Moving To Australia On A Global Talent Visa

Matthew Marcarian   |   2 Nov 2023   |   8 min read

Exceptionally talented individuals with the capacity to raise Australia’s standing in their field may be eligible for a Global Talent Visa. This Visa is a permanent residency Visa that offers a migration pathway to individuals who can bring exceptional skills into Australia.

Because the Global Talent Visa is not a temporary visa, the temporary resident tax concessions are not available and you will be taxed just like any other Australian citizen moving home to Australia.

As international tax specialists in Australia we are often asked by individuals moving to Australia on a Global Talent Visas, what the Australian tax implications of making this move are in relation to the assets back in their home country.

The tax implications of making this move will depend on the type of assets you have back home.

Below is an overview of what you can expect.

Moving To Australia With No Assets Other Than A Bank Account

When you move to Australia with no assets except the cash in your bank account, the tax consequences of holding onto your foreign assets are limited to foreign exchange (forex) issues. Since foreign currency is considered a taxable asset, Australia will tax realised exchange gains and will allow a deduction for realised exchange losses. 

This means that money sitting in a bank account with fluctuating values will have no tax consequence. However, if you spend or transfer that money, including bringing it into Australia at a later date, then you trigger a forex realisation event.

If the value of your qualifying forex accounts is less than AUD $250,000 then you can make an election (known as the Limited Balance exemption) which effectively allows an exemption so that you can disregard any forex gains or losses that might arise on the accounts. This is a simplicity measure for taxpayers who are considered to have low balances of foreign currency. The objective is to lower tax compliance costs. People moving to Australia should take advice on the effect of these rules on their foreign savings.

Moving To Australia With A Main Residence In Your Home Country

While an Australian resident is eligible for an exemption from capital gains tax on their main residence, it is unlikely that this exemption will apply to you. This is because you were not an Australian resident while you were living in your property, in your home country.

Once you are living in Australia the overseas property becomes a property that is not your main residence. This applies whether you rent the property out or not.

If you rent your former residence out it becomes an investment property. The rental income is taxable and the expenses associated with generating that rental income are tax deductible. This includes interest on any mortgage taken out to purchase or renovate the property, any local rates, repairs, and other costs. Travel costs incurred to inspect or repair the property are specifically precluded as an eligible deduction. If you pay income tax on the rental income overseas, then you will be able to apply that as a foreign tax credit in your Australian tax return. This way the Australian tax paid on this rental income is limited to any difference between the Australian tax assessed and the tax paid overseas.

If you don’t rent out your former residence (or otherwise earn income relating to the property), then there is no income to declare, and no ability to claim deductions relating to the cost of owning this property.

When you sell the property you will be subject to CGT. The CGT will be calculated on the difference between the value the property sells for and the value of the property at the time you moved to Australia.

Moving To Australia With Investments

If you hold assets in your country of origin, then you will be required to report any assessable income earned from those assets, as well as any capital gains or losses generated on the disposal of those assets.

Certain types of income, such as interest, royalties, and dividends, are typically covered by Double Tax Agreements (DTAs) in a way which limits the amount of tax that the country of origin can impose. This means it is important to advise your bank and investment managers when you become an Australian resident so that they can ensure the correct foreign tax rate is applied at the source.

Regardless of the tax rules in the country of origin, as an Australian tax resident you will be required to report income from all sources in your Australian tax return.

General Tax Information You Should Be Aware Of When Moving To Australia On A Global Talent Visa

It is important to keep in mind that moving to Australia on a permanent basis will mean you become an Australian tax resident.

For tax purposes this means you will need to declare your worldwide income in your Australian tax return, regardless of where the income is earned and whether the income is brought to Australia or stays in an overseas bank account.

All foreign investment income, including interest, dividends and foreign stock plans, are assessable in Australia, whether or not they are assessable in another country.

The foreign income must be reported in the relevant Australian tax year in which it was earned. This may be different to the tax year relating to foreign country in which the investment income was earned.

In general you will be able to offset the tax payable in Australia with any taxes already paid in the country of origin.

Also be aware that Australia has complicated rules if you have interests in overseas companies or trusts, even if you did not set up the relevant companies or trusts or even if they are just ‘family companies’ or ‘family trusts’.

Capital Gains Tax

Australia has a Capital Gains Tax regime. This means you may be required to pay capital gains tax on any assets that you retain in your country of origins.

