Australian Expats Living In The USA: Understanding Your Investment Property Tax Obligations

John Marcarian   |   26 Jul 2023   |   8 min read

As an Australian expat living in the USA you may have to contend with the impact of taxes on property that you own in Australia or in the USA.

The types of taxes relating to property that you may need to consider include:

  • Income taxes
  • Capital gains tax (CGT)
  • Local taxes such as land tax in Australia or Property Taxes in the USA
  • If you inherit property in the USA you may also be subject to inheritance taxes

Since your country of residence will have an impact on how you are taxed for income and capital gains purposes, this article assumes you are a USA tax resident. You can read more about US tax residency in our article ‘Managing Dual Tax Residency as an Expat‘.

Australian Property Taxes

Once you cease to be an Australian resident for tax purposes the taxes you pay on income generated from Australian owned property changes, in potentially significant ways.

Income Generated From Your Property

As a non-resident for Australian tax purposes, any income generated from Australian real property will need to be declared and taxed in your annual tax return on a non-resident basis. This means there is no tax free threshold and your income is taxed at foreign tax rates.

When you lodge your Australian tax return, any tax paid to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), can be claimed as a tax credit in your USA tax return.

This will apply to any property you retain in Australia as an investment property, or any new property you invest in that is located within Australia.

Changes To The Way CGT Applies When You Move To The USA

Your Main Residence

As an Australian tax resident your main residence is exempt from capital gains tax (CGT).  However, when you move overseas and become a non-resident, this exemption ceases to apply, except in limited circumstances

If you have already moved to the US, but intend to return to Australia at some point, your main residence exemption will again be accessible, but only on a pro-rata basis, as long as you are once again an Australian resident at the time you sell your former main residence.

CGT Discount

Australian residents are ordinarily given a 50% CGT discount on assets that are sold after 12 months of ownership. This discount is not available to foreign residents for assets acquired after 8 May 2012. For any property that you acquired after this date you will only be able to utilise the 50% CGT discount on a pro-rata basis for any period that you were an Australian resident.

Note that the discount cannot be applied for any period of ownership where you are or were a non-resident. This means that even if you return to Australia as an Australian tax resident, you will be unable to apply the CGT discount for your time as a non-resident.

Land Taxes

As land tax is applied on a state-by-state basis, the rules and calculations for this tax will vary depending on the location of your property.

It is important to note that some states apply a foreign surcharge on the taxable value of land. This means that your land tax costs may be more expensive while you are a non-resident of Australia.

Transfer Of Property (Stamp Duty)

When you purchase property in Australia you are subject to stamp duty on the value of the property. Stamp duty is applicable on a state level which means that the assessment criteria and rate of calculation, including any exemptions or reductions, varies between states.

Declaring Australian Sourced Property Income

You will need to declare any income you earn from your Australian investment property on your US tax return. You can also claim a credit for any tax paid on the income to the ATO. 

USA Property Taxes

The USA has a lengthier range of taxes and a generally more complex tax system. This is because taxes may be applied on a Local government level, as well as State and Federal levels. With the USA being a much larger country than Australia, taxes can be quite complicated.

Income Taxes

If you hold investment property in the USA you will be taxed on the income generated from renting the property. Unlike Australia, income is taxed on both a Federal and a State level in the USA. This means you are required to lodge both a Federal and a State tax return, unless you are in a state that does not apply income tax.

Capital Gains Tax

The US has a Capital Gains Tax regime that is similar to Australia’s Capital Gains Tax regime.

There are exemptions for primary residences, provided certain conditions are met, and long-term capital gains, defined as assets that are owned for more than a year, are taxed at a preferential rate.

Whereas Australia gives a flat 50% discount after 12 months of ownership, the US applies a progressive, preferential rate of tax which depends on your total taxable income. The rate of tax that is applied to long-term capital gains may be 0%, 15% or 20%.

Local Property Taxes

Property Taxes are imposed by Local governments, which means they vary widely depending on the location of your property. The Local governments that impose these taxes includes counties, cities, and school districts.

The closest comparison in Australia would be land tax. However, while land tax in Australia is assessed on just the value of the land, Property Tax in the USA is assessed on the overall value of the home, including both the land and the property structure. Also, while Australians typically find that their main residence is exempt from Land Tax, US property owners are usually subject to Property Tax, even on their main residence.

The assessed value of your property will determine how much property tax you are required to pay, and this assessment is periodically reviewed, including when there are significant changes made to the property. Assessment is based on a unit known as “a mill”, which is the equivalent of one-thousandth of a dollar.

Some jurisdictions offer exemptions or deductions that can reduce your property tax liability. Exemptions and reductions may cover factors such as the property being your primary residence, or personal factors, such as age, disability, or veteran’s status.

For states that have a “homestead exemption”, Property Taxes are reduced on your main residence. Most states allow between $5,000 and $500,000 of your main residence to be exempt from Property Tax, with larger exemptions for married couples or joint owners. Conversely, some states do not have this exemption at all.

These taxes are ordinarily due annually or semi-annually, depending on the jurisdiction. Penalties and interest can apply for late payments, so it is important to be aware of your local property tax requirements.

Transfer Taxes (Conveyance or Deed Taxes)

When you transfer property between one person or entity, to another, you will also be assessed for transfer taxes, otherwise known as conveyance or deed taxes. Since transfer taxes are administered by the Local government, who pays these taxes, and how much they are, varies significantly between States, and sometimes even between counties within a State. Transfer taxes may be payable by the seller, the buyer, or both.

Estate and Inheritance Taxes

Unlike Australia, most States of the USA have a specific estate and inheritance tax.

Estate taxes are levied on the total value of a deceased person’s estate, before it is distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate. Conversely, inheritance taxes are imposed on the heirs who take ownership of the assets.

These taxes are also applied on a State level, which means the rules and tax rates can vary significantly, and not all States impose them.

Australian Tax Resident

Note that there may be different outcomes if you only are living in the USA on a short-term basis and remain an Australian tax resident instead of becoming a US resident.

