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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Understanding the Differences Between Australian Citizenship, Visa Residency and Tax Residency

Daniel Wilkie   |   18 May 2021   |   10 min read

It can understandably be confusing to determine the difference between being an Australian tax resident for tax purposes compared to visa residency.

If you’re an Australian citizen who was born and continues living in Australia, then it’s pretty straightforward. You are an Australian for both citizenship and tax purposes.

But what about when things aren’t so clear? Can you be an Australian citizen but not an Australian tax resident? Can you be an Australian tax resident without being an Australian citizen? And what about Visa status? How does this change things?

Citizenship and visa residency are pretty clear cut. You are either a citizen or you aren’t. You either have an Australian residency visa, or you don’t. Tax residency, whilst linked to some degree to having visa residency or citizenship, is not as straightforward.

Australian Citizenship

You are an Australian citizen when Australia is legally your home country. This could be because you were born in Australia, or because you were born to Australian parents, or because you applied for citizenship. As an Australian citizen, Australia is considered to be your default country for all purposes, including taxation. This is why an Australian citizen may, in certain situations, continue to be treated as a tax resident, despite living in another country.

However, what about for those citizens from another country, living in Australia?

Australian Visa Residence 

People who are citizens of other countries are only permitted to stay in Australia per the terms of their Visa. There are many different types of visas, ranging from short-term holiday visas, through to permanent residency visas.

The type of visa you hold will play a part in your circumstances when determining tax residency. For instance, individuals on short-term visas are less likely to be considered Australian tax residents, while individuals on long-term or permanent residency visas are more likely to be considered Australian tax residents.

Australian Tax Residency

Despite what your citizenship and visa status is, tax residency is a matter of fact and intention. There is no application form to be completed nor automatic rule to become a tax resident.

When considering whether you are an Australian tax resident the primary factor is whether you, the individual, is living in Australia (see the “resides test” below). Conversely, you may be a foreign resident for tax purposes if you live outside of Australia. Living in Australia is distinguished between having a holiday in Australia, or staying in Australia for an extended period, whether temporary or permanent.

To help distinguish “permanency”, an individual must typically be living in Australia for at least six months to be considered a tax resident. Conversely, Australian citizens who are living overseas are typically still considered to be Australian tax residents if they are living overseas for less than 2 years. Indeed an Australian citizen may be living overseas for up to 5 years and continue to be considered an Australian tax resident if there are sufficient ties remaining in Australia to demonstrate that the nature of their overseas stay is “temporary”.

In order to determine tax residency specific residency tests are considered.

Tests for Australian Residency

To determine whether an individual is a tax resident there are a number of tests that can be applied. Passing any one of these tests will determine residency status.

             Resides Test

The first test for residency is the ‘resides test’. If you are physically present in Australia, intending to live here on a permanent basis, and have all the usual attachments in Australia that one would expect of someone living here, then you are a tax resident.

Factors considered include whether your family lives in Australia with you, where your business and employment ties are, where you hold most of your assets and what your social and living arrangements are. If you pass this test then there is no need to consider further tests. 

It is possible to be found to be a resident of more than one country. In cases where you are found to be a dual resident, you may need to consider tie breaker rules in any relevant Double Tax Agreement. 

If you don’t pass the resides test then you may still be a tax resident if you satisfy one of the three statutory tests instead.

             Domicile Test

The domicile test states that you will be found to be an Australian tax resident unless you have a permanent home elsewhere. An Australian citizen will have Australia as their domicile by origin. This means that even if an Australian citizen is living or travelling overseas their default home will be Australia. 

In such situations residency only changes when there is an intention to permanently set up a new domicile overseas. (For this reason people holidaying overseas or living overseas on a short-term basis can continue to be Australian tax residents even if they don’t step foot in Australia for years). Individuals who were domiciled in Australia but who do not cut their connection with Australia, will continue to be Australian residents.

             183-Day Test

The ‘183 day test’ is the day count test. This test is typically to capture foreign residents coming to Australia, rather than applying to Australians moving overseas. Individuals who come to Australia from overseas for at least 183 days may find themselves being Australian tax residents. Note that being in Australia for 183 days of the year does not automatically make such an individual a tax resident. Non residents who come to Australia for more than 183 days but do not have any intention of taking up residence in Australia may, depending on their intent and actions, be considered visitors or holiday makers, and therefore not qualify as tax residents.

