Friday, June 16, 2017

Queensland Budget taxes absentee land owners

The Queensland Government’s 2017-18 budget announced a number of key tax changes relevant to Queensland property investors.

New land tax surcharge for “absentee land owners” from 1 July 2017

  • A new 1.5% land tax surcharge is being introduced for “absentee” land owners with land holdings valued at $350,000 or more. 
  • Absentee land owners are already subject to higher rates of land tax (and lower land value thresholds) when compared with individual tax payers. Draft legislation released this week indicates the Government intends the new 1.5% surcharge to be introduced as an increase to the existing rates without any expansion of the existing concept of who is an “absentee” for land tax purposes.
  • The new surcharge rates will apply to land tax assessments issued on and after 1 July 2017, which will be based on a person’s Queensland landholdings as at midnight on 30 June 2017.  As a result, there is limited time to make any changes to property ownership arrangements before the new rules take effect.
No increase to Foreign Acquirer Transfer Duty Surcharge, but certain changes proposed to its application

In 2016, the Queensland State Government introduced an additional foreign acquirer duty surcharge (AFAD) which applies to transactions involving interests in what is called “AFAD residential land”.

In a welcome development, no changes have been announced to the existing Foreign Acquirer Transfer Duty Surcharge. The surcharge rate will stay at 3% (which is significantly less than the 8% and 7% surcharge rate that applies in New South Wales and Victoria, respectively).

However, the draft legislation proposes some additional changes to the operation of AFAD in Queensland.
·         The draft legislation expands the meaning of AFAD residential land to include “chattels” in Queensland which “can be directly linked to, or is incidental to, the use and occupation of the land”.  Currently, only residential land and not chattels attract the surcharge rate of duty.  The move to include chattels in the surcharge duty base is a response to Government concern about the way in which value can be allocated between land and chattels.  The changes remove any incentive for value shifting.
·         The draft legislation will expand the application of AFAD to certain agency transactions affecting AFAD residential land.  Currently, the agency provisions in the Qld Duties Act permit a foreign principal to avoid AFAD by using a non-foreign agent to enter into an agreement for transfer (i.e., when duty is originally assessed).  The proposed amendments effectively mean that, where a principal is a foreign person at the time the relevant transfer of AFAD residential land occurs, the agreement will need to be reassessed as if AFAD applied to the agreement. 
·         The draft legislation also proposes removing the ability of foreign companies (pre-incorporation) to acquire AFAD residential land without incurring an AFAD liability through the use of an Australian entity to enter into an initial agreement for the transfer of land prior to the foreign company’s registration.  Currently under the Qld Duties Act, the initial agreement for the transfer would not attract AFAD and the subsequent transfer to the foreign company (post-incorporation) would be exempt.  The proposed amendments will require such an agreement to be reassessed as if AFAD applies and the subsequent transfer will not be exempt unless the duty (including AFAD) has been paid.

1 comment:

Mel Brandle said...

Well at least they are only being taxed a higher amount rather than more drastic measures been taken. I would d read ot hear about property being confiscated and held "in storage" until a solution can be found by the owner to settle this absentee issue.