It would also mean that you are required to lodge a US tax return as a non-resident. You would then lodge an Australian tax return as a resident, declaring worldwide income, including the foreign income and foreign tax credits from the US.

Understand Your Property Tax Obligations

Taxes on Property, from Property Taxes imposed on ongoing ownership of property, through to taxes on rental income from investment property and CGT, can be extensive. When you are contending with holding property overseas and required to deal with international taxes, it can be even more complex.

Since tax legislation can vary significantly, even between States within the same country, and laws are often adjusted and updated, it is important that you always seek the most up to date tax advice for your situation. 

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Corporate Residency

Please provide your details to access the online tool

Name is required.

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Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Place of
Incorporation

Is the company incorporated outside Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Central Management
and Control

Is the Central Management and Control
of the company exercised in Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Carry on a Business

Does the company carry on a business in Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Voting Power

Is the company's voting power controlled
by shareholders who are residents of Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

The company is an Australian Resident

Contact us for tailored international tax advice
regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact Us

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

The company is not a resident
but it could be a CFC

Contact us for tailored international tax advice
regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

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Daniel Wilkie   |   11 Jul 2023   |   10 min read

When you live and work solely in one country, tax residency is straightforward. However, if you are living away from your home country or living between multiple countries, then determining tax residency is complicated.

One of the difficulties in determining tax residency is that the laws applied to residency differ in each country. This means you may simultaneously meet the residency requirements in multiple countries within a given tax period. Alternatively, if you live a particularly transitory life, it may be difficult to identify primary residency.

Note that tax residency is different to citizenship or visa residency. This article discusses what you need to know about tax residency.

Why Residency Matters

As each country has their own rules for taxation, it is important to know which country has taxation rights over you as an individual resident. This is why residency is such a foundational concept.

Being a tax resident of multiple countries has potential implications on how your worldwide income is taxed. Generally, your country of residence has primary taxing rights over your income. It also raises double taxation concerns, with competing tax jurisdictions aiming to potentially tax the same income. As countries sometimes tax the same income, a dual tax resident could face significant tax consequences. For this reason, tax treaties between countries exist to help resolve conflicting taxation rights, including determining tax residency.

As this can be a particularly complex issue it is important to ensure that you consult with qualified tax professionals who are familiar with the tax laws of each country. The following information provides a general overview of the potential tax consequences of being a tax resident in multiple countries.

Taxation Rights

Once residency is determined, your country of residence will have the primary taxing rights. Income that is taxable from other sources will be taxed as income earned by a non-resident.

Double Tax Agreements (DTAs) between countries cover a range of factors to help mitigate double taxation issues, including who has primary taxing rights of specific types of income and can include limitations on the taxing rights of the country where the taxpayer is a non-resident.

For countries that tax on a territorial basis, the country of residence might only legislate taxation over income derived from the country of residence, or foreign income that is remitted into the country.

However, countries that tax on a worldwide basis assess all income earned by the individual, regardless of the source of income.

In either case, DTAs, and other tax relief provisions help alleviate the impact of being taxed in multiple countries. This typically means that when you pay foreign tax on foreign sourced income, your country of residence will count this tax towards the tax they assess on this income.

Tax Residency

As each country has its own rules for determining residency, your first step is working out whether you are a resident in each country that you are connected to. To give an example of how this works we consider the tax residency rules of Australia, Singapore, the USA and the UK.

Tax Residency In Australia

How Residency Is Determined

There are a number of tests used to determine residency in Australia, which are essentially designed to determine whether Australia is your home. This means that you are an Australian tax resident if you reside in Australia, or intend to reside in Australia for a significant period of time, and you have a permanent home there.

If you are an Australian permanent resident who is living and working overseas on a temporary basis, you may still be considered a tax resident of  Australia. If you have not established a permanent place of abode outside Australia, then your Australian tax residency will continue. A permanent place of abode is a place where you live and consider your home. This means you may still be considered an Australian tax resident even if you are not physically present in Australia for a given tax year. Individuals who are not Australian citizens may also remain Australian tax residents if they travel overseas for short periods of time, while maintaining their home in Australia.

In an income tax year where you become or cease being a resident you will be considered a part-year tax resident.

Income Taxes as a Resident

Australian tax residents are assessed on worldwide income. This includes all forms of income including capital gains.

Tax Residency In Singapore

How Residency Is Determined

In Singapore you are a tax resident when you are physically present in Singapore for at least 183 days in a calendar year.

Income Taxes as a Resident

Singapore tax residents are typically only required to pay tax on Singapore sourced income, or foreign income that is brought into Singapore. Singapore does not tax capital gains.

Tax Residency In The USA

How Residency Is Determined

In the USA, all US citizens and dual citizens are required to lodge a tax return to declare their worldwide income, regardless of their tax residency.

Non-citizens are tax residents if they hold a Green Card that legally allows permanent residency.

Tax residency is determined by a physical presence test. This test requires physical presence in the USA for at least 31 days in the relevant calendar year, after being present for a specific number of days totalling at least 183 days over the preceding two years.

Income Taxes as a Resident

Both citizens and tax residents of the USA are taxed on their worldwide income. Citizens are taxed on worldwide income even if they no longer reside in the US and do not meet the residency test. There are some foreign earning exclusions for individuals who meet specific requirements.

Tax Residency In The UK

How Residency Is Determined

In the UK you are a tax resident under the Statutory Residence Test. This test considers a range of factors including the number of days you are present in the UK, your connections to the country, and other relevant criteria.

The UK has an automatic overseas test. This means if you spend less than 16 days in the UK (or less than 46 days if you have not been a UK resident for the previous 3 tax years), or you are working abroad full-time and spend less than 91 days in the UK, then you are a non-resident.

There are three automatic resident tests:

  1. You are present in the UK for at least 183 days.
  2. Your only home is in the UK for at least 91 days in a row, and you visited or stayed for at least 30 days in the tax year.
  3.  You worked full time in the UK for any period of 365 days and at least one of those days falls in the tax year you’re checking.

