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Bilanz and Le Temps Names a&o kreston As A Top Accounting & Tax Firms of Switzerland

Our Tax & Accounting  E-Team member a&o kreston has been named as one of the top accounting & tax firms of Switzerland by the renowned business journals of Bilanz and Le Temps.

Statista, an independent market research institute in Switzerland, went to great lengths to find out the country’s best accounting and tax advisors. Several thousand members of the industry and customers in the field of accounting and tax services took part in Statista’s research with a&o kreston coming on top. 

“We are very pleased to be recognised by these renowned business journals,” commented Rouven Williman of a&o Kreston, Group Leader of our Zurich E-Team, “especially in a year like this with so much uncertainty, providing surety to our clients with their tax affairs gives them peace of mind.”

 

Propertybuyer Wins Buyers’ Agency of the Year 2020 Award

Our Property E-team member from our Sydney E-Team , Propertybuyer, was named as the Buyers’ Agency of the Year 2020 in this year’s REINSW Awards for Excellence.

“We are very proud to have won this award,” stated Rich Harvey, CEO & Founder of Propertybuyer.

Propertybuyer stood out among this year’s finalists as a provider to best represent property investors in purchasing residential and commercial real estate.

“Buyers’ Agents are rapidly growing in popularity as more buyers realise the benefits of independent and professional representation,” Rich said.

Alongside the Buyers’ Agency of the Year category, Propertybuyer was also a finalist for the Operational Support of the Year 2020.

Having a buyer’s agent on your side who can guide you throughout the entire buying process is what Propertybuyer does best. They offer quality advice on a property purchase to a range of clients including professional executives, first time home buyers, experienced investors, commercial buyers or even developers.

“It gives our clients the reassurance that they are making the right choice when looking for a property,” commented Rich.

Clients have praised Propertybuyer for the work they do and the services they offer. Buyers have commended how Rich and his team have helped them with their best interest at heart and their genuine interest in finding the most suitable property.

Update on Australia’s Travel Restrictions

The global pandemic has affected workers from all over the world. Australia, like other nations, have implemented strict regulations on the travel of foreign nationals into their country. 

Exemptions on Australia’s Travel Ban 

In the latest amendment in Australia’s travel ban, the Border Force Commissioner has been given authority to approve travel in compelling and compassionate situations. 

If your work involves critical infrastructure projects, and health and essential services, then there is a chance that you would be approved to travel to Australia. 

If you have a split family or if you’re a temporary visa holder with a prior established residence in Australia and was caught offshore by the travel restrictions You may be included in the travel ban exemptions.

The list of exemptions has been gradually expanded since the initial lockdown in March. The current list of exemptions includes:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • person with critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia
  • person sponsored by an employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).  
  • entry would otherwise be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority
  • military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement
  • a student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department
  • travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.

Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List

The Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List categorizes the 17 occupations that provide the critical skills needed to help the recovery of Australia’s economy from the COVID-19 impact. Here are the occupations included in the PMSOL list:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director 
  • Construction Project Manager 
  • Mechanical Engineer 
  •  General Practitioner
  •  Resident Medical Officer 
  • Psychiatrist 
  •  Medical Practitioner nec 
  • Midwife
  • Registered Nurse
  • Developer Programmer 
  • Software Engineer 
  • Maintenance Planner

Visa applications for other occupations will still be processed but those that fall under the PMSOL list will be given priority. Under continuous monitoring of the labour market and the development of required skill to recover from the COVID-19 impact, the Government and National Skills Commission may change and update the list.

What is a critical skill?

If your skillset covers the following, then it is considered as a critical skill:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, aged care, agriculture, primary industry, food production, and the maritime industry)
  • delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film, media and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available
  • providing critical skills in religious or theology fields
  • sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the PMSOL
  • whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.

You can request for an exemption through the Commissioner’s Discretion – your request must be accompanied by the following:

  • Passenger details: name, DOB, visa type and number, passport number, Australian residential address, Australian telephone number)
  • Case information: why this case should be considered for Commissioner discretion/exemption
  • Supporting statement: the request should be accompanied by a statement and evidence of how you meet one of the grounds for an exemption or excise of the Commissioner’s discretion listed above.

