Residency – Harding’s Appeal Victory

The biggest personal tax residency case in 40 years just got bigger. The taxpayer Mr Glen Harding having lost his case in front of a single judge in the Federal Court has won an emphatic victory in the Full Federal Court in a decision handed down on 22 February 2019.

In Harding v Commissioner of Taxation [2018] FCA 837 in a unanimous decision the Court found that Glen Harding was not a resident of Australia because;

  • he did have a Permanent Place of Abode in Bahrain; and
  • he did not reside in Australia;

As we reported last year in our blog (an Appeal to Common Sense) the taxpayer, Glen Harding, appealed from an initial Federal Court decision against him.

The Facts of Harding’s case were, in essence, that Mr Harding, in his evidence, had abandoned his residence in Australia, with the intention never to return. However, in establishing life in Bahrain, he lived in an apartment building called “Classic Towers”. Initially he took a two bedroom apartment because he believed that his wife and children would visit him from time to time.  He remained in that apartment from 10 June 2009 until 9 June 2011.  When his marriage broke down around 2011 and he realised that his wife would not be moving to Bahrain, he moved in to a one bedroom apartment where he remained until 9 June 2012.

The case was all about whether Mr Harding was a resident in Australia for the income tax year ended 30 June 2011 and the single judge in the first instance found that because of the style of accommodation that Mr Harding chose in Bahrain, being a fully furnished apartment, he had not established a permanent place of abode in Bahrain, despite several other factors which demonstrated that he was living in Bahrain.

Several principles of residency law were analysed in detail by the Court. However, the main focus was on the question of what was meant by the phrase ‘Permanent Place of Abode’. A clear understanding of that phrase is critical because of the definition of tax residency in Section 6(1) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936.

That definition says that a person is a resident of Australia if they reside in Australia and includes a person who is Australian domiciled unless the Commissioner would be satisfied that the person has established a Permanent Place of Abode outside Australia.

Most Australian expats who move overseas will remain domiciled in Australia and hence, unless they can show that they have established a permanent place of abode overseas, will remain fully taxable in Australia. It has never been the case that an Australian who is itinerant overseas avoids taxation in Australia.

So the question ‘what is a Permanent Place of Abode?” is critical. In their joint decision,  Davies and Steward JJ with Logan J in agreement, indicated that the word ‘place’ should be read as including a reference to a country or state and they expanded by saying;

In the context of the legislative history, in our view, the phrase “place of abode” is not a reference, as one might have thought, only to a person’s specific house or flat or other dwelling.  If that had been Parliament’s intention it would have used the phrase “permanent abode” rather than “permanent place of abode”.  The word “place” in the context of the phrase “outside Australia” in subpara (i) invites a consideration of the town or country in which a person is physically residing “permanently”.

In taking that approach, the Court referred to the analysis of Sheppard J in Applegate’s case where he indicated that as follows:

“place of abode”’ may mean the house in which a person lives or the country, city or town in which he is for the time being to be found.  I am of the view that the latter is the meaning of the expression used in s. 6(1.) of the Act.  Thus a person might be correctly said to have a permanent place of abode in, say, Vila, notwithstanding that during a given period he lived in a number of different establishments occupying each for only a relatively short period.  His case is no different from one where a person, such as the appellant here, lives, for a substantial period, in the same house.

So here we see, for the first time, a definite focus by the Federal Court on the permanence in a particular jurisdiction as being of paramount importance rather than the particular ‘type’ of accommodation that a tax payer chooses to live in within that jurisdiction.

If this decision stands, it would be a victory for common sense, because if a person is living permanently in a particularly city it should not be critical what type of accommodation the person chooses to live in.

Author: Matthew Marcarian

Permanent Place of Abode – Harding Appeals to common sense

The taxpayer, Mr Harding has appealed to the Full Federal Court of Australia from a decision handed down on 8 June 2018 by Justice Derrington, in Harding v Commissioner of Taxation [2018] FCA 837. In that case His Honour, found that Mr Harding was resident of Australia for tax purposes under the Domicile Test, because he failed to establish a ‘permanent place of abode’ in Bahrain during the relevant year, even though he left Australia permanently in 2009 and lived in Bahrain until 2015, before moving to Oman.

