Joint Venture

What is a joint venture?

A joint venture is a cooperative business arrangement formed by two or more entities with the shared goal of establishing a new entity to pursue specific business objectives.

This collaborative effort involves each participant contributing assets and resources to the newly formed entity, resulting in a collective sharing of risks, costs, profits, and losses associated with the venture. This shared commitment fosters a collaborative environment where the success or challenges of the venture are collectively borne.

Legal Framework
When entering into a joint venture, parties typically formalise their collaboration through legal agreements, such as shareholders’ agreements. These agreements play a critical role in defining the rights and obligations of each party, establishing a structured framework for the operation of the joint venture.

Some of the key features outlines in joint venture rulings include:

  • Sharing of Product or Output: Joint ventures involve sharing the product or output, not just sale proceeds or profits.
  • Contractual Agreement: Participants must have a contractual agreement.
  • Joint Control: Joint ventures exhibit joint control among the parties.
  • Specific Economic Project: They are associated with a particular economic project.
  • Cost Sharing: Participants often share costs.

For the Commissioner to recognise a joint venture for GST purposes, the primary feature is the sharing of a product or output.

While other indicative features are expected to be present, there might be instances where not all features apply, especially in joint ventures established by statute without a separate agreement.

Moreover, while the critical feature of a joint venture for GST purposes is the sharing of product or output, it’s important to note that the output can extend beyond tangible items to include intangibles such as copyrights and patents.

For instance, a joint venture might be formed for the construction and maintenance of a road, with the output involving interests related to operating a toll on the road.

Two types of joint ventures in australia

In the Australian business world, joint ventures can take two distinct forms: incorporated or unincorporated.

Incorporated Joint Ventures

Structure: These joint ventures are established as separate legal entities with limited liability, typically in the form of a company registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Partners’ Role: Venture partners in an incorporated joint venture become shareholders in the registered company. Their participation involves sharing profits and losses based on their respective shareholding percentages.

Legal Entity: The incorporated joint venture functions as a distinct legal entity, offering protection to partners through limited liability.

Registration: Registration with ASIC is a prerequisite for incorporated joint ventures.

Unincorporated Joint Ventures

Structure: Unlike incorporated joint ventures, unincorporated joint ventures do not establish separate legal entities and do not require registration with ASIC.

Contractual Basis: Venture partners in unincorporated joint ventures enter into a contractual agreement that outlines their rights, responsibilities, and the terms of their partnership.

Profit and Loss Sharing: Partners in unincorporated joint ventures share profits and losses according to the predetermined percentage agreed upon in their contractual arrangement.

Liability: In contrast to incorporated joint ventures, in an unincorporated joint venture, each partner assumes personal liability for the venture’s debts and obligations.

Key Considerations

One notable advantage of incorporated joint ventures lies in the provision of limited liability protection for the participating partners. In this structure, the entity itself assumes responsibility for any incurred debts or legal obligations.

This distinctive feature shields individual partners from personal liability, offering a layer of financial protection. This attribute makes incorporated joint ventures particularly attractive for larger projects entailing significant financial risks.

On the other hand, unincorporated joint ventures present their own set of advantages, particularly catering to smaller and simpler projects. In this arrangement, partners willingly embrace shared liability.

Without the necessity of creating a separate legal entity, unincorporated joint ventures are agile and well suited for ventures where partners are comfortable assuming personal responsibility for the project’s debts and obligations. This flexibility makes them a fitting choice for collaborative efforts on a more modest scale.

The choice between an incorporated or unincorporated joint venture is contingent upon the specific objectives and circumstances of the participating entities.

Incorporated joint ventures are often preferred for larger projects involving substantial financial risks, while unincorporated joint ventures are more fitting for smaller ventures where partners are willing to accept personal liability.

Two women having a discussion, representing the concept of joint venture.

