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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Australians moving to the USA: Key Differences in the Australian and US tax system

Matthew Marcarian   |   2 Apr 2021   |   5 min read

Like any overseas move, moving from Australia to the United States will mean that you will encounter a brand new taxation system. 

If you’re used to the Australian tax system, the US system may seem a lot more complicated. For a brief overview of the differences see this comparison table:

AustraliaUnited States
Tax Year1 July to 30 June1 January to 31 December
Tax AuthorityAustralian Taxation Office: ATOInternal Revenue Services: IRS
Income Tax (residents)As an Australian you are taxed at a tiered individual income tax rate that ranges from 0% to 45%.Federal Income Tax is charged at tiered individual rates between 10% and 37%. Unlike Australia there is no initial tax free threshold.

Most States also impose a personal income tax which varies between states. Typically the state tax rates are under 10%. 
Income Tax (non-residents)Australia typically only taxes non-residents on income that is sourced in Australia. The tax free threshold doesn’t apply, and the first $120,000 of Australian income is taxed at the rate of 32.5%. (Up to a maximum of 45% for every dollar over $180,000). There may be some limitations and exclusions depending on the relevant double tax agreement. The US typically only taxes non-residents on income that is sourced in the US. Passive income (for example dividends, rent, royalties) is taxed at a flat 30% (unless a specific tax treaty specifies a lower rate). Effectively connected income (income earned through a business or personal services) is taxed at the same graduated rates as for a US person. 
Social Security Tax RateNot applicableThe US charges additional social security taxes, which is payable by both the individual and their employer. There is a cap on the maximum wage that is subject to this tax each year. 
Medicare Australians are taxed for a medicare levy on all of their income, unless they are under low income rate thresholds. The medicare levy rate is currently 2% of taxable income. High income earners are also charged a medicare levy surcharge, unless they have appropriate private health care coverage. The rate of medicare levy surcharge is between 1 and 1.5% depending on the individual’s taxable income level.  In Australia many medical services and public hospital services are provided free for all Australians under the medicare system. This is what the medicare levy and medicare levy surcharge tax levies pays for.The US also charges a medicare tax on all individual income. The rate is currently 1.45%. Employers are required to withhold an extra 0.9% medicare tax when an individual’s wage exceeds $200,000 in a year.   Unlike Australia, the US does not provide universal health care for its citizens. In the US each individual is responsible for funding their own health care. This means that instead of the medicare taxes going towards a general public funding pool for universal healthcare, they go towards your Medicare Hospital Insurance for when you are a senior. Medicaid is available to help support low income earners. 
Health InsuranceIt is optional for an individual to pay for private health insurance, which covers private health care as well as services that aren’t covered by medicare. High income earners will be exempt from the additional medicare levy surcharge if they take out private health insurance with adequate hospital coverage.In the US an individual is responsible for health insurance (most employers do provide health insurance coverage) in order to get their health care services covered, or partially covered, by their insurance provider. Medicaid is available to assist low income earners to access free or reduced cost health care. 
Sales TaxGST is a federal tax charged at 10% on most goods and services. Basic essentials are exempt. Sales taxes apply on most goods and services, and these are levied by the various state governments. These taxes range from 0 to 13.5%. 
Tax Return Due DatesThe financial year ends on 30 June. Individual tax returns are due for lodgement by the 31 of October (however extensions typically apply until May in the following calendar year where an individual uses a tax agent to lodge their return and they have no outstanding obligations). The financial year aligns with the calendar year in the US, meaning the tax year ends 31 December. Tax lodgements are due by 15 April the following year. Self-employed and small business owners are required to make quarterly reports to pay estimated taxes that are reconciled with the annual filing. 
Income from your Australian Superannuation FundTaxation on superannuation income streams and lump sums is taxed differently depending on whether you have reached the preservation age, and the type of super income stream that is paid. Distributions from an Australian superfund are typically exempt from US tax provided the benefits are appropriately claimed and reported. 
RetirementOnce you reach preservation age (60), your retirement benefit from your superannuation fund is tax free.

Aged pensions form part of your taxable income, however if you have no other income then your pension won’t exceed the tax free threshold. 
Your income stream from any 401(k) plan, social security or pension are taxed depending on your income sources and overall level of income.