             The Commonwealth Superannuation Test

Australian Government employees in CSS or PSS schemes, who work in Australian posts overseas, will be considered Australian residents regardless of other factors. 

Examples of Tax Residency and Foreign Tax Residency

To understand the difference it might help to look at a few examples of different scenarios.

             An Australian Citizen who is a Tax Resident

Tom is an Australian citizen who was born in Australia. He has lived in Australia his whole life, and intends to continue living here. During the year he goes on a 6 month holiday, travelling around Europe. At the end of his 6 months he decides to take advantage of another opportunity and stays in Africa for 3 months. After this time, he returns home to Australia. 

Tom’s tax residency never changes. Despite travelling overseas for 9 months of the year, he continues to be an Australian resident for tax purposes. This is because Australia is always his home, and his time overseas is not in the nature of a permanent move.

             An Australian Citizen who is not a Tax Resident

Jill is an Australian citizen who was born in Australia. She has lived in Australia for her whole life. However, in 2019 Jill accepts an opportunity to take a job in England. The position is a permanent position and requires Jill to move to England on a permanent basis. After acquiring the necessary visa to work and live in England, she sells her home and uses the proceeds to make the move to England, where she buys a new home and settles down. Jill brings her son to England with her, and closes down her Australian bank accounts. She does not expect to return to Australia, other than for occasional holidays.

On the day that Jill departs Australia she becomes a foreign resident for tax purposes. The fact that she is an Australian citizen does not change this. This is because it is clear from her actions and intentions, closing off ties to Australia, and establishing a new home in England,  that she is moving to England on a permanent basis. 

             A Tax Resident Living in Australia on a Permanent Residency Visa

Bob is from the United States of America. While in Australia on a working holiday visa, where he travels around the country, his final stop is at a small country town that feels like home to him. He makes friends and is even offered a permanent job there. Bob’s visa is almost up, so he goes back to the United States as planned, then takes the necessary steps to return to Australia and apply for a permanent residency visa. Bob effectively cuts his ties with the US and intends to make this small country town his new home and moves into a room with one of his new mates.

On Bob’s initial time in Australia under his working holiday visa, he will be considered a non-resident, or a temporary resident, depending on his visa. Even though he started thinking about making a permanent move at this stage, he had yet to take any steps to show this intention. However, on his return, which was made with all the actions necessary to show that this was a permanent move to Australia, he then becomes an Australian tax resident. 

             A Foreign Tax Resident with an Australian Permanent Residency Visa

Jane is a British citizen who has been living in Australia on a permanent residency visa for the past ten years. She just received news that her parents were in a bad accident and both need permanent care. Jane decides to pack up and move back home to care for her parents. She sells off her assets, closes her Australian bank account, and returns home to live with her parents. She also finds a part time job overseas.

Even though Jane has a permanent residency visa in Australia, she is no longer living here on a permanent basis. This means she is now a foreign resident for tax purposes.

Permanent and Temporary Residents

Even if an individual is deemed to be a tax resident, the ATO further distinguishes between temporary residency and permanent residency. Temporary residency typically occurs when an individual is genuinely residing in Australia on a “permanent” basis, however, are only in Australia on a temporary Visa, as opposed to living in Australia on a permanent residency Visa or obtaining Australian citizenship.

Temporary residents are only taxed on their Australian-sourced income.

Tax Residency is based on your Permanent Residence

As you can see from the above examples, tax residency is based on where an individual is permanently residing. If you are in Australia on a holiday, or only for a short time (less than 6 months), then you would not be considered an Australian resident for tax purposes.

However, holding a permanent residency visa, does not necessarily mean you are a tax resident. If you actually live in another country on a permanent basis, having your social and economic ties in another country, then you will be a foreign resident for tax purposes. 

It is important to note that there must be a permanent home elsewhere. If an Australian resident decided to travel the world for several years, although they may think they have departed Australia permanently, as they do not have a permanent home elsewhere, this would not constitute a decision to permanently reside in another country. Australia would continue to be their home, even though they are absent from Australia for a prolonged period of time. 

Since determining tax residency can be quite complex, it is important to speak to a tax specialist to understand your situation.

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Federal Budget Update 2021

Matthew Marcarian   |   12 May 2021   |   5 min read

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg presented the Australian Budget on 11th May 2021. 