CGT is assessed at the same rate as your marginal tax rate, however there is a 50% Discount on the value that is assessed on assets that have been owned for at least 12 months after becoming an Australian resident.

CGT discount example:

You purchase a property in 2020 for $500,000.

In 2024 you sell the property for $1,000,000.

This gives you a net capital gain of $500,000.

Instead of paying tax on the full $500,000 gain, tax is only applicable on 50% of the total gain, which means you only pay tax on $250,000.

Deemed Acquisition

At the time that you move to Australia, any assets that you retain overseas are considered to have been acquired for their market value on the day you arrive. This valuation will become their cost base for capital gains tax purposes in Australia.

You are also deemed to have acquired these assets on the date that you become an Australian resident. This ensures that any fluctuations in value between the original date of acquisition and your move to Australia, are ignored for CGT calculations. It also means that you need to continue to own your assets for at least 12 months from the date you move to Australia in order to access the 50% capital gains tax discount.

Summary

As an Australian tax resident you will be required to lodge an annual income tax return in which you must report:

  • Income from your worldwide source
  • Capital gains or losses on all assets held, regardless of the country in which they are held
  • Any foreign tax paid, which may be applied as a credit to reduce the amount of Australian tax assessed on foreign earnings

When you move to Australia your assets will be deemed to be acquired at the market value on the date you become an Australian resident.    

As everyone’s situation is unique, and tax laws are frequently updated, it is important to obtain up to date advice for your specific situation. This will ensure that specific factors that may impact your situation differently are also included in the advice, as well as ensuring you are getting the most up to date information.

eBook: Key Items A Global Talent Visa Holder Should Know When Moving To Australia

If you are moving to Australia on a Global Talent Visa you are likely to become an Australian tax resident. 

This eBook covers the 5 common tax concerns that those moving to Australia on a Global Talent Visa have including:

  1. When do I become a tax resident?
  1. Keeping foreign assets when moving to Australia.
  1. Foreign assets including foreign currencies, trusts, companies or retirement funds and pension loans.
  1. Selling your foreign main residence after moving.
  1. Using your foreign bank accounts.

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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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Tax Requirements When Expanding Your Australian Company To Singapore

Matthew Marcarian   |   20 May 2021   |   3 min read

Singapore is often chosen as a regional business hub for Australian companies looking to expand into Asia or beyond. This is largely because Singapore is one of the countries where there are limited restrictions on foreign businesses setting up. Accordingly it is possible for a fully Australian owned company to operate a business in Singapore. 

This blog considers the potential tax implications of running a business in Singapore through an Australian resident company.

What is an Australian Resident Company?

A company may be an Australian company due to one of three possibilities: 

  • Incorporation in Australia
  • Central management and control being exercised from Australia, or 
  • Voting power is controlled by shareholders who are Australian residents.

This means that even if the decision is made to incorporate a company in Singapore to oversee the business, the company may still be considered an Australian company if the business is managed in Australia, or if the controlling shareholders are Australian residents.

Singapore Company

A company is considered a Singapore tax resident when the control and management of the company is in Singapore. This means that even if a company is incorporated in Singapore, if it is controlled and managed in Australia, then the company will simply be an Australian resident company. 

However, if the company is incorporated in Australia but controlled and managed in Singapore then both Australia and Singapore will consider the company to be a resident company. When this situation occurs the company will need to consider the double tax agreement between Australia and Singapore.

For the purposes of this blog we are looking at a company that is an Australian resident company operating a business in Singapore through a subsidiary incorporated in Singapore.

Australian Taxes

An Australian resident company is subject to Australian taxes on income from worldwide sources. This means that all business income and any capital gains, will need to be reported in an annual income tax return.

Singapore Taxes

If the company is not a resident company in Singapore but it operates a business in Singapore  then the company is usually only taxed on the Singapore-sourced income that is generated through the business. 

The Singapore company tax rate is a flat 17%, but many concessions can apply to reduce the effective tax rate. 

The company may also be required to register for GST in Singapore. Other local taxes may also be payable. 

Double-Taxation

Under the double-taxation agreement between Australia and Singapore an Australian resident company only has to pay taxes in Australia. However, where the Australian company runs a business in Singapore through a permanent establishment in Singapore then Singapore has taxation rights over the profits generated through this permanent establishment.  