As you can see, there are a number of key differences in the way taxes are levied and collected in the US. Much of this is due to the additional authority of the states to impose both income and sales taxes for their own jurisdictions. This means that the exact amount of taxes you will be faced with will, ultimately, depend exactly where in the states you are moving to.

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Australians Moving to the UK: A Brief Comparison of the Australian and UK Tax System

Daniel Wilkie   |   16 Mar 2021   |   8 min read

The Australian tax system is surprisingly different to the UK tax system.

This makes a simple comparison between the two challenging. 

Determining, from an individual taxpayer perspective, which country has higher taxes, isn’t straightforward. Both countries apply progressive rates of tax, as well as a range of potential adjustments and offsets.

Income taxes are lower in the UK due to the progressive rates of tax applying at higher levels of taxable income, but as the UK also has much higher medical contribution taxes than Australia, the UK taxpayer may end up with a higher overall tax burden.

In Australia, income tax is assessed on the taxable income of a taxpayer which is assessable income less allowable deductions while in the UK specific “allowances” may reduce the different types of income before that income is taxed. 

Australian resident taxpayers have a standard tax free threshold, regardless of the type of income or income level, while UK taxpayers have access to different allowances (tax free amounts) that can vary based on income level and the type of income they are earning.

Foreign sourced income is also treated quite differently in the UK, with a threshold applying before tax is imposed.

The following table highlights some fundamental differences between the two tax systems:

Australian SystemUK Tax System
Assessable IncomeProgressive rates of tax applied to taxable income.Progressive rates of tax applied to taxable income- but different rates apply to capital gains and different types of income have allowances deducted before taxes are assessed.
Tax Free componentStandard tax free threshold applies to all taxpayers on the first $18,200 of their income, regardless of the source of this income.A personal allowance is deducted from the taxpayer’s income before tax is assessed. This allowance is increased for married taxpayers and blind taxpayers, but is reduced for high income earners. Additional allowances are separately applied to different types of income, such as capital gains and investment income. 
Public HealthFlat rate of medicare levy applies to all taxpayers unless they are exempt. Variable rate of health insurance taxes applies, depending on income type and amount of income. This is paid by both the employer and the employee. 
Personal benefits provided by an employerPersonal benefits are taxed to the employer as fringe benefits. There are a range of concessions and exemptions that may be applied. Personal benefits are taxed to the employee, at the value of the benefit. There are some benefits that are exempt. 
Residency An individual who resides in Australia, or an Australian citizen who doesn’t setup a permanent home outside of AustraliaPhysically present in the UK for a specified period of time during the tax year
Individual Taxpayer’s Tax year1 July to 30 June6 April to 5 April
PAYG SystemPAYGW (Pay As You Go Withholding) means employers withhold some of an employee’s wage to be paid to the tax office. This helps cover the individual taxpayer’s annual tax assessment. Any excess PAYGW becomes a tax refund. PAYE (Pay As You Earn) is similar to Australia’s PAYGW system. When too much PAYE has been withheld then an individual can apply for a tax rebate (tax refund) for the excess. 
Who is Required to Lodge a Tax ReturnAll Australian residents and any non-residents with any Australian sourced income are required to lodge a tax return (some exclusions apply for residents who earn under the tax free threshold and have no PAYGW to claim, and for non-residents who only earn certain types of income, such as interest income covered by PAYGW under the DTA). Most employees’ taxes are covered by their company’s payroll system, meaning they don’t need to lodge a tax return. Tax returns may need to be lodged where:

– Income other than employment income is earned (above the allowance)
– Foreign income was earned
– You are a higher rate taxpayer (annual income over 100,000 pounds)
– You need to claim a tax rebate for excess PAYE

Residency

Australian residency is generally dependent on whether an individual actually resides in Australia, however Australian citizens may continue to be Australian tax residents while temporarily residing overseas. There are a number of tests that can be used to help determine residency.

UK residency is based on the number of days an individual is physically present in the UK during the tax year. For more complex situations that do not meet the automatic test, other factors may apply.

Tax Rates

Both Australia and the UK apply progressive rates of tax ranging from 0% to 45%.

However, while Australia has a standard initial tax free threshold for all taxpayers, the UK utilises a system of allowances that taxpayers deduct from their income before tax is assessed. The amount of allowance changes depending on a range of factors, and different allowances are applied for different types of income, such as employment income, investment income and capital gains.