Eligibility to establish a joint venture

Entities have the ability to self assess their eligibility for establishing a joint venture. This process allows entities to initiate the formation at any point during a tax period, typically without requiring approval from the Commissioner. To form a joint venture, the following conditions must be met:

  • Eligible applicants must qualify as entities. Importantly, residency for tax purposes in Australia is not mandatory, and it’s explicitly clarified that an unincorporated joint venture is not considered an entity.
  • To be eligible for participation in a joint venture, applicants must actively engage in a joint venture.
  • The joint venture must align with eligible purposes, such as the exploration or exploitation of mineral deposits, as specified in the regulations.
  • It’s a crucial requirement that the joint venture does not fall under the classification of a partnership for GST purposes.
  • Each entity intending to participate must meet the specific participation requirements outlined for that particular GST joint venture.
  • A joint venture operator must be nominated. Interestingly, the operator is not obliged to be an Australian resident but must be registered for GST. Additionally, an entity can serve as the joint venture operator for multiple joint ventures.
  • The joint venture operator must either be a direct party to the joint venture or, alternatively, must be registered for GST and share the same GST tax period as the participants in the joint venture.

Preliminary steps before entering a joint venture

Prior to engaging in joint venture transactions, participants typically undertake crucial preliminary steps to foster alignment, assess viability, and address potential complexities:

Preliminary Agreements

While not mandatory, participants often opt for preliminary agreements to establish alignment among potential joint venture partners before finalising formal agreements.

Key Considerations in Preliminary Agreements:

  • Strategic rationale for selecting a joint venture over alternative business models.
  • Identification and characteristics of proposed counterparty participants, including their stakes.
  • Definition of the joint venture’s operational scope and limitations.
  • Valuation and relative contributions of assets by participating entities.
  • Assessment of tax, accounting, and economic impacts associated with different joint venture structures.
  • Formulation of dispute resolution mechanisms, covering deadlock, dilution, and exit scenarios.
  • Detailed business planning, management considerations, and expected duration of the joint venture.

Due Diligence

Participants conduct thorough due diligence, scrutinising various aspects such as the target market, assets (including intellectual property), and the credibility of other participants.

Due diligence may extend to evaluating political risks, corporate reputation, and broader market factors associated with the counterparty.

Conditions Precedent

The establishment of a joint venture may depend on conditions typically associated with asset or share acquisitions and the initiation of new business endeavours.

External conditions may include government approvals, competition or regulatory clearances, Australian foreign investment approvals, and home country approvals.

Considerations for Listed Company Joint Ventures

Listed companies must evaluate whether the joint venture formation qualifies as a significant transaction under the ASX Listing Rules.

Triggering shareholders’ approval requirements may necessitate the preparation of an expert report.

Ongoing restrictions and considerations for listed companies post joint venture establishment may apply, requiring specific compliance advice.

These preparatory measures empower joint venture participants to make informed decisions, mitigate potential risks, and establish a robust foundation for their collaborative endeavours.

Three people having a discussion, representing the concept of joint venture.

Ensuring valid and enforceable jv agreements

Entering into Joint Venture (JV) agreements can be lucrative, provided the process is meticulously executed. However, neglecting to carefully consider objectives and fundamental components may lead to complications.

Analysing the legal implications before signing a JV agreement is crucial.

To ensure validity and enforceability, several general principles should be adhered to:

Written Agreement

It is highly advisable for JV agreements to be documented in writing. This practise minimises the potential for disputes regarding the terms of the agreement, offering a clear reference point.

Signature of All Parties

All involved parties must sign the agreement to establish its validity. The absence of signatures from any party may render the agreement unenforceable.

Clarity and Unambiguity

The terms within the agreement must be articulated with clarity and lack ambiguity. This clarity ensures that the agreement’s terms are easily understood and leaves minimal room for interpretation, reducing the risk of disputes.

Legal Compliance

Adherence to legal standards is imperative. The terms specified in the agreement must align with legal requirements. Non compliance may jeopardise the enforceability of the agreement.

By following these principles, parties can fortify the validity and enforceability of their JV agreements, laying a foundation for a successful and mutually beneficial collaboration.