As a business operating in Singapore the company will be required to pay income tax on such business income at a rate of 17%. 

When the income is reported in the Australian tax return the company will be eligible to claim the foreign tax paid as a credit against the Australian tax assessment. This ensures that the company will only be paying taxes at the higher Australian tax rate. 

When you decide to expand your business into Singapore it is important to ensure that you get your structuring right, and that you understand the full tax implications of your various options. There are a range of questions that need to be addressed including profit repatriation to Australia, withholding tax, transfer pricing, debt/equity and foreign currency issues.

Make sure that you speak to an experienced international tax expert before making your move. 

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Moving to Singapore: Understanding the Tax Differences

Matthew Marcarian   |   6 Jul 2020   |   8 min read

As an Australian moving to Singapore there are a number of differences that you should be aware of in relation to taxation.

Having an idea of what to expect will help you to organise your move and understand your tax position so that you are more financially prepared.

You can download our guide: Moving to Singapore, here.

Taxation Basics

The most fundamental difference between Australia and Singapore is that in Singapore there is no CGT in Singapore and they do not generally tax investment income. Singapore also has a much lower rate of tax in their highest tax tier, which is one of the appeals for Australians considering a move to Singapore on a permanent basis.

Other key differences between Australia and Singapore’s taxation system include:

  • Financial year
  • Terminology used
  • What constitutes allowable deductions
  • Which income is taxed
  • How tax is paid. 

For instance, while you are taxed on your worldwide income as an Australian resident, Singapore only taxes residents on income that is actually sourced in Singapore. Read on to see some of the basic differences in taxation from an employment perspective.

AUSTRALIASINGAPORE
Financial Year1 July to 30 June1 January to 31 December
Taxation BodyAustralian Taxation Office: ATOInland Revenue Authority of Singapore: IRAS
Individual Tax RateProgessive rate from 0% to 45% for incomes exceeding AUD$180,000.Non residents are taxed a minimum of 15% and up to 45%.Progressive rate from 0% to 22% for incomes exceeding SGD$320,000. Non residents are taxed between 15% and 22%.
Taxed onTaxable Income that is calculated by taking in your worldwide income less allowable tax deductions.“Chargeable” Income that is sourced in Singapore. 

Employment Taxation

As an Australian employee you would be familiar with the PAYGW system.

Pay As You Go Withholding ensures that your estimated tax is paid directly to the ATO through the year. Then, at the end of the year, you lodge your tax return and are either required to pay any additional tax owed, or are refunded any excess tax that the ATO received through the year.

Singapore is the opposite. All of your wages will be paid to you in full as an individual. Then you are required to pay your income taxes in full at the end of the tax year. This means you need to be careful to track and keep aside money to pay your tax bill. In your second year as a resident of Singapore you can pay your tax for the first year using a monthly instalment system.

You will also be used to working in a system where you can claim work related deductions to help bring your tax obligations down. In Australia any work expenses that your employer does not cover can be paid for yourself, then claimed as a deduction that reduces your taxable income. Singapore does not allow employees to claim tax deductions. This means you will want to be extra sure that your employer is covering your work related costs.

Another system you will be familiar with as an Australian worker is Superannuation. Your Australian employer is required to make superannuation contributions to your superannuation fund in order to fund your eventual retirement. The accrued superannuation balance is only able to release your superannuation to you in limited situations, such as retirement.

Singapore also has a retirement fund, the Central Provident Fund (CPF). However, this fund does not just serve as a retirement cash payout. Instead, it is intended to help save for housing and healthcare in retirement. Unfortunately for Australian expats, the CPF is not typically available. This means you may need to continue to build an Australian superannuation fund to plan for your own retirement.

AUSTRALIASINGAPORE
Tax on WagesManaged through the PAYGW system where tax is withheld by your employer and you typically receive a small refund/have a small payable to adjust the total tax required for your actual income over the year. You are paid your total wage income. When you lodge your tax return you are required to pay your income tax obligations in full at that time. 
Work DeductionsYou can claim deductions as an employee. You cannot claim deductions as an employee to bring your taxable income down. 
Super FundsEmployees have Superannuation Guarantee payments paid into their personal super fund at 9.5% of their wages, with capped limits.

All employees over 18 and earning more than $450 a month are paid superannuation. 