Where you do not meet either automatic test the “sufficient ties test” will determine if you are a resident. This test considers your UK connections, including family, accommodation, work, and physical presence, over a number of years.

Income Taxes as a Resident

UK tax residents are taxed on their worldwide income. However, non-UK sourced income may be exempt from UK taxation in certain circumstances.

Dual Residency

As can be seen from the various residency tests of just these four countries, there is variety in how residency is determined and the tax implications this could lead to. Given the variation in tests, you could easily be considered a resident of multiple countries over a single tax year.

When an individual is a tax resident in multiple countries the next step is to determine if there are tie breaker rules contained in a DTA. These rules provide guidance on determining an individual’s primary place of residence.

Residency Tie Breaker Rules

Most countries adopt the Mutual Agreement Procedure, specifically Article 4 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, to resolve dual residence situations. Accordingly, there is a fairly standard set of tie breaker rules across various DTAs. These tiebreaker rules are outlined as follows:

  1. Permanent Home – Where you have a permanent home in one country but not the other, you will be a resident of the country where your home is located.
  2. Centre of Vital Interests – The country in which you have closer personal and economic connections will be your country of residence. This may include family and personal ties, social and economic activities such as work and club memberships, and where you keep your main assets.
  3. Habitual Above – Where neither of the previous tests assist, the country where you regularly abide or reside in will be your country of residence.
  4. Nationality – Where none of the previous tests assist you will be a resident of the country in which you are a national.

In most cases an individual will be able to determine their residence using one of these tie breaker rules.

When it comes to Australia, Singapore, the USA and the UK, most of these countries adopt comprehensive DTAs between one another, in which Article 4 of the OECD Model Tax Convention is essentially utilised. This includes the DTAs between the following countries:

  • Australia and Singapore
  • Australia and the USA
  • Australia and the UK
  • Singapore and the UK       
  • The UK and the USA

Notably, there is no DTA between Singapore and the USA. This means that dual residents of Singapore and the USA will need to rely on the taxation rules and access to tax relief options in each country in order to avoid double taxation.

Dual Tax Residents

In very rare cases an individual may have sufficient ties to multiple countries in which they are either not a citizen, or in which they hold dual citizenship, leading to a situation whereby they may not be able to effectively use tie breaker residency rules to accurately determine their country of residence. This creates a complex situation wherein no country has clear priority for determining tax residency and a decision regarding residency is subjective.

This situation could theoretically lead to an individual being subject to taxes being assessed on their worldwide income in multiple tax jurisdictions. The Mutual Agreement Procedure contained in some DTAs enables a taxpayer to request the competent authority in one country to engage with their counterparts in another country to resolve double taxation.

Managing Dual Tax Residency

In summary, determining residency is an important factor because it determines which tax jurisdiction has primary taxation rights.

DTAs exist to help mitigate the risk of double taxation by providing tie breaker rules in determining residency and placing restrictions or limitations on taxation rights over certain types of income, as well as providing tax relief through the recognition of foreign tax credits.

Where no DTA exists, or where an individual’s residency cannot be determined, other provisions are required to mitigate the impact of double taxation. 

Tax residency can be a very complex area and it is recommended you seek specialist international tax advice for your particular situation. 

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Corporate Residency

Please provide your details to access the online tool

Name is required.

Email is required.

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Place of
Incorporation

Is the company incorporated outside Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Central Management
and Control

Is the Central Management and Control
of the company exercised in Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Carry on a Business

Does the company carry on a business in Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Voting Power

Is the company's voting power controlled
by shareholders who are residents of Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

The company is an Australian Resident

Contact us for tailored international tax advice
regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact Us

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

The company is not a resident
but it could be a CFC

Contact us for tailored international tax advice
regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Our principal, Matthew Marcarian, was recently published in Australia’s leading tax journal, Taxation in Australia (run by the Tax Institute), with his article titled “Australian Expatriates: Casualties of Law“.

In his article Matthew looks at how over the last 20 years, Australia’s international tax settings have changed in a way which has increased the tax burden on Australian expatriates. Too often they become “casualties of law”, their interests overlooked by poorly conceived, and sometimes politicised, tax policy and design.

The article examines these changes and analyses major tax issues facing Australian expatriates at different stages of their expatriate journey. The article demonstrates how Australian expatriates can face higher taxes and significantly more complexity than fellow Australians.

The tax issues examined include the ongoing legislative uncertainty relating to individual and corporate tax residency, the removal of both the 50% CGT discount and the main residence CGT exemption for non-residents, the forex rules, the treatment of foreign structures, and overseas retirements plans.

The article also notes that an opportunity exists for the new Albanese government to address many issues to make them less burdensome and fairer for the Australian “diaspora”.

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Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Corporate Residency

Please provide your details to access the online tool

Name is required.

Email is required.

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

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Is the company incorporated outside Australia?

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Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

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John Marcarian   |   3 Apr 2023   |   8 min read

Many private clients heading to abroad may already have a trust in their home country or a 3rd Country.

Historically trusts have been attractive vehicles because they offer people the potential of protecting their wealth from external attacks, but it can also help lower the burden of taxation on a family group.

For those who do not have a trust as yet but who are considering establishing a trust, a great deal of thought and planning needs to go into it.

We make sure our clients understand the four golden rules of setting up a trust:

  1. Ensure the bank or financial advisory firm managing your money does not own the trustee company that will be the trustee of your trust. This prevents a conflict of interest.
  2. Understand how you can unwind the trust arrangement.
  3. Recognise that long-term solutions require tax contingency planning before you sign on the dotted line. As your residency can change, so can your tax position.
  4. Make sure you understand how you can access trust income and/or capital to pay taxes that may become due on the gains of the trust.

Before delving into some further issues associated with trust management, I will cover just a few central points about how trusts work for those who may not have worked with trusts.