Our Principal, Matthew Marcarian outlines the key budget announcements that may affect our clients. 

Changes to Australia’s personal tax residency rules

The Government has announced that it will adopt a new framework for personal tax residency which will be based on the recommendations of the Board of Taxation made in March 2019. 

The Budget papers indicate that the objective of the change is to make personal tax residency laws ‘easier to understand and apply in practice, deliver greater certainty and lower compliance costs for globally mobile individuals.’ 

The question is whether the amending legislation will actually achieve that objective.

Essentially the government proposes a ‘bright line’ test of 183 days. However, just how bright that line actually is will depend on the drafting and the overall framework of the laws when they are introduced. 

It also seems to be the case that under the new proposed laws, an Australian expat could be found to be a resident even if they spend less than 183 days in the country, where there are other residency indicators present.

In essence this mirrors the existing common law position, but elevates certain common law tests into tax legislation. 

This may result in the removal of uncertainty in some situations – but if not handled carefully, will risk creating other interpretational problems that the common law can more flexibly deal with.

The Government is also likely to introduce specific tests in relation to ‘commencing residency’ and ‘ceasing residency’ in an attempt to increase certainty in the law. 

CST would like to see that the exposure draft process for the new legislation gives the tax community extensive time to provide feedback given how sensitive this area of tax law is to interpretation, how fundamental tax residency is and how far reaching legislative changes are likely to be.

The changes to residency laws will only be effective from the start of the tax year after which the proposed legislation receives Royal Assent. 

This means that if the amending legislation can receive Royal Assent before 30 June 2022 then it will be effective from 1 July 2022.

CST will stay at the forefront of these legislative developments and will be providing feedback to the government on exposure draft legislation, based on our extensive advisory experience in these areas. 

Patent Box

The Government has announced a limited Patent Box regime which will apply a concessional 17% company tax rate to income derived from Australian medical and biotechnology patents. 

We are not sure why 17% was the chosen rate – but we note that it is identical to Singapore’s general company tax rate.

If we are absolutely committed to encouraging this industry in Australia, we would like to see a bolder policy approach here with a more meaningful reduction in the applicable tax rate to 10%, if not lower. That would be much more competitive on the global stage.

The Government has committed to consulting industry before settling on the detailed design of the Patent Box.

Self Managed Superannuation Fund – relaxing residency requirements

The Government has announced that it will permit people who are temporarily overseas to continue to contribute to a Self Managed Super Fund beyond the current 2 year period and upto 5 years. 

However if someone is overseas for up to 5 years they would normally be considered to be non-resident, which would imply that they are not ‘temporarily overseas’ and would therefore not be eligible to keep contributing to a Self Managed Superannuation Fund. 

The Government needs to re-assess this change. We believe the best approach would be to introduce a direct link to the actual tax residency of the member, rather than rely on the notion of ‘temporary’ absence.

Change to Employee Share Scheme Rules

The government has announced that it will amend the Employee Share Scheme (ESS) rules so that the end of a person’s employment will not be a taxing point for individuals any longer under the ESS regimes. 

For clients who are able to keep unvested ESS interests at the end of their employment, this change is excellent.

In the past the law has been problematic for clients where a taxing point has arisen because of employment ending – even though the shares or options had not actually vested, resulting in unfunded income tax bills and heavy compliance costs.

Moving forward, for a deferred ESS scheme, the taxing point will essentially be earlier of the time when there is no risk of forfeiture and no restrictions on disposal, or 15 years.

Removal of the Work Test for Voluntary Superannuation Contributions

In a welcome change, the Government will allow individuals aged 67 to 74 to make non-concessional contributions subject to the existing caps.

However for concessional contributions (i.e personal deductible contributions) the work test still applies. 

We think that the law should have been simplified further so that irrespective of the type of contribution the work test should not apply – particularly given the caps on concessional contributions are quite low being $27,500.

This change is expected to be implemented in time for application for the 30 June 2022 tax year.

Removal of $450 per month threshold for superannuation eligibility

In an excellent measure the government will remove the current $450 monthly threshold meaning that all Australian resident employees will receive superannuation.

Under the current law someone who earned $300 per month missed out on superannuation and given that technology allows employees to so easily make contributions given the onset of single touch payroll – this change is welcome to enhance fairness in our system.

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