As an Australian moving to the United States, it’s important to understand what this means for your tax residency status. This is because your tax residency status will determine how your income will be treated for tax purposes.
Moving to the US on a Permanent Basis
If you move to the US on a permanent basis then it would usually be the case that you would be considered a non-resident for Australian tax purposes from the day you leave. Note that a move can be considered permanent from an Australian tax perspective, even if you only expect to live in the US for a few years.
As someone making a permanent move to the US it is likely that you will be cutting most of your ties with Australia. Typically you may do things such as sell your Australian assets, close Australian bank accounts, resign from Australian clubs, remove yourself from the electoral roll, surrender your lease or sell your family home, all as part of and parcel of your move to the United States. In such cases usually you would become a non-resident of Australia.
However, there are exceptions and sometimes a person can become dual resident of Australia and the United States. Often this occurs because a person is living in the United States for long enough to be considered US resident but has not quite departed Australia for whatever reason. Sometimes it is because a person has employment or runs a business in the two countries and actually keeps two homes.
If you become a US tax resident and an Australian non-resident
If you leave Australia and become a US tax resident, then you will be subject to all the taxation rules that a US tax resident is subject to. We always recommend that clients obtain US tax advice before moving to the United States so that they are fully aware of how Australian assets would be treated by the IRS.
As an Australian non-resident you would be subject to non-resident tax withholding rates on certain Australian sourced income, such as any Australian bank or unfranked dividends paid to you from Australian investments. For example this means that banks would withhold 10% of your interest income on your Australian accounts and Australian companies will deduct 15% withholding tax on unfranked dividends paid to you. But you will need to advise your bank and various share registrars that you have moved to the United States.
If you continue to earn any income from Australian sources (other than income that is specifically covered by non-resident withholding rates), then you would have to lodge an Australian tax return. A common example of this is rental income from an Australian property.
You would only be required to include any Australian sourced income, and this would be assessed at non-resident taxation rates. This income also needs to be declared in your US tax return as foreign income. You should also be able to claim a tax credit for any Australian tax already paid on the Australian sourced income in your US tax return.
If you have assets such as investment properties, a main residence, shares and managed funds it will also be vital for you to understand how Australia’s capital gains tax laws applied to you on your departure from Australia. Unless you make a specific choice to the contrary, becoming a non-resident of Australia gives rise to a deemed capital gain or loss arising on your assets and so obtaining income tax advice specific to your circumstances is important. At CST we can provide you with our Departing Australia Tax Review service and can also help you obtain US tax advice.
Dual tax residency?
Sometimes determining your tax residency status is not straightforward. This can happen when you meet the requirements for tax residency in both countries.
If this happens then you would first turn to the tax treaty between Australia and the US, for guidance on which country takes priority. Most of the time the tax treaty will provide sufficient rules to determine which country would be considered the country in which you have tax residency.
In some cases, where an individual is genuinely living in both countries, regularly interchanging between locations, or having equal connections in both countries, a tax ruling may need to be sought and in some cases a treaty-based tax return is required to arrive at the correct result.
Final Words on Tax Residency
Your personal tax residency forms the basis of how all your income tax obligations are calculated, which makes the correct understanding of your tax residency vital, particularly for clients who may be travelling or moving between Australia and the United States, two high taxing countries with complicated tax systems.
When it comes to determining your tax residency it is always important to realise that tax residency is a matter of fact. Often a careful analysis of various facts will be required. Tax residency is not something that can be chosen, and therefore it is important to obtain timely advice so that income tax consequences arising either in Australia or the United States are well understood and budgeted for.