Share trading and the ATO – How to pay tax on shares in Australia | Finder

How to lodge a tax return if you invest in shares

Find out about capital gains tax on shares and what to do at tax time if you're an investor.

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It's tax time again which means a couple of things if you trade shares – you might need to pay capital gains tax and you may be able to claim deductions.

Depending on how often you trade shares and how the Australian Tax Office classifies you, you could be eligible to claim tax benefits such as franking credit rebates and deductions on trading-related costs.

The ATO defines a share trader as, "a person who carries out business activities for the purpose of earning income from buying and selling shares.”

Regular investors are taxed differently; while traders can claim losses on the market as a tax deduction, but if you’re an investor, your losses are deducted from your capital gains only.

Whether you're a trader or investor, this guide explains how much tax you need pay and whether you're eligible for benefits.

How does the ATO classify share traders and share investors?

The ATO defines a business for tax purposes as any money making venture where you’re not an employee. Share trading fits this definition; however, there are no black and white rules about who is a share trader and who isn’t. The ATO gives some guidelines but ultimately makes decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The ATO assesses the nature of your trading activities when deciding to classify you as a share trader or investor. This involves whether you’re trading regularly, how much you trade and whether this is comparable to other share traders.

The ATO also looks at your business or trading plan. This should include information such as why you’ve decided to hold and sell shares, in addition to your assessment of potential investments.

What are the tax implications of share trading?

If you can satisfy the ATO’s definition of being a share trader, you can claim any gains from the share market as your personal income and any losses as a tax deduction.

Casual investors can't claim on any losses and need to pay attention to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and the timing of the sale of shares. Any profits made after June 30 won’t be taxed until the following year.

Do I need to pay tax on shares?

Yes, you need to pay tax on any profits that you've made from share trading during the year – this is called capital gains tax (CGT). Any profits that you make are added to your total taxable income for the year. So, if you're paid a salary of $49,0000 and you make $1,000 from trading shares – your total taxable income is $50,000.

Dividends are also included in your total taxable income – in fact, the ATO will already have a record of the dividends you've earned throughout the year and will have automatically added this to your income.

If you're a casual investor, your profits are calculated as total profits – total losses. So, if you bought 100 Afterpay (APT) shares at $10 per share and sold them all at $20, your taxable profit is $1000. But say a month later you bought 100 APT at $40 and sold them at $30, your total taxable profit (if you made no other trades) would be $0.

It's important to note that profits aren't taxable until you actually sell your shares. If you sell before June 30, your profits will be included as your taxable income this financial year and if you sell after June 30, it's added to the following tax return.

How much tax do you pay on shares?

Any profits you make from share trading is added to your total taxable income. The tax you pay will depend on what tax bracket you fit into based on this total income.

However there are big tax benefits to long-term investing over short-term investing. If you hold shares for longer than 12 months, you're only taxed on 50% of the profits you make from those shares. If you buy and sell within the same financial year, your total profits are included as taxable income.

What are franking credits?

Franking credits can be used by shareholders as a tax break on share dividend payments. Franking credits stop dividend payments from being taxed twice and can be claimed as a tax refund by shareholders depending on the shareholder’s marginal tax rate.

You can read more about franking credits in our comprehensive guide.

How do I lodge a tax return for shares?

Your tax return for shares is included as part of your regular tax return after June 30.

When you lodge your annual tax return, you'll need to report any capital gains you've made on buying and selling shares throughout the financial year. Any dividends you earn will have already been added to your taxable income by the ATO.

At the end of the financial year, your broker or online share trading platform will send you a tax statement with the total profits you've earned. If you're lodging your own tax return, you'll need to include this number in your report. If you use a tax accountant, send the tax statements to them to work out.

How does the tax office define a trader?

Tax implications are different for traders and investors. The ATO will classify you as a trader if you can answer yes to the following:

  1. You purchase shares on a regular basis in a routine way. The ATO will also look at the volume of shares traded and the size of the investment(s).
  2. You have a trading plan. The ATO will look at whether you have a registered business and whether you have business premises and all the relevant qualifications and licences.
  3. You make use of share trading techniques, such as market analyses.
  4. You have a Plan B in case your shares run at a loss.