How Trusts Work

A trust is an arrangement whereby a trustee has a fiduciary obligation to deal with property over which they have control for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries who are able to enforce such an obligation.

Beneficiaries may be individuals, corporations, or indeed other trusts (such as a charitable trust).

All trusts have a trust deed. 

At a high level, this is a document that outlines the rules that the trustee must follow in relation to the property they control.

Common objectives for utilising trusts are to protect assets and ensure that beneficiaries are deable to benefit financially from the trust in a manner that suits the family group and in accordance with the wishes of the settlor of the trust.

The discretionary trust is the most common trust used by business owners and investors. 

They are generally set up to hold family and/or business assets for the benefit of providing asset protection and tax-planning benefits for family members.

The Trust Deed: Its Importance

The trust deed is the most important document of a trust as it establishes and defines terms and conditions upon which the trust must be operated and managed.

More specifically, the trust deed sets out the beneficiaries of the trust, as well as the end date of the trust and the conditions upon which the trustee holds the property for the beneficiaries.

Actions undertaken outside the provisions set out in the trust deed can be deemed by a court of appropriate jurisdiction to be null and void. 

The implications of an action being null, and void can reach further than the act simply being treated as if it did not occur.

An invalid act of a trustee can result in unwanted taxation implications for the trustee, and a breach of the trustee’s duties can lead to personal liability for damages or alternatively unwanted consequences for beneficiaries.

The best approach in dealing with trust management and planning is to treat every trust deed as unique and therefore refer to the provisions in the deed prior to taking any action.

How Are Trusts Taxed?

While a trust is regarded as a taxpayer in some countries (e.g., Australia), in other countries this is not the case. 

In some countries, the beneficiary is taxed on gains accruing in the trust; in others, it is the original settlor who suffers the tax burden.

Changing Residency With a Trust

One aspect of trust management and planning to get right when you have a trust is to ensure that assets are not unwittingly ‘exported’ into certain tax jurisdictions when you change your tax residency status.

If you want to set up a trust, then before you move to a particular country it is important to understand how a trust determines its residency status under the laws of that country.

In Australia, a trust is regarded as a tax resident of Australia if one of the trustees is a tax resident of Australia. 

However, in other jurisdictions, the concept of central management and control of the trust is used to determine the residency status of the trust.

It is important to work through all the residency aspects likely to impact your trust when you move around with an existing trust.

The key point to note is that it can be a useful exercise to transfer assets from an individual to a trust prior to changing residency and heading overseas. 

However, like most things, this strategy has its pros and cons.

Trusts Heading Overseas: Residency Determination

In the Australian context, where an individual trustee of an Australian trust changes residence, then, often, the trust will also change its residence.

In these cases, you need to make sure that when the trustee changes its residence, the tax consequences are identified.

Before you depart you need to consider whether it is beneficial to you and your family for the trust to stay a resident in your home country where it was established or if it makes sense for the trust to move with you to your new country.

If the immediate and ongoing tax consequences of keeping the trust in its particular form are not advantageous to you then we can discuss alternative strategies with you.

Such strategies may include replacing the trustee of the trust with a company that is domiciled in the jurisdiction to which you are moving and make the trust subject to the laws of that jurisdiction. 

In other situations, it may be more appropriate for a replacement trustee to be appointed in a third jurisdiction and have the trust reside in a 3rd country.

The purpose of the discussion here is to highlight the fact that planning for a departing trust is very important.

Our approach to this area is to recognise that trusts are long-term family vehicles, and just because a client may move to a new country, it does not mean that they should have to wind up their trust and forgo all the benefits that it has provided them.

Given our international tax and trust knowledge, we will be able to help our client make important decisions such as this.

Trusts Arriving Abroad

Moving around the world while being in control of trusts is complicated and should not be done lightly.

Arriving in another country with a trust and no plan is a recipe for disaster.

Where a new individual client has changed their residence and they are the trustee of a foreign trust, it is clear that this trust is also likely to become a resident of the arrival country.

In other cases, even if the client ceases being the trustee before they change their residence specific jurisdictions tax income on ‘pre-migration transfer of assets’ to foreign trusts. 

It is also likely that the trust deed may need a review as some of its definitions and terms may have no meaning in the new country the trust is being exported to.

Even if the trust is residing in a 3rd country, a review of the trust deed from the perspective of the laws of the new country is warranted.

Other concepts, which might be recognised abroad, such as ‘community title’, might be used in the trust deed, but these concepts might have no application in the arrival country.

The arriving trust may still have reporting obligations in the country in which it was established. 

It may also be the case that there are foreign protectors or other people who have an ongoing role in the management of the trust.

You should consider how they are affected in terms of reporting based on the country you are moving to.

This is particularly important if the arriving trust has a business or significant assets.

Often, the cost base of trust assets must be understood on the day the trust first enters a new country.

Usually this will be the market value of the assets on the day of the trust’s arrival, but not always.

While your move abroad is an exciting time for most people and full of challenges and new opportunities, considering the tax issues of how your trust would be affected by your move is essential.

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Key tax issues you need to consider before (not after) you move abroad

John Marcarian   |   24 Jan 2023   |   4 min read

Moving abroad is one of the most challenging things that many of us will do.

My move to Singapore in March 2004 was a completely foreign experience in so many respects. There are so many logistical challenges to deal with that often tax planning is left until you arrive.

This of course is way too late.

This article covers some issues to address ahead of time.

Exit Taxes

An example of an issue that frequently arises is the issue of ‘exit tax’; that is, the act of leaving one country may trigger the deemed sale of all your assets held in your home country. 

Hence, it pays to know if the country you are leaving has an ‘exit tax’ as this can have quite serious consequences for you.

Tax Elections

It is also worth considering whether you can exercise any ‘tax elections’ as to how you may be able to obtain concessional tax treatment as you depart your home country.

For example, in Australia, one of the things to consider depending upon the particular asset, is whether you choose to be treated for tax purposes as ‘retaining some of your assets’.

Though you may move abroad, that does not mean that all your assets need to go with you.

