Managing Dual Tax Residency as an Expat

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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What You Need to Know if You Have a Trust and are Moving Abroad


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What You Need to Know if You Have a Trust and are Moving Abroad

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 when arriving in a new country

John Marcarian   |   20 Feb 2023   |   3 min read

Similar to the need for you to plan your departing tax issues on the way out of your home country there is a major need to plan what your tax profile will be when you arrive in your new country. 

Sometimes, however, it is easy to assume that arriving in another country has no tax consequences and that can make things difficult.

A recent client example springs to mind.

David Smith (not his real name), an expat relocating from Singapore to the US (upon his retirement), decided to access his Australian superannuation fund.

What a mistake that was.

In Australia, pension payments for those over 60 years of age are tax free.

This is, however, not the case in the US.

David had worked out that he and his wife could afford to live in the US the way they envisaged, based on paying no US federal or state tax.

They were quite shocked when we told them that the US would tax David’s Australian-sourced pension stream.

It was not a great conversation.

Key Items To Consider

Set out below are some of the key things you need to consider ahead of your arrival:

  • Complying with the requirements of more than one tax jurisdiction (are tax credits available for any foreign tax paid?)
  • Accounting for a new tax and legal system (are you moving to a country that has a civil law regime or a common law regime?)
  • Understanding the tax issues associated with moving to the arrival country (does the country you are moving to have a general anti avoidance regime that targets tax planning?)
  • Considering how foreign assets are accounted for (is foreign income exempt or is it non-taxable there is a big difference between the two)
  • Locating other professional service providers to work with (do not assume your foreign tax advisor has international tax experience as this is often not the case)

How Will Your Assets Be Treated?

In some jurisdictions the moment you arrive in the country you are treated as having bought all your foreign assets at the market value of the date you became a tax resident.

This means that a ‘cost base’ has been established for your foreign assets.

Then when you sell those assets in future – a gain or loss can be worked out in relation to those assets. Australia is one such jurisdiction that treats your assets this way.

Other jurisdictions such as the US – do not give you this ‘step up’ in value.

This is a serious problem as you can end up paying a lot of tax to the Internal Revenue Service – based on the original cost of your assets which may have been many years ago.

This is grossly unfair, as most of any gain will have happened while you were a US non-resident – particularly if you sell the asset shortly after you arrive in the US (you may want to sell foreign assets to buy a house in the US for example!)

Your arrival must be carefully planned as the ramifications of an ill-prepared arrival can be costly. 

If you undertake a proper tax planning exercise before you leave, then the thrill of arriving in your new country is not shaken up by the bad news of unintended tax issues. 

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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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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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Key Tax Concessions You May Be Missing Out On As An Expat

Boon Tan   |   8 Mar 2019   |   1 min read

Our Managing Director, Boon Tan, was recently featured in the Orient magazine (a publication produced by the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore) discussing the key tax concessions available to Expats in Singapore.

Read the full article.

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3 key tax concessions you may be missing out on as an expat

Boon Tan   |   27 Feb 2019   |   6 min read

With the presentation of the 2019 Budget by Treasurer Heng, now is the time to start planning for the preparation of your personal tax return. With that in mind, this article outlines points for expats to consider when it comes time for preparation of your Singaporean income tax return.

The good news is that your Singapore tax return is not going to be hard to do. For many, the process takes 5 minutes and is done online.

Your return is due for lodgement each year by 15th of April. As there is no withholding tax, you will be required to make a payment of your tax liability upon receipt of your Notice of Assessment from Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (“IRAS”). Alternatively, IRAS does provided for you to pay your tax liability in monthly instalments (interest free) via direct debits from your Singaporean bank account.

Why is tax so simple in Singapore?

The key to the simplicity is the nature of the Singaporean tax system which is a territorial based system.

Singapore only levies tax on income sourced here.

The term “sourced” means income that is generated in Singapore – e.g., employment income, interest paid by a local bank. Foreign income, such as rental income from your principal residence or investment property in your home country, is not taxed in Singapore – even if you bring the funds to Singapore.

Other income generated from interest, dividends, and capital gains on the disposal of assets anywhere in the world is all exempt from tax in Singapore. Besides, there are limited deductions that one can claim as an individual.

Notwithstanding this, here are some of the key concessions that you may be eligible to claim.

Not Ordinary Resident (“NOR”) Scheme and your tax residency

A key concession for expats to consider claiming as an employee based in Singapore is the NOR Scheme.

The NOR Scheme was introduced as an incentive to global firms to use Singapore as a regional base, and to bring talented individuals to the country. Under the NOR Scheme, you can pro-rata your taxable income based on the number of days you have worked outside of Singapore during the year – meaning that your effective tax rate can be reduced to a rate as low as 10%.

You can apply the NOR Scheme to reduce your tax rate by exempting part of your income, which in turn, will reduce the marginal tax bracket you fall into. Note that this is a concession under Singaporean taxation and does not mean that the untaxed income in Singapore is therefore taxable in the country you worked.