Temporary residents or visitors who depart Australia can have their Australian Superannuation paid out or rolled into an overseas fund. If this isn’t organised within 6 months their superannuation money will be transferred to the ATO as unclaimed super money. 
Singaporeans and permanent residents are covered by a Central Provident Fund (CPF) that helps provide for retirement, including housing and healthcare. While individuals contribute to their own fund, employers contribute 17% of wages paid, loved ones typically contribute, and the government also provides top-ups and incentives. 
 
Only Singaporeans are eligible for the CPF. This means Australian expats may need to maintain a local Australian super fund instead, bearing in mind that contributions could be subject to tax in Singapore. 

Other Taxation Matters

Employment income is not the only source of income. While Australians are taxed on a range of income types, the Singapore tax regime is not the same.

Capital Gains Tax

Australians are required to pay tax on the sale of most capital assets, and in some situations they are even taxed on the deemed realisation of assets. Certain concessions, such as the 50% discount where the asset has been held for more than 12 months, can be applied. Singapore does not have a capital gains tax regime at all.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

GST is a tax that applies in both Australia and Singapore on the sale of goods and services. GST is 7% in Singapore, whereas it is 10% in Australia. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you end up paying less GST in Singapore overall. While Australia has a large range of supplies that are exempt from GST, including essential goods and services, Singapore only has a limited number of exempt supplies.

Investment Income

In Australia you are taxed on investment income at your own individual marginal tax rate. However you are also typically able to claim tax credits for any tax that the company has paid on income that is distributed to you.

In Singapore a company pays taxes on its own chargeable income. This is the final tax paid, and investment income that is passed on to shareholders is not taxed in their hands. (If the investor is a non-resident, they would only be liable for non-resident taxes in accordance with their country of residence).

Running a Company

If you plan to run a company in Singapore there are a wide range of requirements that you need to understand in terms of setting up and running the company. Not the least of these is that, from a taxation perspective, the first three years of operation are tax free for the first $100,000 of chargeable income. After this the company tax rate is only 17%. In Australia the company tax rate is currently 30%.


AUSTRALIASINGAPORE
Capital Gains TaxTaxable Income. Capital Losses are quarantined and can only be offset against other capital gains.

If you cease to be an Australian resident you will be deemed to have disposed of any GST assets that are not Australian real property for Australian tax purposes. 
No Capital Gains tax. 
GST10%
There are an extensive number of exemptions including financial supplies, residential rent, and basic essentials such as raw food and medicine. 
7%
Exemptions include financial services, digital payment tokens, sale & lease or residential property, and important and supply of investment precious metals. 
Investment/Dividend IncomeIndividuals declare the cash and franking credit that they are distributed. The franking credit counts as a tax credit and the ATO will refund any difference between the franking credit (which is at the company tax rate) and the individual’s tax rate, or the individual is required to pay additional tax if their marginal tax rate is higher than the company tax rate. Taxes paid by companies are the final taxes chargeable on income. Shareholders are not taxed on dividends they receive from resident companies. 
Company Tax Rate30%.
Small business entities (under 2 million turnover) are taxed at 28.5%.
17%.
For the first 3 years, newly incorporated companies are given a full tax exemption for the first $100,000 of chargeable income. 

Tax Differences between Australia and Singapore

While there are some commonalities in the foundation from which the Australian and Singapore systems have grown, there are a lot of differences. These differences range from terminology to timing, what income is taxed, at what point it is taxed, and the tax rate.

As outlined above, there is an appeal in being taxed under the Singapore regime. For instance, the tax rates are lower, there is no CGT, and investment income is not typically tax in the hands of the individual it is distributed to. If you are considering making this move, ensure that you fully understand your personal situation and have a good understanding of whether you would be a Singapore tax resident. It is always important to speak to a professional advisor for a more detailed assessment of your specific situation. 

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Non-Residents Can No Longer Claim The CGT Main Residence Exemption

Matthew Marcarian   |   28 Jan 2020   |   2 min read

On December 5th 2019 the contentious law denying non-residents the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) main residence exemption was passed.

This means that the update we previously provided on this legislation is still in force. If you are no longer an Australian resident, or are permanently moving overseas, and you still own a property that was your main residence in Australia, then you need to know what this means.

Existing Non-Residents with Main Residence Property In Australia

Did you purchase your Australian main residence before 9 May 2017? If you did then you only have until 30 June 2020 to sell your property if you want to claim the CGT main residence exemption.

