Global expatriate tax guide

Expatriate tax - Australia

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Expatriates taking up employment in Australia will be subject to our comprehensive tax rules and work visa requirements.

There is currently a focus on real time data matching initiatives from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and other regularity agencies, including most notably the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

These initiatives have significantly increased compliance activity by the ATO in capturing expatriates and their employers for noncompliance.

Expatriate tax teams in Grant Thornton Australia’s offices can assist expatriates and their employers to navigate through Australian tax and employment related matters including advice on tax planning opportunities, management of assignment policies and the provision of Australia tax filing services.

Click on each of the areas below to expand for more information:

Facts and figures
Pre arrival procedures

Consideration of the possible impact of the various Australian tax regimes is recommended to ensure that no tax planning opportunities are missed. In particular, Australia’s unique rules around the taxation of Fringe Benefits (non-cash benefits) and the tax liability it creates for employers can lead to a mismatch of taxation with foreign jurisdictions.

Also, compulsory employer Superannuation (Pension) contribution requirements can come with significant penalties for non-compliance. Employers should also be aware of the state tax obligations (principally Payroll Tax) that exist in addition to the federal income tax regime.

Employment visas

Work visas are required to undertake duties in Australia and serious penalties can apply for breach of visa conditions. There are a number of varieties and types of visas, therefore, we recommend consultation with an immigration lawyer before the finalisation of any assignment.

Information on visas can be found at the following website:

https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing

Tax year

The Australian fiscal year runs from 1 July to 30 June.

Tax returns and compliance

Australia operates a self-assessment regime whereby taxpayers file an annual tax return and self-assess the tax liability for the year. The filing date for an individual’s tax return is ordinarily 31 October following the year-end. The filing due date may be extended up to 15 May when the taxpayer uses a recognised tax agent (such as Grant Thornton) and obtains an extension of the filing deadline.

Additionally, married couples file separate income tax returns.

Income tax rates

Individuals are taxed at progressive rates according to total taxable income. Rates for the 2019/20 income tax year are:

Resident tax rates (including temporary residents)

Total income (AUD) Marginal rate
0 to $18,200 Nil
$18,201 to $37,000 19c for each $1 over $18,200
$37,001 to $90,000 $3,572 plus 32.5c for each $1 over $37,000
$90,001 to $180,000 $20,797 plus 37c for each $1 over $90,000
$180,001 and over $54,097 plus 45c for each $1 over $180,000

Foreign resident rates

Total income (AUD) Marginal rate
0 – $90,000 32.5c for each $1
$90,001 – $180,000 $29,250 plus 37c for each $1 over $90,000
$180,001 and over $62,550 plus 45c for each $1 over $180,000

 

Medicare

In addition to the tax rates, Medicare (currently levied at 2%) will apply to the income of resident taxpayers.

In addition, the Medicare Levy Surcharge of up to 1.5% can also apply to individuals and families who exceed certain income thresholds and who do not hold complying private health insurance.

Please note temporary migrants to Australia who are from countries without a reciprocal health care agreement may qualify for an exemption from Medicare. This is obtained through the application for a Medicare Entitlement Statement.

Basis of taxation
Charge to tax

Tax residents of Australia are taxed on worldwide income and gains, whereas non-residents (often referred to as Foreign Residents) are generally taxed on Australian sourced income and gains only.

Please note that a separate subcategory of residency 'Temporary Resident' exists for Temporary Migrants who meet the residency requirements but reside in Australia on certain types of Temporary visas. Generally, Temporary Residents are taxable on their worldwide employment income and Australian sourced income and gains.

These general rules may be modified by certain domestic concessions and tax treaty tax provisions depending on individual circumstances.

Residence

Generally, an individual is a resident of Australia if he or she resides in Australia according to the ordinary meaning of the word. 'Reside' is defined in the dictionary as 'to dwell permanently, or for a considerable time, to have one's settled or usual abode, to live, in or at a particular place'.

Where an individual does not satisfy the 'Ordinary Concepts test' of residency, they may also be deemed an Australian resident if they satisfy any one of following three statutory tests of residency:

  • the domicile test
  • the 183 days test
  • the Commonwealth superannuation test.

The tests consider factors such as the number of days spent in Australia, as well as subjective criteria, such as personal ties to Australia to determine whether an individual is a resident. Since the residency tests outlined above are evaluated using a balance of the facts approach, it is important that each individual case is evaluated based on its specific facts and circumstances.

Income from employment

Taxable income from employment includes salaries, wages, bonuses, lump sum payments, allowances and benefits arising under employment-related share purchase schemes and option schemes (employee share schemes).

Source of employment

Australia has very broad sourcing rules which need to be considered carefully in some cases. However, it is generally true that employment income is deemed to be sourced in the country in which the employment services are physically performed.

Fringe benefits tax (Benefits in kind)

Employee fringe benefits are subject to fringe benefit tax (FBT). This tax is imposed on employers. Common examples of benefits subject to FBT include accommodation, motor vehicles, and expense reimbursements. Please also note that a cash allowance for Food and Accommodation paid to compensate an individual for the fact they have to live away from home due to their work will also be captured under FBT as a Living Away From Home Allowance.