To qualify for the NOR Scheme, you must meet all the following criteria:

  1. Your taxable income in Singapore must be at least $160,000;
  2. Travelled for work for at least 90 days during the year;
  3. You are a tax resident of Singapore in the year you are claiming the concession; and
  4. Must not have been a tax resident of Singapore for the three years prior to the year in which you are applying the NOR Scheme.

You can claim NOR for the first five years that you are a tax resident of Singapore. If you do not qualify for the Scheme for one year during this period because you did not travel at least 90 days, you will lose one year of eligibility.

To apply for the NOR Scheme, you must lodge a claim each year at the time you file your tax return. Your claim must list the number of days and where you have worked outside of Singapore and must be certified by your employer as being correct.

In years that you qualify but fail to make a claim for the NOR Scheme when you lodge your return, you cannot go back and amend the return to claim the concession.

In the 2019 Budget, it was announced that the NOR Scheme would be stopped as of 31 December 2019. Therefore, the last claims to enter the NOR Scheme will be due with the lodgement of the YA2020 income tax return. Individuals who are already in the midst of their 5-year NOR eligibility period can continue to make the claim post the end of this year.

Tax reliefs

Singapore’s tax system provides tax residents with tax reliefs which reduce your taxable income. You can claim and apply as many reliefs that you are eligible for each year.

Five common tax reliefs that can be applied when preparing your tax return include:

  1. Spouse relief
    If you are supporting a spouse who is not working and/or earning less than $4,000 from worldwide sources, you can claim a relief of $2,000.
  2. Child relief
    You are entitled to claim relief for supporting a child equal to $4,000 per child regardless of where they live. Each child must be aged less than 16, or if over the age of 16 they must be in fulltime education (not necessarily here in Singapore) and cannot have an annual income of more than $4,000 from worldwide sources. The system recognises stepchildren and adopted children as qualifying for this relief.
  3. Life insurance premiums
    You can apply a tax relief of up to $5,000 for the payment of life insurance premiums if your insurance provider has a branch or presence in Singapore. You may, therefore, be able to claim this relief for premiums paid in your home country.
  4. Foreign maid levy relief
    If you are a woman working in Singapore and employ a maid which requires you to pay the foreign maid levy, you will be able to claim a relief equal to twice the levy amount paid for one domestic helper.
  5. Professional course relief
    Up to $5,500 relief is granted if you enrol into a course, seminar or conference that leads to an approved academic, professional or vocation qualification. The relief is calculated based on the amount spent on fees, tuition, aptitude tests and registration fees incurred.

Donations

If you have made donations during the year to a local cause, you are able to claim a deduction of 2.5 times the amount you donated. To be able to make a claim, donations must be made in cash to the Government or any institution of public character which allows for their donations to be claimed at the 2.5 times rate.

Claiming everything you are entitled to

While the Singaporean tax system is a lot simpler than others around the world, you should speak with a qualified advisor ahead of lodging your personal return and ensure that you claim all the concessions you are entitled to.

About the author

Boon Tan is an experienced Accountant and has been working in the international tax advisory sector for over ten years. Born in Australia with Singaporean roots, Boon relocated to Singapore at the end of 2015.

As an expat living in Singapore, he has first-hand knowledge and experience of what expat families go through to establish themselves in a new city. He regularly draws on his in-depth understanding of the local Singaporean tax system and a network of in-country specialists in expat hot-spots around the world including USA, UK, Asia Pacific, and Australia to provide bespoke tax advice to clients.

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The Road to Oz

CST    |   8 Feb 2019   |   1 min read

Our Managing Director, Boon Tan, together with our Principal in Sydney, Mathew Marcarian, were recently featured in the STEP Journal* (a publication produced by STEP for its members) discussing the local taxation laws that apply to Trust beneficiaries relocating to Australia.

STEP is an organisation that focuses on improving the public understanding of the issues families face in relation to inheritance and succession planning.

Read the full article.

* Matthew Marcarian and Boon Tan, ‘The road to Oz’, STEP Journal (Vol27 Iss1), pp.41-43

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Guide: Moving to Singapore

Boon Tan   |   21 Jun 2017   |   1 min read

Overview of Tax Residence Rules

The Singapore Tax Act classifies taxpayers as either residents or non-residents. This is important because residents and nonresidents are taxed in a different manner.

Note that the concept of “domicile” is not relevant for Singapore income tax liability. “Residence” is the relevant test and this is defined under Section 2 of the Singapore Tax Act.

The definition includes a “qualitative test” as an individual who “resides” in Singapore in the year preceding the year of assessment is regarded as a tax resident in Singapore.

This turns on a number of factors. The term ‘reside’ is not statutorily defined and therefore it is to be given its ordinary meaning when interpreting Singapore law.

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