This usually costs around $25–$55, but some brokers will waive this fee if you’re transferring shares to someone with an account on the same platform.
For more details, check out our guide to off-market transfers with the Big Four banks.
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