We believe the decision creates significant uncertainty and we are glad to see it appealed.

What happened in the case?

In 2009 Mr Harding departed Australia to take up full time employment in Saudi Arabia. He chose to live in Bahrain (as is commonly done) and obtained a visa to do so. Mr Harding and his wife Mrs Harding had previously lived overseas in the Middle East.

On the facts outline in the case, Mr Harding seemed to have lived in the one apartment in Bahrain for almost 2 years from June 2009 to 9 June 2011, including almost all of the year ended 30 June 2011 – which was the year in dispute in the case.

Matters were apparently made complicated for Mr Harding because on this occasion his wife (and his children) did not accompany him to Bahrain initially and after going so far as to enrol his youngest son into the British School in Bahrain, Mr Harding’s marriage did not survive.

There is a some suggestion that Mr Harding only secured a two bedroom apartment when he initially moved to Bahrain, perhaps because he knew that when his family moved (as he intended that they would) more suitable accomodation would be required. His Honour also appeared to be completely convinced that Mr Harding had departed Australia permanently – even going so far as to list the things which he considered were evidence of that fact.

What was the problem?

The problem for Mr Harding was that even though His Honour was convinced that he had left Australia permanently (and was not resident according to ordinary concepts), His Honour was not convinced that Mr Harding had established a ‘permanent place of abode’ in Bahrain. Consequently since Mr Harding was an Australian domicile – he was still a tax resident of Australia.

This is because of the operation of the ‘Domicile Test’ in Australia’s residency laws. The Domicile Test treats all persons who have their domicile in Australia as being tax resident, unless they can show that they have a ‘permanent place of abode’ outside Australia. We believe that the concept of Permanent Place of Abode is a settled concept under Australia’s tax law and has been so for over 40 years since FC of T v Applegate 79 ATC  4307 (Applegate). The concept of ‘place of abode’ has its ordinary meaning and the use of the word ‘permanent’ in connection with an abode simply implies a place which is not temporary.

Given that the Court agreed that Mr Harding;

– made his life in Bahrain;
– had a visa to reside in Bahrain and in fact resided in Bahrain;
– owned a car in Bahrain;
– had exclusive use of an apartment in Bahrain which he leased (which the Court agreed was not short-term accomodation; see para 75);
– travelled every day from Bahrain to his full time place of work in Saudi Arabia;

we find it difficult to see why Mr Harding was found not to have a permanent place of abode in Bahrain.

The factors that seemed to be held against Mr Harding were that he did not own many possessions (given the apartment was fully furnished) and it was reasonably easy for him to move between apartments in the same complex which he did in July 2011 (after spending almost 2 years in the fist apartment) when it became apparent that Mrs Harding was not going to move to Bahrain.

It also seemed to weigh strongly on His Honour’s considerations that Mrs Harding did not seem to want to live in the original apartment Mr Harding had chosen (even though it was big enough to house the family) and that Mr and Mrs Harding together looked at alternative accomodation when she visited him in Bahrain.

A relevant fact also apparently was that Mr Harding’s postal mail was not sent to Bahrain, but continued to be sent to his former home in Australia. In relation to this His Honour remarked in his closing remarks (para 149) that “It is indicative of an intention to reside at premises permanently or, at least, not temporarily if that place is used as the address for correspondence. Were a person to use their apartment address as that to which important correspondence is to be addressed it can be thought that they are intending to remain there for an extended period of time.” We cannot understand why His Honour considered that the receipt of postal mail in Australia was of material significance, when by contrast His Honour did not see it as particularly significant that Mr Harding had continuing financial arrangements with Australia (paragraph 85).

Factors suggesting Mr Harding did have a Permanent Place of Abode was in Bahrain

The strangeness of the decision here is compounded by the fact that although Mr Harding’s contract of employment was only for 12 months, when Counsel for the Commissioner argued that Mr Harding’s presence in Bahrain was ‘somewhat tenuous’ because of this, His Honour responded by remarking (correctly in our view) on the permanent nature of Mr Harding’s departure from Australia, his intention never to return to Australia to live, and his working history which demonstrated that was ’eminently employable’, effectively dismissing the Commissioner’s argument that the short term nature of the employment contract was a material weakness in the case.