Reasons to engage in a joint venture

Companies engage in joint venture arrangements for diverse reasons, each contributing to strategic objectives and fostering avenues for growth and innovation:

Access to New Markets

Joint ventures serve as a gateway for companies to enter untapped markets, establish new business ventures, and broaden their customer base. Partnering with a local entity provides invaluable insights into the market dynamics, leveraging the local partner’s established networks and relationships.

Sharing of Knowledge and Resources

Collaboration in joint ventures facilitates the pooling of strengths and expertise among companies with aligned goals. This synergistic approach allows for the efficient sharing of resources, be it technology, distribution networks, or manufacturing facilities, leading to cost reduction and enhanced overall efficiency.

Risk Sharing

Joint ventures provide a mechanism for companies to distribute both risks and costs associated with specific projects.

By combining resources, companies can undertake more substantial ventures, benefiting from shared financial responsibilities. This collaborative approach boosts purchasing power and enables favourable negotiations with suppliers.

Diversification

Companies opt for joint ventures as a strategy to diversify their business portfolios, reducing reliance on a singular product, market, or geographic region. Participation in joint ventures in different industries or markets allows companies to spread risk, creating new avenues for growth and minimising vulnerability.

Access to New Technology

Joint ventures offer a pathway for companies to access cutting edge technologies or research and development capabilities. By partnering with entities possessing complementary technological expertise, companies can expedite their innovation efforts and enhance their development initiatives.

Thus, joint ventures emerge as a potent tool for companies aiming to achieve strategic objectives, unlocking opportunities for innovation and growth. However, the success of joint ventures hinges on meticulous planning and execution, considering the inherent risks associated with such collaborative endeavours.

Two women having a conversation, representing the concept of joint venture.

Challenges in a joint venture

Joint ventures, while holding the promise of shared success and mutual growth, are not without their challenges. As enterprises increasingly explore collaborative ventures, it becomes imperative to consider the potential pitfalls that may arise during joint venture engagements.

Conflicting Work Cultures

Partners in joint ventures often bring different managerial styles, potentially resulting in conflicting expectations and operational approaches. Divergent work cultures may lead to challenges in harmonising strategies and workflows.

Extensive Due Diligence

The success of a joint venture is contingent upon thorough due diligence. This involves in depth research, comprehensive analysis, and feasibility studies before the venture commences. The extensive nature of this process requires substantial time and resources.

Unclear Objectives

Ambiguity in objectives, especially across various management levels, can impede effective communication. This lack of clarity may lead to misunderstandings among partners, hindering the establishment of shared goals and collaborative efforts.

Imbalance

Imbalances within a joint venture can manifest in different forms, such as variations in expertise levels or unequal contributions from participating parties. This imbalance may create challenges in decision making, resource allocation, and overall collaboration.

Unlimited Liability

In certain joint venture structures lacking a distinct legal entity, partners may face unlimited liability for the venture’s debts and obligations. This means that creditors have the right to pursue the personal assets of individual partners in the event of financial difficulties for the joint venture.

Understanding these disadvantages underscores the importance of proactive measures in joint venture planning and management.

Tax implications for joint ventures in australia

The treatment of taxes for joint ventures in Australia depends on the type of JV whether it’s an incorporated JV with subscribed shares or an unincorporated JV governed by participant agreements.

Corporation Tax

For incorporated JVs, the transfer of depreciating assets triggers balancing adjustments. This involves assessing the sale’s written down value, leading to either assessable or deductible amounts.

Capital gains tax (CGT) applies to the disposal of assets or shares, contingent on the tax residency of the transferring entity and potential CGT roll over relief.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

GST, a comprehensive consumption tax, comes into play during JV formations. Determining whether an unincorporated JV constitutes a tax law partnership is crucial. Participants may opt for a GST JV structure, often seen in mining and primary production. In such cases, a nominated operator manages GST liabilities on behalf of participants.

Stamp Duty/Transfer Tax

Stamp duty, administered by individual Australian states, is levied on specific transactions, including asset transfers. Considerations vary for incorporated and unincorporated JVs, necessitating a meticulous examination of duties, exemptions, and implications for foreign entities.