After this date non-residents will not be able to claim the exemption. Basically this means you will be assessed on the full capital gain.

On the other hand, if you plan to return to Australia in the future then you may still be able to claim the exemption. If this is the case then you can wait to sell your former main residence once you return to Australia. Once you are a tax resident again then you will be assessed as an Australian tax resident. This means the law will again allow you to claim whatever main residence concession you would ordinarily be entitled to. Given the rise in Australian property prices over the last decade, this change could see an Expat caught unaware, being exposed to capital gains tax of several hundred thousand dollars (if not more), depending on the situation.

For a more detailed look at what the law entails please refer to our “Update on CGT Main Residence Exemption for expats” post.

Seek Tax Advice

The change in law has the potential to significantly impact non-residents. While you can get a general overview from the information provided in our blog, it is important that your specific situation be assessed by a tax specialist. This is important because your individual situation will be dependant on many variables that can’t be adequately covered in a general blog. A personalised assessment will ensure that you understand your options and can make the best decision for your situation.

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Update on CGT Main Residence Exemption for Expats

Matthew Marcarian   |   12 Nov 2019   |   8 min read

Update: Since publication of this post the Bill has passed and is now law. The law passed is the Treasury Laws Amendment (Reducing Pressure on Housing Affordability Measures) Bill 2019. ) It was passed with no further amendments. This means non-residents will not be able to claim the CGT main residence exemption from 1 July 2020. The scenarios below currently apply under the new law.

For the past few years Australian expats have been waiting to see if the axe will drop on their ability to claim the capital gains tax (CGT) main residence exemption.

The current main residence exemption allows individuals to claim an exemption on paying CGT when they sell the home that they have been living in. Under the normal CGT rules, an individual may continue to claim their former home as their main residence for up to 6 years of absence. This applies unless and until the homeowner purchases and moves into another house that becomes their main residence in Australia.

The new measure has been in the works since the 2017-2018 budget, with non-residents potentially becoming ineligible to claim the main residence exemption since May 9th 2017.

Main residence exemption removed for non-residents in new Bill

The shortcomings of this bill continue to be of concern. After the Bill lapsed in April 2019, we have waited to see whether it would reappear. The hope was that a new Bill would be rewritten in a way that was fairer to taxpayers.

Unfortunately it was reintroduced on the 23rd of October 2019 in largely the same form. Like the original bill, it applies retroactively and allows no consideration for long term Australian residents who may end up caught out by the changes.

While many concerns with the original bill remain unaddressed, there are a few changes.

These changes have extended the transitional measures and added in some compassionate exceptions. The transitional measures ensures that existing foreign resident home owners have some time to sell their main residence under the existing rules. Previously they had until 30th June 2019. Under the new Bill they now have until 30th June 2020 to sell under the existing CGT rules. The additional exceptions that the revised Bill introduced means that there are now limited situations in which the main residence exemption may still apply for foreign residents. 

So, if you’re an expatriate with a former main residence in Australia you should consider now what strategy you wish to take. It’s time to consider if you need to sell while you can access the existing CGT exemption.

Summarised below is an outline of what these new laws could mean for you and what you can do about it.

What Happens If I Hold Onto My Australian Home When I Move Overseas?

Once you’re a foreign resident then any Australian property home you own is treated as a CGT asset. You are no longer able to apply the main residence exception that is available to Australian taxpayers.

Basically this means you will be liable for full CGT on any profit from the sale of the property. This applies even if you lived in the home for 20 years before becoming a non-resident. Since the main residence exemption can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars in CGT this is a big change for temporary residents and Australians looking to move overseas.

As mentioned, there are limited situations where non-residents may still access the main residence exemption. This includes the transitional provision that allows you to sell your main residence under the existing CGT exemption if you sell before June 30th 2020. It also includes concessions that equate to compassionate grounds on the event of death, divorce, or terminal illness.

As a Non Resident Can I Use the CGT Main Residence Exemption When I Sell My former Australian home?

Normally when you satisfy the criteria for claiming the main residence exemption for CGT then you can apply this exemption (in part or in full). However, if this bill passes into law, foreign residents will no longer be able to access the main residence exemption. Well, in most situations.

Let’s take a look at when the exemption may still apply:

1- Did you purchase your main residence before or after May 9th 2017?