Lodging an election to retain some of your assets for tax purposes in your home country, may give you a bit more flexibility as to the tax treatment available when you decide to sell them.

Creating a Trust in a 3rd Country

For a number of reasons, including tax planning, asset protection and risk mitigation, many people wish to hold their assets in a third country, through some type of trust.

Part of the planning you may choose to do before your move to a new country, is considering whether you should establish a pre migration trust in a 3rd country before you move to the country where you will work.

Often this will lead to a better tax outcome than ‘taking all your assets’ with you.

Many countries do not have tax regimes which tax foreign trusts, and therefore, income accumulating therein is not taxable in the country of your tax residence.

Tax Regime For Expats

In the planning phase of where you might go to work overseas, one important consideration is to consider whether the country you are moving to has a ‘concessional’ or ‘modified’ tax regime for expats.

Some countries, have particularly favourable tax regimes for expats.

As an example, some concessional tax regimes e.g., Japan, Belgium, Korea to name a few, may only tax expats on income arising in their country during the first five years of the expat’s tax residence in the country. 

These transitional rules are generally designed to provide an incentive to work in their country.

Other countries, such as the US, tax expats living in the US on passive income accruing in their home country structures.

Unique Residency Status

Another factor for you to consider when planning your move abroad, is the type of residency that you, the ‘departing expat’, will be taking up in your new country.

In some countries, there are unique residency statuses that can have different tax implications for you. 

An example of this includes the ‘temporary resident’ status in Australia.

This type of residence status imposes a different tax outcome as compared to general residence, and they can provide some additional flexibility in your tax position upon arrival.

Restructuring Your Existing Company or Trusts

It is vital to understand how your existing tax structures may have to be ‘restructured’ before you leave the country.

In some cases, a restructure may only involve changes to the office holders of a company or trustee of a trust.

For example, the residency of the trustee determines the residency status of a trust in Australia. 

If the intention is to keep the trust a tax resident of Australia, then this may be achieved simply with the resignation of the current trustee (the departing expat) and the appointment of another individual who will remain in Australia.

In other cases, it may be possible to issue or transfer shares to a family member to ensure that the company you have in your home country is not caught by the controlled foreign corporation rules when you arrive in your new country.

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Planning what happens with your Pension Fund or Superannuation when moving abroad should be a top priority

John Marcarian   |   27 Oct 2022   |   4 min read

Most expats moving overseas will have some form of pension or superannuation plan.

In my experience changing one’s tax residence does not of itself impact how that pension plan is treated in most jurisdictions. However, some particular complex jurisdictions, like the United States of America, have egregious tax laws that often cause unintended consequences for arriving expatriates.

A US Example

One of my clients moving to the US was adversely affected by the international tax rules of the US with respect to foreign pensions. My client, Peter, had built up a sizeable superannuation (pension fund) balance in Australia. It was the product of 30 years working in the film and entertainment business. Over the previous ten years, Peter had been a senior executive working for a chain of movie theatres in Singapore. As such, international tax had not crossed his mind much. Peter and his wife, Helen, had grandchildren living in Santa Monica.  They were keen to retire and enjoy the good life in a new location. Peter had calculated that he would be able to fund his future Santa Monica lifestyle through a combination of personal savings and by accessing his Australian pension. Everything was set.

Pension payments in Australia were tax free, so Peter thought that Uncle Sam would also not tax them. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In the US, such income streams are taxable if you are a US tax resident. We stopped Peter sending his pension to the US in the nick of time. We collapsed Peter’s Australian pension and enabled Peter to take his capital to the US and invest it in the US tax efficiently. Disaster averted.

This case study highlights why, in order to enjoy your pension, you must consider the impact of foreign tax laws when you are changing jurisdiction.

Countries have different rules

In delivering service to clients, we consider the impact of any overseas move on their home country pension. The underlying motivation for establishing a pension fund is typically based on a desire to save funds for retirement so that there is no reliance on government pensions. 

Thus, it means that having the maximum amount available in the pension plan that is not eroded by taxation, is a primary objective. It is folly to think that a tax-advantaged regime in one country with respect to pension funds will axiomatically apply in another country. That is rarely the case.

Moving your Pension Plan

We have extensive knowledge of the taxation issues relevant to pensions and superannuation. 

This enables us to assist clients with compliance and planning in relation to this important area of their lives. When expats leave their home country to move abroad, there are many aspects of tax that need to be considered prior to departure and pension fund planning is often a priority.

For those expats that have their pension fund in the UK, it may actually be worthwhile moving their pension with them. There are particular rules to address this. A Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) is an overseas pension scheme that meets certain requirements set by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). A QROPS can receive transfers of UK pension benefits without incurring an unauthorised payment and scheme sanction charge.

In Australia, for example, pension funds are only considered to be complying under the governing legislation if they remain within the Australian tax jurisdiction. This means, that the trustee must remain an Australian resident. Therefore, in the case of an expat, relocation can inadvertently trigger a tax liability. Steps need to be taken prior to departure.

Complying in multiple countries

Similarly, many expats arrive in a new country with their home country pension fund in place.  Therefore, they must adhere to the rules in their home country and their arrival country in relation to this pension fund. One of the specialist skills we possess is in advising clients how foreign pension plans will be treated as they move around the globe. We can assist clients on QROPS and other similar regimes.

Moving abroad is an exciting time for most people. If you undertake proper planning with respect to your pension plan before you leave, then the thrill of arriving in your new country is not shaken up by the bad news that you have created unintended tax issues by leaving your home country in an unplanned way.

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Determining Corporate Residency

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The company is not a resident
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Potential Changes To Australia’s Personal Tax Residency Laws

Matthew Marcarian   |   16 Mar 2022   |   4 min read

On 11 May 2021, the Australian Government announced that it is considering replacing Australia’s existing residency rules with a new ‘modernised framework’.

This update is intended to be based on a report by the Board of Taxation from March 2019.

The changes have not been passed into legislation at publication of this article.

