Thinking of living overseas?
Many Aussies dream of living in different countries at some time during their life. For some this remains just a dream but for the 369,500 Australian residents who left our shores permanently in the year up to June 2013, it became reality. Whether it’s a long-term career move to New York or retiring in an island paradise, the decision to permanently leave Australia is one that requires sound financial planning.
In addition to learning as much as you can about your new home, there are many areas you must address before you leave Australia and some that need ongoing attention after you have settled abroad. These include taxation and superannuation, regardless of whether you are working overseas or retiring. There are also things like insurance cover and updating your will that must be taken into account. Here are just some of the important points to include in your plans.
The first point to consider with taxation is your status as an Australian resident.
Declaring as a non-resident is not just a matter of saying so; there is a set of domicile tests that you need to satisfy beforehand.
Becoming a non-resident for tax purposes carries significant advantages when acquiring or disposing of certain assets, specifically when it comes to capital gains tax (CGT). Some assets can potentially carry a 50% CGT discount for non-residents.
But the CGT rules are complex at the best of times, so it’s imperative that you seek professional advice – especially if you plan to derive income by renting out your home in Australia.
If you’re an Australian resident and you’re working while living overseas, remember that any income you earn must be declared to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) – even if tax was deducted in the country you earned it.
Your tax adviser is the best qualified person to consult in determining your residency status for tax purposes.
On the flip-side, as a non-resident, investing back into Australia can attract a relatively low withholding tax rate.
This can be particularly favourable for superannuation, however a number of pitfalls exist, especially with Self-managed Super Funds (SMSF). Trustees of SMSFs must set up a Power of Attorney to ensure the fund’s central management and control remains in Australia.
Be aware that SMSFs risk losing their complying status if
the benefit entitlements of non-residents exceed 50% of the fund’s assets.
Both residents and non-residents may contribute to superannuation provided they have a tax file number (TFN), and those over age 65 must satisfy the work test.
When accessing super, regardless of residency status, the normal release restrictions apply; if you retire after reaching preservation age, you may access your funds.
Superannuation is extremely complicated so it’s recommended that you speak with your financial adviser before making any decisions.
If you receive a Centrelink benefit, your departure may affect your payments. To learn more, go to www.humanservices.gov.au and type “Australians overseas” in the search field.
Health and pharmaceutical benefits
Australia maintains reciprocal health agreements with some countries. For details, go to www.humanservices.gov.au and type “reciprocal health care” in the search field.
If you need prescription medicine, check your medicine’s availability overseas.
Additionally, don’t assume your medicine is legal in your new country just because it’s legal here. Your best advice is to check with the relevant embassy or consulate before leaving Australia.
Equally important are insurance and estate planning.
Ensure your will is current and appoint the appropriate Powers of Attorney – especially if you have assets in Australia. Overseas assets will need to be included in your planning.
Further, not all life insurance policies remain valid if you’re living overseas. Check the terms and conditions with your financial adviser and make the appropriate updates.
Moving overseas can be life-changing. Planning and professional advice can make it life-changing for the right reasons.