If you purchased your property after May 9th 2017 then you’re out of luck. You will not be able to claim an exemption for your principal residence if you sell it while you are a non-resident. That’s because you purchased your main residence after these new measures were proposed.

However, if you purchased before May 9th 2017 (and post 20 September 1985) then you are covered by the transitional provisions. This means you have until 30th June 2020 to sell under the current CGT rules and access the main residence exemption. Wait any longer and the exemption is no longer available if you sell your main residence while you’re a non-resident.

The big drawback of selling after 30th June 2020 is that the main resident exemption will not even apply for the period of time that you lived in the property. That means you won’t even get access to a partial exemption.

2- What If a serious life event happens to you within 6 years of becoming a non-resident?

With the new bill being introduced, there are now some situations where a non-resident may continue to access the main residence exemption for CGT. These concessions only apply if you’ve been a non-resident for less than 6 years. As a non-resident you may still be eligible for the main residence exemption if one of the following life events happens:

  • You, your spouse or your child (under 18) get diagnosed with a terminal medical condition.
  • You, your spouse or your child (under 18) pass away.
  • You get divorced or separated.

Basically, if something unexpected happens within several years of becoming a non-resident for Australian tax purposes, then you may still be able to access the same concessions that Australian residents can. While no one can factor these contingencies into a tax strategy it’s good to know that this exists if the worst happens.

3- Will You Become An Australian Resident Again?

If you come back to Australia and become an Australian tax resident, then the main residence exemption is available to you again under the normal rules. This means you will have the opportunity to apply the CGT main residence exemption, either in part (if the property hasn’t exclusively been your main residence) or in full. Keep in mind that this only applies if you sell while you’re an Australian tax resident.  

This means that if you’re planning to return to Australia then it might be worth holding onto the property so that you can reduce your CGT liability. That’s great news if there’s a chance of returning to Australia to live in your home (or elsewhere) again. Of course, this should not be the only factor to consider when deciding whether to hold onto or sell your former home under the main residence exemption.

What If I Die While I’m a Non-Resident?

You might decide to hold onto your property because you’re planning to come back to Australia. But what if that doesn’t happen?

If you die within 6 years of becoming a non-resident then your estate may still be able to access your main residence exemption. However, when you pass away more than 6 years after becoming a foreign resident then your estate will be caught by the changes and the main residence exemption will not be applicable. That means your estate will be stuck with the full CGT liability.

What Do I Do With My Australian Property Now?

The answer to this is very personal. It depends on your ongoing plans, whether you’re concerned about the tax impact of these legislative changes, what the market is like, and what the best decision is for both your immediate and long term needs.

For instance, selling a property now for a $50,000 profit with no CGT to worry about would still net you less than selling it down the road for a $200,000 profit with a $45,000 CGT liability.

Ongoing income or costs also weigh into your decision, as do any plans to return to Australia down the track. Unfortunately, it also depends on unknown factors, including the unpredictable nature of tax law changes that may happen in the future. As always, it’s important to get tailored advice for your unique situation when considering what to do. Individual situations can involve complexities that extend beyond generic information.

As always, it’s important to get tailored advice for your unique situation when considering what to do. Individual situations can involve complexities that extend beyond generic information.

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Australian Expats Still Awaiting Decision On CGT Change

Matthew Marcarian   |   24 Jul 2018   |   4 min read

In our blog of 25 February this year we reported on what we consider to be highly inequitable capital gains tax changes that the Government has introduced into parliament. The changes are contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Reducing Pressure on Housing Affordability Measures No. 2) Bill 2018.  

The Bill, as drafted, denies foreign residents (including Australian expats) access to the capital gains tax (CGT) main residence concession if they sell their former main residence while they are living overseas. In short, no CGT relief would be available to Australian expats who sell their property while they live overseas even for the period of time they lived in their home before departing Australia. 

The Bill has still not been passed and seems for now to be held up in the Senate, which we hope augurs well for Australian expats.

Main Residence Exemption Removal still possible

Unfortunately despite a number of sensible submissions to the Senate (including our own CST Tax Advisors Submission), the Senate Committee has recommended that the Government proceeds with the proposals as announced.

Essentially the Committee indicated that it ‘considers that the measures contained in these bills will form an essential part of the government’s comprehensive and targeted plan to improve outcomes for Australians across the housing spectrum’.