Additional Information:

  • The FBT Year runs from 1 April to 31 March.
  • Employers must also calculate the value of Reportable Fringe Benefits for each employee.
Expatriate concessions

Certain benefits may be subject to concessional treatment depending on the nature of the expatriate assignment and the manner in which the benefit is provided. These include:

  • transport for employee, family and household effects
  • storage and related insurance
  • visa costs
  • tax return assistance
  • accommodation (subject to qualification rules)
  • school fees (subject to qualification rules)
  • home leave flights (ordinarily 50% concession for one flight per year).

Specific advice should be sought in advance to ensure planning opportunities are maximised and qualification criteria are met.

Relief for foreign taxes

Australian tax residents (including temporary residents) are given credit for foreign tax paid on foreign-source income. In general terms the tax credit (foreign income tax offset) recognised in Australia will be limited to the lesser of the foreign tax paid or the Australian tax applicable to the foreign income.

Deductions from taxable income

General tax deductions against employment income are available where incurred wholly and necessarily for the derivation of income and not reimbursed by the employer. Examples include the cost of preparing the annual tax return and charitable donations. Out of pocket work related expenses should be reviewed to consider their deductibility across a set of comprehensive rules.

Other taxes
PAYG withholding

Employees working in Australia are subject to the Australian PAYG withholding rules. The employer deducts PAYG from salary and wages and remits this to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

As of 1 July 2019, all employers are required to report payroll through Single Touch Payroll (STP). STP is a reporting format, whereby STP-enabled payroll software reports employees' payroll information (such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and superannuation) to the ATO at the same time payment is made.

Certain timing and reporting concessions exist for employees who are on a shadow payroll. In addition, under certain conditions a PAYG variation can be obtained from the Commissioner of taxation to avoid the requirements of making PAYG remission.

Summaries detailing the gross wages and PAYG withheld for the year ended 30 June must be prepared and provided to each employee by 14 July or reported through STP.

Capital gains tax

Australia has a capital gains tax regime such that Australian residents are taxable on their worldwide gains realised from the disposal of a capital asset. Capital assets include real property, personal property, and shares. Any gain made from a capital asset is included as income and taxed at the marginal tax rates in the year in which the capital gains tax (CGT) event occurs. Where the asset in question has been held for at least 12 months by an individual, the gain may qualify for a 50% discount.

Temporary and non-residents are only taxable on gains arising from the disposal of Taxable Australian Property (TAP). TAP includes but is not limited to a direct or indirect interest in Australian real property.

Payroll tax

Payroll tax is a state tax, and rules vary with each state. Generally, tax is levied on salaries and wages, allowances, superannuation, and fringe benefits provided to employees located in that state.

The key obligations are:

  • employers must register for payroll tax when they first expect to exceed the state threshold
  • payroll tax is calculated and paid on a monthly basis. An annual reconciliation must also be lodged for the year ended 30 June
  • penalties and interest charges apply to late submission of calculations and payments
  • there would ordinarily be a requirement to automatically group parent and subsidiary entities.
Social security taxes / Superannuation

Superannuation is a form of compulsory employer pension, and is currently levied at 9.5% of Ordinary Time Earnings (OTE). OTE encompasses most wages, salaries and allowances paid to employees.

Employees have the right to choose their superannuation fund. However, in the absence of an election by the employee, contributions should be made to an employer selected 'default fund'.

  • Superannuation is calculated each quarter and must be received by the superannuation fund by the 28th day following the end of the quarter.
  • Superannuation is not required if OTE do not exceed $450 in a given month.
  • Superannuation contributions may be capped at the maximum contributions base for the quarter.
  • Employers may be exempted from providing Superannuation for temporary residents so long as the individual comes from a country with a bilateral social security agreement and a certificate of coverage is obtained.
  • At the end of the assignment, an employee may be able to withdraw or 'cash out' their accumulated superannuation fund. This withdrawal would ordinarily be subject to a tax at 35% referred to as a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment. This is in addition to the 15% tax levied on contributions made into the Superannuation fund.
Stock options

Gains from employment related share/option schemes are ordinarily taxable under Employee Share Scheme (ESS) rules. There are specific reporting requirements and rules regarding the timing of taxation which may not align with the foreign tax jurisdiction in which the shares or options are issued.

The ESS income is reported in the employee’s personal tax return in the income year in which the acquisition occurs.

Expatriates should also seek expert advice because depending on their specific circumstances, some or all of the income may be exempt from Australian tax or alternatively it may be taxable but with foreign tax paid recognised as a credit on some or all of the income. This can have associated risk for double taxation as it is not uncommon for the taxing points in Australia to not be aligned with that of the home country tax jurisdiction.

Workers compensation

Workers compensation insures employers against compensation claims by its employees for personal injuries and diseases arising out of or during the course of employment. The workers compensation scheme is managed by the states, and therefore, the rules vary from state to state.

For further information on expatriate tax services in Australia please contact:

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Thomas Isbell
E thomas.isbell@au.gt.com

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George Bendall
E george.bendall@au.gt.com