Our Principal, Matthew Marcarian, analyses the changes and what it might mean for Australian expats in his – Australia To Change Personal Tax Residency Laws – article.

Below is a summary of the article.

Why might the Rules be Changing?

The Government has indicated that the rules are changing in order to:

  • make them easier to understand and apply in practice
  • deliver greater certainty
  • lower compliance costs for globally mobile individuals

 What is Changing?

Under the current rules an individual is a tax resident if they:

  • reside in Australia
  • have their domicile in Australia
  • live in Australia for at least 183 days of the year, or
  • are a member of certain Commonwealth Government superannuation funds.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of measurable criteria in these tests there is a lot of grey area when it comes to the more complex situation involving travellers and individuals with more ambiguous mobile living situations.

The intended change will update these rules to focus on a framework that centres on three things:

  • Physical presence in Australia
  • Australian connections
  • Objective criteria

While the precise nature of the intended update is not yet known, the Board’s recommendation has indicated specific, measurable tests that an individual should pass to meet the residency test. To this end there are three proposed tests to be considered.

1: The 183 Day Physical Presence Test

It is expected that the new primary test will be as simple as determining that an individual has spent at least 183 days physically present in Australia during the given tax year.

2: Commencing Residency Test

When an individual moves to Australia and is only here for between 45 and 183 days they would also need to satisfy at least 2 of the following factors

1. The right to reside in Australia (citizenship or permanent residency)

2. Australian accommodation

3. Australian family

4. Australian economic connections such as:

     a. Employment in Australia

     b. Actively involved in running a business in Australia

     c. Interests in Australian assets

Ceasing Residency Test

To cease residency an Australian would need to spend less than 45 days in Australia during the year, as well as the preceding two years. However, residency would cease immediately where the individual moves overseas to take up overseas employment and the individual:

1. Was an Australian resident for three previous consecutive income years

2. The overseas employment is for at least two consecutive years

3. Has overseas accommodation for the duration of their overseas employment

4. Is physically outside of Australia for less than 45 days in each year they are living overseas

Summary

The proposed rule changes are intended to simplify and clarify the law around determining residency. However, there is still work to do to develop the tests and factors. Further consultation in drafting the legislation is encouraged.

Australia To Change Personal Tax Residency Laws has been written by our Principal, Matthew Marcarian

When it comes to providing tax advice, Matthew believes it is about more than the simple tax consequences. It is about gaining a deep understanding of the client’s situation to formulate clear, robust tax and business advice that deals with both current and potential tax concerns.

With over 20 years of experience providing international tax advice to a wide range of clients, Matthew is well adept at helping clients manage and plan for the tax outcomes and opportunities, both domestically and abroad.

With extensive qualifications in international taxation and personal experience living as an expat, Matthew is a leader in his field with specialist expertise in relation to trusts, controlled foreign companies, international taxation and advising Australian businesses expanding overseas.

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Changes to Foreign Surcharge: Discretionary Trusts with property in NSW or VIC

Daniel Wilkie   |   22 Mar 2021   |   4 min read

Discretionary trusts provide flexibility in relation to revenue and capital distributions. This is one of the reasons they are a common choice for families. However, when there is a potential foreign beneficiary, the discretionary trust can find itself facing additional costs in the form of foreign surcharges. Foreign surcharges are additional fees that various state jurisdictions impose on the duties and/or land taxes over and above the original impost.

The 2020 changes to foreign surcharge requirements mean that administration for Australian discretionary trusts became a lot more complex.  

Foreign Surcharges are subject to a complex array of rules

Each state and territory has its own rules for determining when a beneficiary is a “foreign person”. They also have their own rules for governing foreign surcharges, with some states even imposing clawback rules in the event a beneficiary later becomes a foreign resident. For this reason it is important to obtain specific advice for the relevant state or territory when a discretionary trust intends to purchase property. 

Ultimately, any discretionary trust that is determined to have foreign beneficiaries will be required to pay both the ordinary state duties and/or land tax, as well as the relevant foreign surcharge. For this reason most discretionary trusts aim to avoid having foreign beneficiaries. Where this is not practical for the purpose and primary aim of having the trust in the first place, the trustee must be aware of how having foreign beneficiaries will impact their financial considerations.

Changes for NSW discretionary trusts that own residential property

On 24 June 2020 the State Revenue Legislation Further Amendment Act 2020 came into effect in NSW. This Act changed the foreign person surcharges for both land tax and duties where residential land located in NSW was owned by a discretionary trust. 

The change means that a trustee is deemed to be a foreign person unless the trust deed explicitly excludes all foreign persons from being beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries. This clause in the trust deed must be irrevocable. This means an individual beneficiary who has children overseas, who are defined as foreign persons, would not be able to amend the deed to include their foreign child as a beneficiary. 

Non-compliant trusts, i.e. trusts that do not exclude both foreign persons, and potential foreign persons, as beneficiaries, will deem the trustee to be treated as a foreign trustee. The trust then becomes subject to the foreign surcharge rate of duty. 

In NSW the rate of foreign surcharge is presently 8% of dutiable transactions relating to residential land while for land tax the rate is 2%. These charges are payable in addition to ordinary rates. 

Retrospective Impact of the change in NSW

One of the most concerning things with the change in NSW is that the law applies retrospectively from 21 June 2016 for dutiable transactions, and from 2017 for land tax surcharges. 

If you don’t have any foreign beneficiaries then you have until 31 December 2020 to amend your trust deed to irrevocably remove both foreign persons and potential beneficiaries who could be foreign persons, if you wish to avoid the foreign surcharge. 

If you have previously not had foreign beneficiaries, but you do not wish to amend the trust deed because you will, or potentially will, have foreign beneficiaries, then you will need to consider if you are liable for any retrospective duties and land taxes.

Victorian changes

Victoria has also implemented some changes as of 1 March 2020. While these changes essentially have the same impact as in NSW, the law does not apply retrospectively.  

What should you do if you have a discretionary trust with property?

