Those who operate rural businesses often have the intention of keeping it within the family. In most situations it is sensible that the enterprise starts to move to different members of the family before the passing of the matriarch or patriarch. A ‘double shuffle’ is a means to achieve this without bringing the trading assets of these businesses to account for tax purposes.

A ‘double shuffle’ is a colloquial term used to refer to specific rollover relief for trading stock and depreciable items that are disposed of when a partner leaves or enters a partnership. It is often used to transition income producing assets such as trading stock and machinery from an established partnership (mum and dad) to immediate family members. Handled correctly, these transactions are achieved without tax or stamp duty.

It has relevance where the existing partnership comprises family members or entities controlled by them. Such a restructure strongly appeals to rural families as they could find it beneficial to have their children or relatives become owners of parts of the agricultural business over time. This lets these children learn the ropes whilst having some skin in the game. Although it is a tax concept, the double shuffle is really about empowering and training family members to take over the business (at least in part), and to do so over a period of time. The assets can be gradually transitioned from the parents to their children and as confidence grows in their ability, so can the amount of assets transitioned.

However, it should be noted that in some circumstances, transferring assets to other members of the family may not be desirable. If you are contemplating this type of restructure, or are just becoming aware of it, it is important to consider a restructure not just in tax terms but what could go wrong in the new set of circumstances with the changed partnership composition.

Sometimes those who are the beneficiaries of the assets may not be capable or willing to handle the assets being gifted to them.

Where a ‘double shuffle’ is contemplated, as part of a broader estate and succession plan, it should be implemented with the intention of building an environment where the beneficiary has the benefit of  assets available to them, but also ensuring that the assets cannot be taken from them. This means that transferring assets to family members, in their own right, may not be the best course of action. In this case, other succession strategies should be considered to ensure that family members can benefit from, but not control assets.

IN SUMMARY, A DOUBLE SHUFFLE OFFERS:

  • the ability to partially transfer assets such as trading stock and machinery to family members without tax or stamp duty
  • a means to give family members the benefit of assets as a way to transition them into the family business, and
  • a way that families can portion and divide up rural businesses gradually over time as a succession strategy.