Taxation of Expatriates
TAXATION OF EXPATRIATES
The Government will enhance the previously announced measure of providing a tax exemption for certain foreign source income of expatriates resident in Australia for less than four years. This measure was recommended by the Ralph Review of Business Taxation and is to commence from 1 July 2002.
Recognising the vital importance to Australia of a competitive expatriate taxation regime, the Government will make the following improvements to the measure to ensure that it is fully effective.
- The exemption will apply to the foreign source income of eligible temporary residents from assets regardless of when acquired and to interest withholding tax on interest payments in respect of liabilities regardless of when incurred.
- No capital gain or loss will arise on the disposal by eligible temporary residents of assets not having the necessary connection with Australia, other than portfolio interests in Australian publicly listed companies.
- Periods of residence terminated more than ten years prior to the commencement of a current period of tax residence will be ignored in determining whether an individual is tax resident for the first time.
- Where the period of the temporary visa exceeds four years, the exemption will be available up to a maximum period of four years.
Removing impediments to the temporary employment of skilled foreign workers will be of significant benefit for skill intensive industries and firms, and assist in retaining and attracting corporate headquarters.
To ensure that the exemption applies consistently to New Zealand citizens entering under special category visa arrangements, they will have access to the exemption if they:
- are first-time tax resident (subject to the ten-year reset rule);
- have been resident in Australia for less than four years;
- are not eligible for Australian social security payments or Medicare (that is are not or are not treated as permanent residents); and
- have not applied for permanent residence in Australia.
The Government will also amend the existing exemption for temporary residents from the foreign investment fund (FIF) rules, with effect from 1 July 2002. The amended FIF exemption will be more generous in terms of its eligibility requirements than the general foreign source income measure as FIF income is taxed on an accruals basis, with potentially significant cash-flow difficulties and double tax risks.
Under the existing exemption, taxpayers holding a temporary residents visa are exempt from the FIF rules provided the period of the visa, or any extension of a previous visa(s), does not exceed four years.
Under the proposed change, taxpayers holding temporary residents visas will be exempted from the FIF rules regardless of the length of time for which the visa has been held.
New Zealand citizens entering under special category visa arrangements will have access to the amended FIF exemption if they are not eligible for Australian social security payments or Medicare and have not applied for permanent residence in Australia.
As a transitional arrangement, the existing FIF exemption will continue to be available for New Zealand expatriates who qualify for the exemption up to and including 30 June 2002 but only until their current period of residence allowable under the exemption expires.
This measure is not expected to materially affect the forward estimates.
Departing residents and deemed capital gains
The Government is also aware of concerns relating to the capital gains tax (CGT) treatment of departing residents, including expatriates.
Currently, individuals resident in Australia, including expatriates, who become non-residents are liable for CGT on the unrealised gains on assets they own that do not have a necessary connection with Australia, principally foreign assets, via a deemed disposal rule. Such departing residents can elect to defer CGT until an actual disposal occurs, but in that case they are also subject to CGT on any gains that arise after their departure.
As an exception, an expatriate who has been resident in Australia for fewer than five years during the previous ten years is exempt from the deemed disposal rules for those assets they owned before becoming a resident or those acquired because of someone’s death.
This CGT treatment of departing residents raises the costs of employing skilled foreign workers in Australia. Unless an expatriate leaves within five years, problems such as double tax, gains being inflated by currency movements and cash-flow difficulties may arise.
The Government will seek to address these concerns on a country by country basis through renegotiation of double tax agreements. In line with this approach, the recently finalised protocol to the tax treaty with the US incorporates this measure.
15 October 2001
15 Oct 2001
Peter Costello in The Spectator
Address to Monash University Law School Graduation Ceremony
Peter Costello addresses the Monash University Law School Graduation Ceremony
Nothing adds up in Wayne's World
Peter Costello in the Herald Sun