Medicare/ NHS

Australians pay a flat rate of medicare (2%), unless they are exempt. High tax payers pay an additional medicare levy surcharge of up to 1.5%, unless they pay for private hospital health insurance. 

In the UK both the employer and the employee are required to pay a contribution towards national health insurance, at rates varying from 0% up to 13.8%.

Capital Gains

Both Australian and the UK impose a capital gains tax.

In Australia capital gains are simply added to an individual taxpayer’s assessable income and taxed at the marginal rate at which the income falls. Assets that have been owned for more than 1 year can be discounted by 50% before being included as assessable income. Other exemptions may also be applied to reduce or rollover capital gains.

The UK tax system gives taxpayers an annual allowance for capital gains. Any capital gains up to the allowance each year are tax free. Like Australia, there are also other exemptions that may be applied to reduce or rollover certain capital gains. 

In the UK, capital gains are taxed at a different rate to other income, and residential property is taxed at different rates to other assets. Higher/additional rate taxpayers pay 28% on residential property and 20% on other chargeable assets. Basic rate taxpayers will pay either 10% or 20% on capital gains, unless it is on residential property, in which case the rate is either 18% or 28% (depending on the size of the gain and the taxable income of the taxpayer.

Both countries have an exemption for the sale of an individuals’ main residence.

Inheritance tax

Australia does not have an inheritance tax.

Neither inheritances nor deceased estates attract any specific form of tax. Any property or investments that are inherited will attract taxes in the same way as any property or investments that were acquired personally and subsequently sold. (There are some provisions for inheriting a main residence that allow the main residence exemption to be carried over).

The UK has a standard inheritance tax rate of 40% above the tax free threshold (the standard tax free threshold is currently 325,000 pounds).

Where everything is left to a spouse, civil partner, charity or community amateur sports club, there is normally no inheritance tax to pay. When your home is given to your children (including adopted, step, and foster children), the threshold can increase to 500,000 pounds.

If an individual who is married (or in a civil partnership) passes away with an estate that is worth less than their threshold, then the unused portion of their threshold can be added to their partner’s threshold for when they die.

The inheritance tax may be reduced to 36% on certain assets if at least 10% of the net value of the estate is left to charity in the will. There are some other reliefs and exemptions to help reduce inheritance taxes on gifts donated prior to death, business relief, and agricultural relief.

Australian and UK Tax Systems

Each tax system has a range of complexities that are unique to the respective country.

In some ways the basic Australian tax return is more straightforward for the individual taxpayer.

On the other hand, the UK system’s use of deductible allowances for different types of income, provides for a range of tax planning avenues that are not available to Australians.

Since the tax systems between each country are so different, and residency changes can trigger complex tax issues, it is important to seek expert advice in both countries when making a move between Australia and the UK.

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Tax Considerations Every Australian Expat Should Understand Before Moving To The USA From Australia

Matthew Marcarian   |   14 Feb 2021   |   8 min read

If you’re an Australian who is moving to the United States, there are many tax issues to be aware of. Here’s a basic overview of what you need to know before considering the move. 

You can also download our guide: Moving to USA, here.

Tax Residency

When moving to another country, the first consideration should be your tax residency. From an Australian perspective, you will be taxed very differently depending on whether:

 i) you remain an Australian tax resident, 

ii) you remain an Australian tax resident, but also become tax resident of the United States, or 

iii) you become a non-resident of Australia and become tax resident of the United States.

As an Australian tax resident you are taxed on your worldwide income, whereas a non-resident is only taxed on Australian sourced income.

For Australian tax purposes, there are a number of tests that determine whether you are treated as a tax resident. Just simply moving to the US does not automatically mean you become a non-resident of Australia. Usually an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, will remain an Australian tax resident unless they move overseas on a permanent basis. While there is no one specific factor that will determine what makes a move permanent, factors that will be considered include the length of time living overseas (minimum 2 years), purchasing or leasing a home overseas, selling Australian assets, and where your personal family ties and business ties lie.

The US, on the other hand, has its own set of rules to determine whether an individual is considered a tax resident in the US. Foreign nationals that are Greencard holders, and those that have been in the USA for over 183 days are generally regarded as ‘resident aliens’ and taxed like US citizens on their worldwide income. Non-resident aliens in the US are only taxed on their US-sourced income.