If you have a discretionary trust that holds property, or is intended to hold property then you need to assess the importance and likelihood of having beneficiaries who are foreign persons, or could potentially be foreign persons. This includes assessing your current trust deed, evaluating the goals and purpose of the trust, and reviewing the financial impact of having, or potentially having, foreign beneficiaries.

This may result in a change to your trust deed in order to intentionally exclude any foreign, or potentially foreign beneficiaries, or it may involve a change in your investment strategy. 

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Australians Moving to the UK: A Brief Comparison of the Australian and UK Tax System

Daniel Wilkie   |   16 Mar 2021   |   8 min read

The Australian tax system is surprisingly different to the UK tax system.

This makes a simple comparison between the two challenging. 

Determining, from an individual taxpayer perspective, which country has higher taxes, isn’t straightforward. Both countries apply progressive rates of tax, as well as a range of potential adjustments and offsets.

Income taxes are lower in the UK due to the progressive rates of tax applying at higher levels of taxable income, but as the UK also has much higher medical contribution taxes than Australia, the UK taxpayer may end up with a higher overall tax burden.

In Australia, income tax is assessed on the taxable income of a taxpayer which is assessable income less allowable deductions while in the UK specific “allowances” may reduce the different types of income before that income is taxed. 

Australian resident taxpayers have a standard tax free threshold, regardless of the type of income or income level, while UK taxpayers have access to different allowances (tax free amounts) that can vary based on income level and the type of income they are earning.

Foreign sourced income is also treated quite differently in the UK, with a threshold applying before tax is imposed.

The following table highlights some fundamental differences between the two tax systems:

Australian SystemUK Tax System
Assessable IncomeProgressive rates of tax applied to taxable income.Progressive rates of tax applied to taxable income- but different rates apply to capital gains and different types of income have allowances deducted before taxes are assessed.
Tax Free componentStandard tax free threshold applies to all taxpayers on the first $18,200 of their income, regardless of the source of this income.A personal allowance is deducted from the taxpayer’s income before tax is assessed. This allowance is increased for married taxpayers and blind taxpayers, but is reduced for high income earners. Additional allowances are separately applied to different types of income, such as capital gains and investment income. 
Public HealthFlat rate of medicare levy applies to all taxpayers unless they are exempt. Variable rate of health insurance taxes applies, depending on income type and amount of income. This is paid by both the employer and the employee. 
Personal benefits provided by an employerPersonal benefits are taxed to the employer as fringe benefits. There are a range of concessions and exemptions that may be applied. Personal benefits are taxed to the employee, at the value of the benefit. There are some benefits that are exempt. 
Residency An individual who resides in Australia, or an Australian citizen who doesn’t setup a permanent home outside of AustraliaPhysically present in the UK for a specified period of time during the tax year
Individual Taxpayer’s Tax year1 July to 30 June6 April to 5 April
PAYG SystemPAYGW (Pay As You Go Withholding) means employers withhold some of an employee’s wage to be paid to the tax office. This helps cover the individual taxpayer’s annual tax assessment. Any excess PAYGW becomes a tax refund. PAYE (Pay As You Earn) is similar to Australia’s PAYGW system. When too much PAYE has been withheld then an individual can apply for a tax rebate (tax refund) for the excess. 
Who is Required to Lodge a Tax ReturnAll Australian residents and any non-residents with any Australian sourced income are required to lodge a tax return (some exclusions apply for residents who earn under the tax free threshold and have no PAYGW to claim, and for non-residents who only earn certain types of income, such as interest income covered by PAYGW under the DTA). Most employees’ taxes are covered by their company’s payroll system, meaning they don’t need to lodge a tax return. Tax returns may need to be lodged where:

– Income other than employment income is earned (above the allowance)
– Foreign income was earned
– You are a higher rate taxpayer (annual income over 100,000 pounds)
– You need to claim a tax rebate for excess PAYE

Residency

Australian residency is generally dependent on whether an individual actually resides in Australia, however Australian citizens may continue to be Australian tax residents while temporarily residing overseas. There are a number of tests that can be used to help determine residency.

UK residency is based on the number of days an individual is physically present in the UK during the tax year. For more complex situations that do not meet the automatic test, other factors may apply.

Tax Rates

Both Australia and the UK apply progressive rates of tax ranging from 0% to 45%.

However, while Australia has a standard initial tax free threshold for all taxpayers, the UK utilises a system of allowances that taxpayers deduct from their income before tax is assessed. The amount of allowance changes depending on a range of factors, and different allowances are applied for different types of income, such as employment income, investment income and capital gains.

Medicare/ NHS

Australians pay a flat rate of medicare (2%), unless they are exempt. High tax payers pay an additional medicare levy surcharge of up to 1.5%, unless they pay for private hospital health insurance. 

In the UK both the employer and the employee are required to pay a contribution towards national health insurance, at rates varying from 0% up to 13.8%.

Capital Gains

Both Australian and the UK impose a capital gains tax.

In Australia capital gains are simply added to an individual taxpayer’s assessable income and taxed at the marginal rate at which the income falls. Assets that have been owned for more than 1 year can be discounted by 50% before being included as assessable income. Other exemptions may also be applied to reduce or rollover capital gains.

The UK tax system gives taxpayers an annual allowance for capital gains. Any capital gains up to the allowance each year are tax free. Like Australia, there are also other exemptions that may be applied to reduce or rollover certain capital gains. 

In the UK, capital gains are taxed at a different rate to other income, and residential property is taxed at different rates to other assets. Higher/additional rate taxpayers pay 28% on residential property and 20% on other chargeable assets. Basic rate taxpayers will pay either 10% or 20% on capital gains, unless it is on residential property, in which case the rate is either 18% or 28% (depending on the size of the gain and the taxable income of the taxpayer.

Both countries have an exemption for the sale of an individuals’ main residence.

Inheritance tax

Australia does not have an inheritance tax.