Indeed at para 147 His Honour remarks that “An associated argument advanced by the Commissioner was that as Mr Harding’s employment in the Middle East might be terminated at short notice, his presence there was necessarily of a transitory nature. That submission, however, fails to take into account that Mr Harding was intent on remaining in the Middle East, although not necessarily in Bahrain, and his presence there was not, necessarily, tied to his continued employment with TQ Education.”

The decision in this case is all the more puzzling given that His Honour accepted that Mr Harding took leases of the apartments as extended term propositions also accepting that“that Mr Harding made his life in Bahrain. It was the place from which he commuted daily to his work in Saudi Arabia. He formed friendships there and it was where he attended restaurants and bars after work. He also went to the beaches there and engaged in go-carting at the local grand prix track. In general terms, he pursued the expatriate lifestyle with which he had been familiar for many years.”

Implications for Australian Expats

We hope that the decision in Harding is overturned on appeal. The answer to question of whether a person has established a ‘permanent place of abode’ overseas should be arrived at simply and in a common sense fashion, by considering whether the taxpayer has only a temporary place of abode in the country.

For residency purposes if a place is not temporary then it must be permanent otherwise a person cannot have any certainty.  Surely we cannot have a third class of residency, being a state of being somewhere in the middle of temporary and permanent.

If the Court accepts that Mr Harding ‘made his life in Bahrain’ it should accept that he had a permanent place of abode there, regardless of where his postal mail is sent to.

It is pertinent to conclude by reflecting on the often quoted words of Fisher J in Applegate who said;

“To my mind the proper construction to place upon the phrase ‘permanent place of abode’ is that it is the taxpayer’s fixed and habitual place of abode. It is his home, but not his permanent home..Material factors for consideration will be the continuity or otherwise of the taxpayer’s presence, the duration of his presence and the durability of his association with the particular place.”

We look forward to a common sense judgement from the Full Federal Court in Mr Harding’s case.

UPDATE: On 22 February 2019, the Full High Court handed down a decision on the Harding v Commissioner of Taxation [2018] FCA 837  case. Please see Residency – Harding’s Appeal Victory for the decision.

Author: Matthew Marcarian

Australian Expats still awaiting decision on CGT change

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.

Removal of CGT Main residence exemption for Australian expatriates – disastrous tax changes now imminent

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
[email protected]

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).

US Market Entry Event – Brisbane – 27 February 2018

CST is pleased to be supporting a special event with Trade & Investment Queensland and Littler on Tuesday 27 February 2018.

We will provide essential information for Queensland businesses looking to expand to the United States.

The event will be held at The Precinct, Level 2, 315 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006.

A great panel of speakers will include Naomi Seddon from Littler, our own Peter Harper and Matthew Marcarian from CST. They will share their areas of expertise and  experiences in expanding to the U.S.A.

The event was a great success when it was last held in 2016 and we are looking forward to another excellent event under the auspices of Trade & Investment Queensland.  Naomi Seddon from Littler will provide valuable insights into US employment law, a critical area that many companies overlook when establishing their first US office. CST will provide answers to the top tax questions often asked by clients who are setting up in the USA.

With the U.S. Government announcing radically lower business taxes, Australian interest in expanding to the USA is even stronger than ever.

For further details please visit the website of the Trade and Investment Queensland and you can register for the event by clicking here.

Topics which will be covered will include;

  • The Trump Tax changes
  • Setting up a corporation or an LLC in the USA;
  • Immigration under the Trump Administration and what US visa options are available;
  • Engaging contractors in new markets
  • Sending employees to the USA and local hires
  • Immigration and tax considerations
  • Other global issues to consider in U.S. expansion

 

Doing Business in the United States – Sydney Event – 21 February 2018

CST is very pleased to be supporting a special event with NSW Trade & Investment and Littler on Wednesday 21 February 2018.