It is possible that you could be considered a tax resident of Australia under Australia’s rules, and a tax resident of the US under the US rules. In this case, the Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) between Australia and the US will need to be referred to. This tax treaty exists to help avoid double taxation in both countries.

As the rules and tax treaties in both Australia and the US can be quite complex, it is important to talk to a tax advisor who is experienced in cross border residency issues in order to understand your tax residency status, and to be aware of when your residency status may change.

Living In The US Temporarily – Taxation As An Australian Resident For Tax Purposes

If you remain an Australian tax resident after moving to the United States, then you will continue to be required to lodge an Australian tax return each year. As an Australian tax resident, you are required to declare income from worldwide sources in your Australian tax return. 

The Australia – US DTA will need to be referred to,  to see which country has the taxing rights over certain income categories. The DTA also explains circumstances when foreign income tax offsets are available to offset Australian tax. 

US Tax Return

You will also need to lodge a US tax return as a US non-resident, for any US sourced income. The US has the right to tax non-residents on US sourced income. However, thanks to the Australia – US DTA, Australia will generally treat any US income tax paid as foreign tax credits against the Australian tax liability. This means you will only need to pay Australian tax on any difference between the amount of US tax paid and the amount of Australian tax assessed. If the US tax is higher, then you will not be refunded the excess above the Australian assessment.

Living In The US Permanently – Becoming A Non-Resident Of Australia

If you are moving to the US on a permanent basis you will become a non-resident of Australia for tax purposes. You will need to still lodge Australian tax returns on any income generated from sources in Australia.

Capital Gains Tax Payable When You First Move To The US

One of the first taxation issues to understand when moving to the US is that Australia will treat you as having disposed of your capital assets (excluding Australian real property) at the market value prevalent on the date of your departure, unless you elect to defer the deemed disposal (explained further below). A deemed capital gain or loss will need to be calculated and included in your tax return, as if you had actually sold those assets. Once those assets are sold at a later date whilst you are in the US, there will be no further tax payable in Australia (tax will be payable in the US). 

However, you do have the option not to include the deemed capital gain if you instead choose to report it as a capital gain when you eventually sell the assets. However, the DTA will need to be referred to, to see whether the gain would be taxable only in the US.

In summary, your options are:

Option 1- Declare a “deemed” capital gain in your Australian tax return for your foreign investments when you leave the country. As long as you don’t return to Australia you will have no more Australian tax to consider when you eventually sell those foreign assets.

Option 2- Choose not to declare a deemed capital gain, but wait until you actually sell the foreign investment. If you are still living in the US (or another country that has a similar clause that gives them taxation rights over Australia in this situation), then you won’t need to declare the capital gain in an Australian tax return. If you are living in a country that doesn’t have this clause when you sell the foreign investment, then you would have to declare the capital gain in an Australian tax return at that time.

Australian Sourced Income

As a non-resident for Australian tax purposes you would only be required to lodge an Australian tax return to declare any Australian sourced income that was not already fully taxed under the Double Taxation Agreement. For instance, interest income for non-residents is subject to special withholding rates that are considered to be the full and final tax. This means that the tax withheld is the tax paid for this income. You can’t claim deductions against this income to reduce the tax you have to pay on it, and you can’t claim the tax as a credit against other income being reported in an Australian tax return. As long as your bank has been notified that you are a non-resident they should withhold the correct amount of tax.

Fully franked dividends from Australian sourced companies are also considered to be the full and final tax for the Australian sourced income.

Other Australian sourced income is required to be included in your Australian tax return to be assessed for tax at non-resident rates.

Australian Superannuation

While contributions that you make to your Australia superannuation fund may be deductible against your Australian income, they will generally not be deductible against your US income.

Australian superannuation funds are not subject to the same tax deferral rules in the US. Further advice will need to be sought on whether Australian superannuation fund earnings will be taxable in the US.

Talk To Your Tax Advisor Before Making The Move

Moving overseas can create a large number of potentially complex taxation issues to consider. This article contains a brief introduction to some of the tax issues that may be encountered when considering a move to the US and does not consider your personal situation or circumstance. It is important to speak to a qualified and experienced tax advisor, both in Australia and in the USA, about how the various laws and tax treaties apply to your specific situation.