Neither inheritances nor deceased estates attract any specific form of tax. Any property or investments that are inherited will attract taxes in the same way as any property or investments that were acquired personally and subsequently sold. (There are some provisions for inheriting a main residence that allow the main residence exemption to be carried over).

The UK has a standard inheritance tax rate of 40% above the tax free threshold (the standard tax free threshold is currently 325,000 pounds).

Where everything is left to a spouse, civil partner, charity or community amateur sports club, there is normally no inheritance tax to pay. When your home is given to your children (including adopted, step, and foster children), the threshold can increase to 500,000 pounds.

If an individual who is married (or in a civil partnership) passes away with an estate that is worth less than their threshold, then the unused portion of their threshold can be added to their partner’s threshold for when they die.

The inheritance tax may be reduced to 36% on certain assets if at least 10% of the net value of the estate is left to charity in the will. There are some other reliefs and exemptions to help reduce inheritance taxes on gifts donated prior to death, business relief, and agricultural relief.

Australian and UK Tax Systems

Each tax system has a range of complexities that are unique to the respective country.

In some ways the basic Australian tax return is more straightforward for the individual taxpayer.

On the other hand, the UK system’s use of deductible allowances for different types of income, provides for a range of tax planning avenues that are not available to Australians.

Since the tax systems between each country are so different, and residency changes can trigger complex tax issues, it is important to seek expert advice in both countries when making a move between Australia and the UK.

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Determining Corporate Residency

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Voting Power

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Determining Corporate Residency

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The company is an Australian Resident

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Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

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Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

The company is not a resident
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Contact us for tailored international tax advice
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Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

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Why Living Abroad For Six Months Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re No Longer An Australian Tax Resident

Daniel Wilkie   |   19 Jan 2021   |   5 min read

When it comes to tax residency, the six month rule is quite simple to understand: live in a country for at least six months, or 183 days, and you’re considered a tax resident of that country. 

The simplicity in this rule explains why it is a common way of determining when an individual taxpayer is considered to be a tax resident of the country they are living in. In fact, for some countries, this is exactly how they determine tax residency.

For this reason it can be natural to assume that if you live overseas for at least six months then you are a tax resident of that country and no longer a tax resident of Australia. This is particularly the case if that country specifically states that they consider you to be a tax resident when you are living in their country for at least six months.

See here for a brief overview of the key differences between a Permanent Resident and Temporary Resident.

Why You May Still Be Considered An Australian Resident While Living Overseas

If you are an Australian citizen then Australia is your default home country in relation to tax residency. This means that it’s not just about meeting the tax requirements of the other country to be classed as a foreign tax resident for Australian tax purposes.

Under Australian tax laws an Australian citizen, who has been living as a tax resident, continues to be an Australian tax resident until they make a permanent move overseas. A permanent move overseas requires them to effectively cut ties with Australia. Typically the move overseas must be for a minimum of two years, and you must be setting up a permanent home in your new country (not just travelling around, or staying in hotels).

The Impact Of Double Tax Agreements

A double tax agreement (DTA) between two countries may contain provisions that help determine which country has taxation rights when an individual’s tax residency status is not clear cut.

For example, this might happen when an individual goes to a country that treats them as a tax resident after six months living there, however, under Australian tax laws they are also still treated as a tax resident. The DTA, through the tie-breaker provisions, helps determine in which country the individual taxpayer should be treated as a tax resident.

DTA typically gives weight to the country where the person has their permanent home, by virtue of birth or choice. In practice this means there is an expectation that the country in which an individual is a citizen, particularly if they clearly intend to return to their home country, retains more rights than a country they are temporarily living in. Beyond this, DTAs tend to consider where an individual’s personal and economic ties are stronger.

Unclear Situations

Most people find themselves in clear situations. They are either an Australian tax resident or a foreign tax resident, based on the country that they are a permanent resident. However, since individual circumstances can be very unique, there are plenty of situations that are not so clear cut.

Consider a situation where an individual lives in multiple countries, moving from one to another through the year. Or there are situations where an individual moves to one country, intending to remain there permanently, only for an unexpected issue to arise that results in them changing their mind and relocating to another country.

The Pandemic

COVID-19 has resulted in many people staying in countries for significantly longer periods than they ever planned. Conversely, many Australian expats have returned home to Australia to ride out the pandemic, despite previously intending to remain living overseas.

Since each situation is different, it is impossible to give clear, generic advice on these grey areas. The special circumstances of COVID-19 mean that even some Australians who were holidaying overseas have been unable to return home to Australia as planned. Their time overseas does not automatically cause them to become a foreign tax resident, especially where their intent and actions remain to return to Australia as soon as they are able to.

Others who have been living overseas for many years have returned to Australia for a prolonged period due to the pandemic. Their time in Australia does not automatically mean they resume Australian tax residency, however this requires them to be intending to return to the country they consider home as soon as possible. As the pandemic continues, it becomes more difficult to ascertain what “as soon as possible” means, and what actions would indicate a change in circumstances and intent.

Six Months Living Overseas

We cannot treat six months living overseas as automatically resulting in a change of tax residency. It should be understood that a change of tax residency will only occur if an Australian moves overseas for a period no shorter than six months, and a permanent place of abode is established. The subtle difference means that a stay of less than six months can clearly be understood to be temporary and would not change tax residency, while an overseas move that is expected to last more than six months requires review to determine if, and when, there is an actual change in tax residency. 

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Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Corporate Residency

Please provide your details to access the online tool

Name is required.

Email is required.

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Place of
Incorporation

Is the company incorporated outside Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Central Management
and Control

Is the Central Management and Control
of the company exercised in Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

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Does the company carry on a business in Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

Voting Power

Is the company's voting power controlled
by shareholders who are residents of Australia?

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

The company is an Australian Resident

Contact us for tailored international tax advice
regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact Us

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

The company is not a resident
but it could be a CFC

Contact us for tailored international tax advice
regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact us for tailored international tax advice regarding your client's specific situation.

Contact Us

Determining Corporate Residency

Use our online tool to determine the corporate residency of your client's business.

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