The first three months of 2019 were a dividend bonanza.

The value of the cash bonuses to investors lifted 37 per cent year on year, says data from fund manager Plato Investment Management.

Plato managing director Don Hamson put the Australia surge down to companies trying to beat changes to franking credits flagged by Labor, if it wins the federal election on May 18.

“Here in Australia, several companies increased dividends to beat potential tax changes to franking credit refunds,” he said.

Dividends are paid out of after-tax profit; franking credits allow the recipients to avoid paying a second round of tax on that money by offsetting it against their other income.

If they don’t pay tax or don’t have a tax bill, a change in 2001 allows them to take the credits as a cash refund.

Labor wants to stop these cash refunds.

Resources were once again the backstop of Australian dividend payers.

“Although most of the big dividend gains came from resources stocks which are benefiting from higher commodity prices,” Hamson said.

While dividends were led by the likes of Alumina (ASX:AWC), Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) and Fortescue (ASX:FMG), there are a number of small cap resources companies which also pay out, from Neometals (ASX:NMT) to Rand Mining (ASX:RND).

Dividends are also a feature of the small but mature listed dental scene, with SDI (ASX:SDI), 1300 Smiles (ASX:ONT), and Pacific Smiles (ASX:PSQ) all offering investors a small amount of cash back.

Globally, shareholders only saw a 19 per cent lift (to $510bn no less) in the value of their dividends, led by overachievers Germany and the Netherlands as well as Australia

This news comes five months after another fund manager said Australia’s third quarter dividend payouts were the weakest in the world.