Please note that the general information provided is accurate at the time of publication, however tax laws do change frequently. To ensure you have reliable information it is therefore important that you seek specialist advice at the time of your potential or intended move, to ensure you have up to date, and personally relevant advice on hand.

Planning ahead ensures you have the information necessary to make informed choices, and prevents you from being surprised with unexpected tax costs.

CST Tax Advisors in Sydney can provide you with advice regarding your Australian tax when it comes to moving, or considering a move overseas. Our US office will be able to assist you with tax advice regarding your US tax.

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Australian Moving to the UK: How Do I Treat Non-UK Sourced Income?

Daniel Wilkie   |   15 Sep 2020   |   6 min read

One of the top questions we are asked by Australians who are moving to the UK, is “how am I taxed on my non-UK sourced income in the UK?”

Since a UK non-resident would only be taxed on any UK sourced income, this question is predicated on the basis that the Australian is moving to the UK on a permanent basis. A permanent move means that they are ceasing to be an Australian tax resident and instead will be considered a UK tax resident.

In general, just like Australia, the UK taxes residents on their worldwide income. This means that UK tax residents have to pay tax on any income they earn, regardless of where the income is sourced. However, there is a clause for what they consider “non-domiciled” residents, whereby taxes are instead paid on a remittance basis. Since many Australians moving to the UK would fall into the definition of a “non-domiciled” resident, this is an important question. We cover what this means below. 

Australian Tax Rules on Non-Australian Sourced Income

For comparison, let’s consider the Australian rules on residency. Most people are aware that as an Australian tax resident you are required to pay Australian income tax on income you receive, regardless of where it is sourced. However there are certain exceptions for individuals who are temporary residents. Once you cease to be an Australian resident you are only required to pay Australian income tax on income that has an Australian source.

The UK operates on a similar basis, however their exemption for “temporary” residents is measured and treated differently than Australia’s exemption.

UK Residency Rules

In general, tax residents of the UK are liable for income tax in the UK, on their worldwide income. This means that it doesn’t matter where the income is sourced, it is included in the resident’s tax return.

In the UK you are automatically considered a tax resident when either one of of the following applies:

  • You spend over 183 days in the UK during the tax year.
  • Your only home was in the UK (owned, rented or lived in for at least 91 days, with at least 30 days spent there in the tax year).

Conversely you are automatically considered a non-resident if either of the following applies:

  • You spent under 16 days in the UK (or 46 if you haven’t been classed as a UK resident for the previous 3 tax years). 
  • You worked on average 35 hours a week abroad, and spent less than 91 days in the UK, of which less than 31 days you were working in the UK.

Keep in mind that in instances where an individual would be considered dual tax residents of Australia and the UK, then the tie breaker rules in the Double Tax Agreement require consideration to determine which country has taxing rights on the different sources of income.

However, while the general rule is that tax residents are assessed on their worldwide income, there is, as indicated previously, an exception. This exception is for tax residents whom the UK considers to be “non-domiciled residents”.

Non-domiciled UK Residents

Non-domiciled residents are individuals, including Australian citizens, who are only living in the UK for the short to medium term.

A UK resident who has a permanent home outside of the UK is considered to have a domicile in that other country. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific, physical house, but more so that the ties to their home country mean that this country is considered to be their ‘permanent’ home. When an individual has a permanent home outside of the UK they are considered to be a “non-domiciled” tax resident of the UK.

In the UK a ‘domicile’ is typically the country in which your father permanently resided when you were born. For instance, the country in which you are a citizen by descent. However, this may not be the case if you have legitimately and permanently moved to another country, with no intention of returning to your original home country. This would mean that your ‘domicile’ changes to the new country in which you begin to permanently reside.

“Remittance” Rules on Taxes on Non-UK Sourced Income for Non-domiciled Residents

For non-domiciled residents, non-UK sourced income is treated differently depending on the total amount of the non-Uk sourced income. 

Under 2,000 Pounds

If you are a “non-domiciled” UK resident then you ignore all foreign income and gains if that income is under 2,000 pounds for the tax year and you do not bring that income into the UK. You must have a bank account in your home country, and the funds from that income must stay back in the home country instead of being transferred into the UK. If this is the case then you don’t have to do anything about your foreign income when lodging a tax return.

However, if the income you earn from overseas sources exceeds 2,000 Pounds, or you bring any income into the UK, then you must report that income in a self-assessed tax return.