The Committee did not explain why it thought that removing the CGT main residence exemption is a targeted plan to improving housing outcomes. We believe the natural reaction for most Australian expats to a potential loss of the CGT exemption would be not to sell their property until they one day return to Australia. Essentially a lock-in effect will be created rather than improving the quantity of housing stock available for sale. The Senate Committee Report can be access by following this link.

Our Recommendations

We sincerely hope that despite the Senate’s recommendation to proceed that the Government will rethink their proposal to ensure that Australian expatriates are treated equitably.

We strongly urge the Government to fix the Bill by ensuring that amendments are made so that:

  • all Australian expatriates who were already non-resident of Australia when the changes were announced on 9 May 2017, should continue to be able to access the absence concession regardless of where they reside; and
  • all persons should be able to access the partial CGT exemption for at least that part of the ownership period during which they lived in the property and were resident of Australia.

If the Government does not fix the equity issues in the Bill, at the very least we hope that the Government can extend the transitional period end date from 30 June 2019 (way too close) out to 30 June 2020 or 2021 to give people sufficient time to consider their options. Expecting Australians living overseas to be aware of ‘legislation by press release’ is not satisfactory.

Given that the changes are so fundamental in our view the Government owes a minimum duty to write to all foreign residents taxpayers who are lodging tax returns in relation to Australian rental income, in the event that these fundamental changes apply to them.

In this regard we note the Committee’s recommendation that it “recommends that the Australian Government ensures that Australians living and working overseas are aware of the changes to the CGT main residence exemption for foreign residents, and the transitional arrangements, so they are able to plan accordingly.“(Recommendation 1, Paragraph 2.34 of the Senate Committee Report on Page 17).

Want to make a Submission?

If you wish to make a submission to the Government it would not be too late to write to the Federal Treasurer. Alternatively you can contact CST for more information.

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Removal of CGT Main Residence Exemption For Australian Expatriates – Disastrous Tax Changes Now Imminent

Matthew Marcarian   |   25 Feb 2018   |   6 min read

As we reported in our blog last year – the Australian Government announced that it would remove the CGT main residence exemption for foreign residents.

It was said that this reform was being introduced as part of measures to address housing affordability in Australia. Due to other legislative priorities a bill to enact the change was not introduced and we had hoped that the Government would have taken the time to ensure grandfathering of all existing properties.

However the bill was re-introduced earlier this month as Treasury Laws Amendment (Reducing Pressure on Housing Affordability Measures No. 2) Bill 2018, apparently unchanged after the exposure draft consultation period last year.

The Bill has now been referred to a Senate Standing Committee which represents the last opportunity to lobby for changes to be made to the Bill. Submissions close 5 March 2018.

What Is The Problem?

In trying to tighten our CGT laws, the Bill denies Australians living abroad access to the “CGT absence concession”. This existing concession gives many Australian expats the opportunity to retain the CGT exemption on their former home for up to 6 years, even if they rented their home out after they had moved overseas. This exemption will be removed.

Disastrously though, the changes seem to be more fundamental. The Bill, as drafted, denies even a partial CGT exemption by providing no CGT relief even for the period of time when the person had lived in their home before departing Australia. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill makes this alarming problem crystal clear (see Example 1.2 which is extracted below). We do not believe this was the Government’s intention.

The only way out under the draft Bill is that taxpayers seem to be allowed to move back into the property after returning to Australia (as a resident) and to then sell the home on a CGT free basis (assuming the absence exemption otherwise applies). This creates a tax-driven ‘lock-in’ effects which is likely to create significant issues for taxpayers and rather than assist housing supply could in fact create further supply constraints.

Does This Apply To You?

If you are an Australian expatriate then the Bill provides that unless you sell your former home prior to 30 June 2019, you will be subject to CGT on the sale of the property if you sell it after that date while you are still a non-resident of Australia for tax purposes. Unfortunately, as currently drafted, the Bill would not even provide you with a partial CGT exemption to recognise the period of time that you lived in your home prior to your departure. To preserve your CGT exemption you would be left with the choice of either selling prior to 30 June 2019 or else keeping the property until you one day return to Australia.

The tightness of the 30 June 2019 deadline has seen concerns expressed in the Australian Financial Review recently about a fire sale in expat owned property. While predictions of a fire sale may not be true, it is nonetheless a highly unfair position to put home owners in and the Bill represents poor policy implementation.