What is a share trading plan?

You have a share trading plan if you can answer yes to the following:

  1. You carry out analyses of future investments.
  2. You look at the market to identify areas of potential gain.
  3. You make a decision to buy or hold shares based on future value.

Tax deductions

Share traders

  • Money from the sale of shares and share dividends are included in assessable income.
  • The costs of buying and selling shares can be claimed as a tax deduction.
  • Share traders can claim the costs of items such as computers, as they are necessary to making trades and keeping records. You can also claim depreciation on items costing more than $300.

Share investors

  • Can’t claim the purchase price of shares as a tax deduction.
  • Capital losses are subtracted from capital gains.
  • Any net profit is subject to CGT.
  • Can claim deductions on the prepayment of expenses such as internet fees, seminars or subscriptions for up to 12 months in advance.

Compare share and CFD trading accounts

Data updated regularly
Name Product Standard brokerage fee Inactivity fee Markets International
eToro Share Trading (US stocks)
US$0
US$10 per month if there’s been no login for 12 months
US shares
Yes
Zero brokerage share trading on US stocks with trades as low as $50.
Join the world’s biggest social trading network when you trade stocks, commodities and currencies from the one account.
Superhero share trading
$5
No
ASX shares, ETFs
No
Pay zero brokerage on all Australian ETFs.
Trade ASX stocks with a flat $5 commission fee and a low minimum investment of just $100.
Bell Direct Share Trading
$15
No
ASX shares, mFunds, ETFs
No
Exclusive: New customers who open an account with Bell Direct through Finder will pay no brokerage fees on the first five stock or ETF trades until April 30, 2021 (T&Cs apply).
Bell Direct offers a one-second placement guarantee on market-to-limit ASX orders or your trade is free, plus enjoy extensive free research reports from top financial experts.
IG Share Trading
Finder Award
IG Share Trading
$8
$50 per quarter if you make fewer than three trades in that period
ASX shares, Global shares
Yes
$0 brokerage for US and global shares plus get an active trader discount of $5 commission on Australian shares.
Enjoy some of the lowest brokerage fees on the market when trading Australian shares, international shares, plus get access to 24-hour customer support.
ThinkMarkets Share Trading
$8
No
ASX shares, ETFs
No
Limited offer: Get 5 free ASX trades when you open a new account with ThinkMarkets before June 30, 2021 (T&Cs apply).
Buy and sell CHESS sponsored ASX shares with $0 brokerage on your first 5 trades. Only $8 flat fee brokerage thereafter, plus enjoy free live stock price data on an easy to use mobile app.
CMC Markets Stockbroking
$11
No
ASX shares, Global shares, mFunds, ETFs
Yes
$0 brokerage on global shares including US, UK and Japan markets.
Trade up to 9,000 products, including shares, ETFs and managed funds, plus access up to 15 major global and Australian stock exchanges.
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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.