We will provide essential information for businesses looking to expand to the United States.

The event will be held at Sydney’s iconic MLC Centre – at the offices of NSW Trade, Level 48, MLC Centre 19 Martin Place.

A great panel of speakers will include Naomi Seddon from Littler, our own Peter Harper and Matthew Marcarian from CST, as well as Hugh Massie (DNA Behaviour), Ben Kerr (Eco Outdoor) and Bruno Mascart (Altios Australia). They will share there areas of expertise and their own experiences in expanding to the U.S.A.

The event was a great success when it was last held in 2016 and we are looking forward to another excellent event under the auspices of NSW Trade & Investment. Naomi Seddon from Littler will provide extremely valuable insights into US employment law, a critical area that many companies overlook when establishing their first US office. CST will provide answers to the top tax questions often asked by clients who are setting up in the USA.

With the U.S. Government announcing radically lower business taxes, Australian interest in expanding to the USA is even stronger than ever.

For further details please visit the website of the NSW Department of Industry and you can register for the event by clicking here.

Topics which will be covered will include;

  • The Trump Tax changes
  • Setting up a corporation or an LLC in the USA;
  • Immigration under the Trump Administration and what US visa options are available;
  • Engaging contractors in new markets
  • Sending employees to the USA and local hires
  • Immigration and tax considerations
  • Other global issues to consider in U.S. expansion

 

Expanding to the USA – Market Entry Event for Victorian Technology Companies – 15 February 2018

CST is pleased to be sponsoring and presenting at a Littler and Trade Victoria workshop being held in Melbourne on Thursday 15 February 2018.

If you’re a Victorian digital technology company seeking to tackle the US market, or looking to grow your business and enter the market, or expand your existing activities in the region, Trade Victoria invites you to this exclusive half-day workshop.

Trade Victoria has partnered together with Littler and CST Tax Advisors to host an exclusive afternoon event aimed at providing essential information to companies looking to expand and enter the US market.

The event will feature a panel of experts and companies that have experienced the pitfalls and successes of expanding into a new market. You will also hear from other Victorian companies who have successfully taken their business to the US market, as they share their expert local knowledge and experience.

More about the workshop please visit the website of the Trade Victoria by clicking here – click here.

Interested parties are welcome to Register for the event by completed the following webform provided by Litter- we look forward to seeing you at the event.

Are you a temporary resident for tax purposes?

Australia has a reputation as being a high taxing country. Most people are aware that if they are a resident of Australia they are taxable on all their income – whether from sources in or outside Australia.That is, Australia requires tax residents to declare income and capital gains from sources worldwide, regardless of whether the income is remitted to Australia.

However relatively few people are aware that Australia also has a generous concession for expats on their overseas assets. This is known as the ‘temporary resident exemption’ – which was introduced by the Australian government more than a decade ago.

New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 can also usually qualify under these rules which can give extremely favourable outcomes to New Zealand citizens with overseas assets.

If you are an expat and have the status of a temporary resident for migration purposes (i.e you hold a temporary visa, such as a 457 Visa) then you will most likely also be a temporary resident for income tax purposes. This applies unless your spouse is an Australian citizen or Permanent Resident, in which case you will not be able to benefit from the exemptions.

If you are a temporary resident for tax purposes in Australia then you are not required to declare foreign investment income such as foreign dividends, trust distributions or foreign bank interest, even if you bring this income into Australia. It is also the case that income that would otherwise be taxable under Australia’s controlled foreign company rules is also disregarded if a person is a temporary resident. Generous capital gains tax exemptions also apply to assets which are not Australian real property (i.e real estate) or interests in Australian real property.

These concessions mean that temporary residents are able to live and work in Australia, but often only pay tax on income from employment, while they can continue to hold significant foreign investments. The exception relates to employment related income which may be derived from foreign sources by a temporary resident living in Australia.

We are often contacted by people who wish to clarify their status under the temporary resident rules. Once people understand that they are temporary residents then many of their concerns about Australia’s worldwide approach to taxation tend to drop away.

