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.
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.