Over 2,000 Pounds

When the non-UK sourced income exceeds 2,000 pounds (or the income is brought into the UK), the income can’t just be ignored. The rules under which foreign income is taxed in the UK, for non-domiciled residents, is the ‘remittance basis’. This essentially means that you have a choice on how you treat the reported income.

Choice of how UK Taxes are Sorted Out

Choice 1: You can Simply Choose to Pay UK Taxes on the Income. 

If you choose this option then you will be assessed for income tax on your foreign income. If tax is paid on the Australian sourced income (or may be taxed elsewhere if it is income relating to another country), there are a number of rules that ensure you are not taxed twice on this income. In some cases this will result in a reduction to your UK taxes. 

Choice 2: You can Claim the ‘Remittance Basis’.

If you choose to be taxed on the remittance basis, then you only have to pay tax on any of the income that you actually bring into the UK.

However, in a trade off for this consideration, you will lose any tax-free allowances for income tax and capital gains. You will also be required to pay an annual charge if your residency in the UK exceeds a certain timeframe. This annual charge is 30,000 pounds if you have resided in the UK for at least 7 of the past 9 years, or 60,000 pounds if you have resided in the UK for at least 12 of the past 14 years.

The remittance basis may be a great option if you are living in the UK for less than 7 years, however, beyond this you would need to assess your situation to determine your optimal position.

Seek Appropriate Advice for your Situation

Since the remittance basis can get complicated it is best to talk to a UK tax adviser for specific advice. You need to consider your own position, your long term intentions, and where you hold your investments, including rental properties, that are generating taxable income.

See here for a brief comparison of the Australian and UK tax system.

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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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The Departing Australian – Residency issues & consequences

Matthew Marcarian   |   4 Sep 2017   |   3 min read

We are often asked to provide residency advice to Australians who are moving overseas (to Expatland) to live and work.

Although clients have many different tax issues, one issue which always arises, is whether the client will remain an Australian resident or will become a non-resident of Australia.

It is a fundamental issue since our whole tax system is based on residence. Australians who become non-resident only need to pay tax on their Australian sourced income. A common example of Australian sourced income is rental income from Australian property.

Know your residency status

Many Australians move to countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, where income tax rates are comparatively low. Some move to countries like Dubai or Bahrain where they pay no personal income tax at all. In that case they will need to ensure that the they have the right advice on tax residency.

If care is not taken people can unwittingly find themselves having a liability for additional tax in Australia, on top of what they have paid overseas.  For other jurisdictions like the USA and the United Kingdom (where personal tax rates are on par with Australian rates) we have still seen clients having to deal with significant issues because they did not clearly understand their tax residency.

Understanding residency

Most people understand residency at a basic level. The first test of residence is always whether someone can be said to be residing in Australia in accordance with the plain English meaning of the word. To ‘reside’ in a place, is to dwell permanently there.

Common sense tests apply. For example, if a person does not spend a single day in Australia in a given tax year, it would be difficult to see how a person could be dwelling in Australia. Presumably they would be dwelling somewhere else. But that is where issues can arise. Australia’s tax residency laws operate to deem an Australian to be a resident of Australia, unless they can establish to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that they have a “permanent place of abode” overseas.

Permanent Place of Abode

The expression ‘permanent place of abode’ has a distinct tax meaning. It is an increasingly difficult concept to apply in the modern world where talent is highly mobile and where people are moving abroad for work opportunities in greater numbers, and more frequently, than ever before.

If you are an Australian that is moving overseas with a significant salary or investment income it is critical that you can demonstrate that you have a permanent place of abode overseas if you wish to prepare your tax returns on the basis that you have become non-resident of Australia.

Once it is established that a person has become a non-resident of Australia  – there are a number of implications that arise for assets held by the departing Australian, and a number of matters to watch out for when investing back in Australia.

Helping Global Australians – we live it

CST Tax Advisors provides specialist advice in the area of tax residency. Many clients receive initial advice as part of ‘global mobility’ arrangements. These are paid for by their employers. They come to CST Tax Advisors because the advice initially provided to them often lacks clarity based on their personal situation.

By contrast CST advisors understand the challenges of moving – we live it. We are also passionate about giving Australians the certainty they need for either their move overseas, making life easier abroad.

Read more about our Departing Australia Tax Review and get the certainty you need from our specialist tax team.

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