Data updated regularly
Name Product Minimum Opening Deposit Minimum Opening Deposit Commission - ASX 200 Shares Available markets Platforms
eToro CFD
US$200
US$200
No commission
Forex, Shares, Indices, Cryptocurrencies, Commodities, ETFs
eToro Trading Platform
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Join the largest social trading network in the world.
Plus500 CFD
$200
$200
No commission
CFD on Forex, Commodities, Cryptocurrency, Indices, Shares, Options and ETF's
Plus500 Trading Platform
Disclaimer: This is a CFD provider. Trading CFDs on leverage is high risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Trade CFDs on Australian and International shares, indices, cryptocurrencies, commodities and more.
IG CFD broker
$0
$0
0.08% with $7 minimum
Indices, FX, Shares, Commodities, Cryptocurrency, ETPs, Options, Interest Rates, Bonds
MetaTrader 4
ProReal Time
IG Trading Platform and Apps
L2
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Trade from over 15,000 markets with Australia's leading service for CFD trading and forex.
IC Markets CFD (True ECN Account)
US$200
US$200
0.1% per side
ASX shares, global shares, indices, commodities, forex, cryptocurrencies
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Trade 230+ different products with fast execution under 40 milliseconds on average.
City Index CFD
$0
$0
0.08% with $5 minimum
ASX shares, 4,500 global shares, indices
MetaTrader 4
At Pro
Advantage Web
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Trade CFDs on indices, FX, global & Australian shares and commodities, plus access other markets such as metals, bonds and interest rates.
Blueberry Markets CFD Trading
US$100
US$100
$20 per month subscription plus 2% of trade size
Indices, ASX200 Shares, Commodities, Cryptocurrency
MetaTrader 5
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Bottom of the market fees on forex, CFDs and commodities with 24/7 quality customer service.
CMC Markets
$0
$0
0.09% with a $7 minimum
ASX shares, 25+ global exchanges, treasuries, indices
CMC Next Generation CFD, MetaTrader 4
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Share CFD and forex ideas with other traders and take your strategy to the next level with over 100 technical indicators and charts on CMC’s mobile-friendly Next Generation platform.
Pepperstone CFD
$200
$200
No commission
ASX shares, global shares, indices, cryptocurrencies, commodities
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader
Disclaimer: Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Trade stock indices on the global market, via Pepperstone's MetaTrader 4 and cTrader client terminals.
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Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and you could lose more than your initial investment. It may not be suitable for every investor. Refer to the provider’s PDS and consider the risks before trading.

Data updated regularly
Name Product Minimum Opening Deposit Minimum Spreads for Major Currencies Commission Minimum Trade Size Platforms
eToro Forex Trading
USD 200
1.0 pips
$0
US$200 (to CopyTrade)
eToro Trading Platform
Margin FX is a complex financial product and traders are at high-risk of losing all of or more than their initial investment.
Social trading, advanced charting tools, plus receive exclusive benefits through the eToro Club (membership is tiered based on the equity in your trading account).
Plus500 Forex Trading
AUD 200
0.7 - 3.0 pips
$0
N/A
Plus500 Trading Platform
This is a CFD provider. Trading CFDs on leverage is high risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Open an account and experience Plus500's easy-to-use proprietary trading platform, 24/7 online chat support and free real-time forex quotes.
IG Forex Trading
0
0.6 - 1.5 pips
$0
1 lot
MetaTrader 4
ProReal Time
IG Trading Platform and Apps
L2
Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Choice of trading platforms. Choose optional extras like advanced charting, reporting and order types. Over 90 currency pairs to choose from.
IC Markets Forex Trading (Raw Spread account)
USD 200
From 0.0-0.1 pips
AU$3.50 per 100k traded
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader
Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
City Index Forex Trading
0
0.5 - 1.22 pips
$0
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
At Pro
Advantage Web
Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and not suitable for all investors and you could lose your initial investment. Always check the provider’s PDS and consider the risks before trading.
Choice of trading platforms, integrated Reuters news and device-synching so you can monitor trades across multiple devices.
Blueberry Markets Forex Trading
USD 100
From 0.0 pips
$0
0.01
MetaTrader4, MetaTrader5
Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Bottom of the market fees on forex, CFDs and commodities with 24/7 quality customer service.
CMC Markets
0
0.7 - 1.5 pips
$0
0.01 lots
CFD Next Generation
MetaTrader 4
Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and losses could exceed your deposits.
Pepperstone Forex Trading (Razor Account)
USD 200
0.0 - 0.1 pips
AU$3.50 per 100k traded
0.01 lots
MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 5
cTrader
Margin FX is a complex financial product and traders are at high-risk of losing all of or more than their initial investment.
Choose from a range of fee-free funding methods, plus a suite of 10 different apps available as part of Pepperstone's Smarter Trading Tools.
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Trading CFDs and forex on leverage is high-risk and you could lose more than your initial investment. It may not be suitable for every investor. Refer to the provider’s PDS and consider the risks before trading.

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Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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