Tax on Issuing/Transferring Shares

Issuing shares by a JV company doesn’t trigger CGT, but attention is needed to navigate value shifting rules, particularly if shares are issued at a discount. The GST applicability during share transfers depends on the nature of supplies made during the transfer.

Taxation of JV Participants

Participants must include JV income in their assessable income. For foreign tax residents, only income with an Australian source is subject to Australian tax. Taxes like CGT and stamp duty may come into play during the disposal or acquisition of JV interests.

Taxation of Dividends

Dividends distributed by a resident JV company fall under Australia’s imputation system. This system credits shareholders with the tax paid by the company, known as a franking credit. Non residents receive dividends without withholding tax if fully franked. If not, a 30% withholding tax may apply.

Two women talking while looking at a laptop, representing the concept of joint venture.

Joint venture vs partnership

In the context of taxation, it is of utmost importance for joint ventures to avoid being categorised as partnerships.

The definition of a partnership as per Australian tax laws include an association of individuals engaged in joint business activities or receiving income jointly, excluding companies. It’s essential to note that this tax definition goes beyond the conventional legal understanding of partnerships.

A critical distinction lies in the treatment of income derivation. For tax purposes, a partnership involves the joint derivation of income, while a joint venture centres around the collaborative generation of a product or result, subsequently shared among the participating entities.

Importantly, venturers in a joint venture have the autonomy to independently derive income from the shared product.

The motivation to avoid being classified as a partnership stems from practical complexities, notably the obligatory submission of a partnership income tax return.

Now, some of the prominent distinctions outlined by laws include:

Joint Entitlement vs. Sharing of Product

In a partnership, there is joint entitlement to profit or income. Contrastingly, in a joint venture, entities engage in the collaborative sharing of the product or output in defined portions.

Nature of Business

Partnerships signify an ongoing business endeavour. Joint ventures are more project oriented, associated with a specific economic project rather than a continuous business.

Binding Actions

In a partnership, the actions of one partner may bind all partners. On the other hand, a joint venture operates under joint control, where decisions are collectively made, ensuring a collaborative decision making process.

Interests in Assets

Partners in a partnership possess indirect undivided interests in partnership assets. While individual partners can deal with their interest, they lack control over the underlying assets.

In a joint venture, venturers exhibit a well defined separation of interests, not sharing a joint undivided interest in the assets contributed to the venture. This highlights a clear demarcation of ownership.

Liability for Debts

Partners in a partnership are considered agents of each other and are jointly and severally liable for partnership expenses.

Conversely, participants in a joint venture typically bear liability for their individual debts incurred as principals, ensuring a more individualised responsibility.

Exiting a joint venture 

An entity is considered to cease to be a participant in a joint venture when its approval as a participant or the approval of the joint venture as a whole is revoked

Responsibilities Upon Cessation

When an entity exits a joint venture, it becomes accountable for accounting purposes related to supplies, importations, and acquisitions made on its behalf by the joint venture operator.

Adjustments

  • Generally, adjustments resulting from the joint venture operator’s activities on behalf of group members are attributed to the operator. However, when an entity leaves a joint venture, it assumes responsibility for such adjustments.
  • If, after exiting the joint venture, an adjustment arises regarding a supply, acquisition, or importation made on behalf of the entity during the joint venture activities, the adjustment is assigned to the entity that ceased to be a participant, not the joint venture operator.

Change of Creditable Purpose

In cases where a joint venture operator acquires or imports an item on behalf of a participant, and the participant ceases to be part of the joint venture, any adjustment related to a change in creditable purpose is calculated by comparing the operator’s entitlement to an input tax credit or adjustment with the actual application of the acquired or imported item.

This adjustment is attributed to the entity that ceased to be a participant, rather than the joint venture operator.

These provisions ensure a structured approach to accounting for adjustments and creditable purpose changes when entities exit a joint venture, maintaining clarity and accountability in the process.

This article is general information only and does not provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision you should contact an appropriately qualified professional.