Artificially ending the absence concession by using a ‘drop dead date’ on 30 June 2019 is highly equitable. It will mean that failure to sell by 30 June 2019 could mean that an Australian living overseas could be exposed to hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax, given the increases in Australian property over the last 3 years.

What Should Be Done To Fix This?

We strongly urge the Government to fix the Bill by ensuring that amendments are made so that:

  • all Australian expatriates who were already non-resident of Australia when the changes were announced on 9 May 2017, should continue to be able to access the absence concession regardless of where they reside; and
  • all persons should be able to access the partial CGT exemption for at least that part of the ownership period during which they lived in the property and were resident of Australia.

We believe that the flaws in this Bill are an oversight that will be rectified once these problems are better understood. In our experience most Australians living abroad who keep their home in Australia do pay taxes and continue to contribute to the Australian economy.

If the Government wishes to persist with the change of law to only permit CGT exemptions for those who are tax resident in Australia –  then they should ensure that they are fair to the thousands of Australians who have moved overseas (most of whom will return) but who have retained their former homes in Australia.

Final submissions are now being requested and we strongly recommend that interested parties make a submission on this inequitable change.

You can contact your local member of parliament and forward this blog.

If you are concerned about the unfairness of this change submissions can be made to.

Committee Secretariat Contact:

Senate Standing Committees on Economics
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3540
Fax: +61 2 6277 5719
economics.sen@aph.gov.au

Extract from Explanatory Memorandum to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Reducing Pressure on Housing Affordability Measures No. 2) Bill 2018

Example 1.2 — Main Residence Exemption Denied

Vicki acquired a dwelling in Australia on 10 September 2010, moving into it and establishing it as her main residence as soon as it was first practicable to do so. On 1 July 2018 Vicki vacated the dwelling and moved to New York. Vicki rented the dwelling out while she tried to sell it. On 15 October 2019 Vicki finally signs a contract to sell the dwelling with settlement occurring on 13 November 2019. Vicki was a foreign resident for taxation purposes on 15 October 2019. The time of CGT event A1 for the sale of the dwelling is the time the contract for sale was signed, that is 15 October 2019. As Vicki was a foreign resident at that time she is not entitled to the main residence exemption in respect of her ownership interest in the dwelling. Note:

This outcome is not affected by:

• Vicki previously using the dwelling as her main residence; and

• the absence rule in section 118-145 that could otherwise have applied to treat the dwelling as Vicki’s main residence from 1 July 2018 to 15 October 2019 (assuming all of the requirements were satisfied).

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Australian Expat Alert – Budget Announces Main Residence CGT Changes

Matthew Marcarian   |   24 May 2017   |   2 min read

Background

Many Australian citizens who leave Australia and become non-residents (i.e foreign residents for tax purposes) rent their former main residence while they are living overseas.

Presently these Australian citizens are able to benefit from a CGT main residence exemption under the ‘6 year absence’ concession (Section 118-145 of the ITAA 1997).  In essence the absence rule means that a person can move out of their main residence, rent it out, and then move back into it before the end of 6 years and the property will retain its 100% CGT free status when it is sold.

Further, where a former main residence is not rented out at all – the property can remain exempt from CGT indefinitely (See Section 118-145(3)).

CST has many expat clients who have moved overseas and who are renting out their family homes.

New Budget Announcement

On the 9 May 2017 the Treasurer announced that the Government “would stop foreign and temporary residents from claiming the main residence capital gains tax exemption when they sell property in Australia from Budget night”. The a transitional rule is to be provided so that people who own such property on 9 May 2017 can sell by 30 June 2019 without paying capital gains tax.

However the announcement was included in a series of measures aimed at improving the integrity of Australia’s CGT rules for foreign investors.

Naturally enough, most Australian expats living abroad would not consider themselves to be ‘foreigners’ and the loss of a CGT exemption on their former main residence would be a very bad outcome.

Unfortunately it is not yet clear whether this announcement was actually intended to apply to foreign residents (meaning foreign tax residents, which would include Australian citizens who are non-resident of Australia) or whether the announcement is intended to apply to foreign nationals only.

Given the lack of detail in the announcement we will have to wait until legislation is introduced before being sure of the Governments intentions in this area. If you are an Australian expat living abroad please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss any concerns you may have or if you require advice.

Please see – http://www.budget.gov.au/2017-18/content/glossies/factsheets/html/HA_16.htm

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