However, temporary residents who are considering becoming Permanent Residents in Australia still need to be aware of how drastically their tax situation can change if they become Permanent Resident. This is because if you become a Permanent Resident you would be taxable under the normal rules on your worldwide income. We encourage global expats with significant overseas assets to seek tax advice as soon as they determine that they wish to apply for Permanent Residency in Australia.

If you are considering applying for Permanent Residency in Australia and have significant overseas assets our specialist team would welcome the opportunity to assist you with detailed tax advice so that you fully aware of the tax implications. CST’s Strategic Tax Review is an appropriate service for clients in this situation. If you are interested in seeking advice from us please contact us.

CST’s tax advisors have experience with advising high net worth global expatriates arriving in Australia from all parts of the world.

Our specialist integrated Australia/US advisory capabilities can also make a real difference for US expatriates living in Australia who have to lodge tax returns in Australia and the United States.

Land tax and stamp duty surcharges – effect on Australian family trusts

There have been considerable changes recently in Australia’s approach to levying tax on foreign nationals who own Australian real estate. In particular, various state governments have introduced land tax and stamp duty surcharges for foreigners who own Australian residential land.

The purpose of this blog post is to provide general information as to the issues of how family trusts are treated.

Generally, the issue with trusts is that it needs to be determined whether a trust would be treated as foreign trust for land tax and stamp duty purposes.

If your family trust is deemed to be foreign trust, then you will be required to pay land tax surcharges if your family trust owns land in New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland.

Whether a trust is a foreign trust

The rules that determine whether a discretionary trust is considered a foreign trust for duty and land tax purposes differs from state to state. The appropriate rules to apply will depend on the location of the property of the trust (i.e. if the trust buys property in NSW it will be subject to the NSW definition).

Essentially issues will arise in New South Wales if your Trust has any potential beneficiary who is not an Australian citizen or who is not permanently residing in Australia. Note that the question of whether a foreign person has in fact benefited is not relevant.

The law in Queensland and Victoria is less onerous because surcharges will generally only apply in those states if any of the default beneficiaries (i.e name beneficiaries) are foreigners.

Suggestion action

We recommend that you consider the position of your trust and consider who the beneficiaries of your trusts may need to be moving forward.

If you do not intend to benefit foreign persons, then your trust deed may be able to be amended to avoid future land tax and stamp duty surcharges being applied.

For trusts that own residential land in NSW we also recommend that you read this link  so that you are aware of the approach that the New South Wales Office of State Revenue is taking in relation to this issue.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Expanding to the USA (Part 3) – Setting up a C-Corporation

In our Expanding to the USA (Part 2) blog post we discussed that many Australian companies and entrepreneurs set up their US operations by using an Limited Liability Company (an LLC). However they are often later surprised to find out that the LLC is treated like a partnership under US tax law and also as partnership under Australian law if the foreign hybrid rules apply.

The alternative to establishing an LLC, which we think is commonly overlooked, is for Australian business and entrepreneurs to establish a C-Corporation. The name stems from the fact that a C-Corporation is governed by subchapter C of the Internal Revenue Code.

In many respects the C-Corporation in America works exactly like an Australian Private company.

The C-Corporation has directors, shareholders (stock holders) and has its own tax identity that is separate from its stock holders. By default it is taxed as an entity, keeping profits and taxation separate from the stock holders until such time as a dividend is declared by the corporation. Tax is payable at US Federal Rates (graduated rates between 15%-39%) but state income tax may also apply depending upon the state of incorporation and where business is carried on. As compared to a flow through LLC the C-Corporation is a simply structure because US tax filings are not required to be made by Australian shareholders.

In the case of Australian resident shareholders owning a C-Corporation, when dividends are declared, a dividend withholding tax arises on the dividend paid. This means that Australian shareholders will receive a dividend paid to them net of US withholding tax. If the reduced tax treaty rate applies then that dividend withholding tax can be reduced to 5% in certain situations.

Depending on a client’s situation in Australia, a C Corporation may be the appropriate US business structure.

CST focuses on advising clients with international tax issues, many of whom expand into and invest in the United States.