One important thing that you should take note of is that all travellers are required to provide evidence to immigration that you meet one of the exemptions mentioned before travelling. 

How businesses are affected by the travel ban

If you are running a business in Australia and want to employ an expat, they must have a valid Australian visa and an approved waiver of the travel ban. But there is no guarantee that the application to travel will be approved as the decision is subjective and there are approximately 20,000-25,000 applications each week. The chances of approval are very minimal so it is advisable to seek out a person who can work remotely rather than having to apply to travel to Australia. 

Why Expats Should Invest in Australian Property Now

Earlier this month, Westpac, St George, and Macquarie banks reduced the serviceability floor rate for home loans from 5.35% p.a. to 5.05% p.a., meaning an increase of borrowing capacity and an opportunity for expat investors and home buyers.

The decrease to serviceability floor rates comes off the back of announcements made by Philip Lowe of the Royal Bank of Australia (RBA) in May this year and an ongoing trend toward reduction amid growing recession and pandemic woes.

In Gareth Hutchens’ article, published on 28 May, by ABC news online, Lowe claimed that interest rates would likely remain at 0.25 percent for years – until the unemployment rate was back to around 4.5 percent.

‘We’re not going to be raising interest rates until full employment is in, and we’re sustainably within the 2-3 percent target range for inflation,’ he said. ‘I think it’s reasonable to expect that that will not be for some years.’

By dropping their floor rate to 5.05%, the Westpac group reflects the low rate environment we are currently in and proves to customers that they want their business, so they borrow more.

Thus, the other big banks will likely follow this trend (Westpac’s new 5.05% rate comes in below ANZ’s 5.25%, CBA’s 5.40%, and NAB’s 5.50%), and if they do, borderline customers across major lenders will have more chance of loan approval and help the economic downturn shift back.

What this means for expat investors

Reductions to rates are good for Australian-based home buyers but are even better for international purchases and the expat community.

When you apply for a home loan, the lender assesses all your loans, new and existing, at rates much higher than the actual rate you pay. Government regulator, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), requires banks to ensure their customers can repay loans at 2.5% more than current interest rates, or the ‘floor’ rate set by the bank, whichever is higher. They call this the earthquake test, and it is there to ensure that if interest rates rise, you can still service your loans.

Over the last few years, interest rates have decreased, but the serviceability floor rate had not moved. Given the pandemic and unexpected recession-era we are now facing, rates will not increase soon. The government wants people to borrow money to buy properties and help prop up the economy.  Last year, floor rates dropped to 7%, meaning customers could borrow more based on cashflow and mortgage repayments; however, they couldn’t borrow more money on paper even though their real-life affordability had improved.

Because expats have additional borrowing capacity restrictions, banks will assess 60% to 80% of actual income to account for foreign exchange risk. The benefits of investing now in a recession-like market are paramount, as the decrease to 5.05% means for some Australian expats (permanent residents living overseas), the borrowing capacity increases by up to 15-20%.

And if you are only borrowing 60% of the property value, some banks will give you a very low-interest rate; for example, Macquarie Bank’s current variable investor rate is 2.69% p.a.

While we expect this trend to last some time, the rate reduction is excellent news for Australians living overseas who’d like to invest now. As the Expatland mortgage partner, Stoneturn is well placed to assist you with enquiries about the changes.

If you are an Australian expat who would like to review a current loan or explore new mortgage options, please get in touch with Stoneturn today.

Key Things You Need To Know When Doing Business In The UK

There are many things you need to consider when doing business in the UK, may it be starting a new company or expanding your current business.

Some of the things you have to consider include:

  • Visa & Immigration – options available to you in obtaining a visa for yourself and any employees you may want to relocate to the UK
  • Relocations – what you need to consider when relocating yourself and/or your employees
  • Tax Planning – to understand the UK tax system and what you need to do before and after you commence doing business in the UK.

Join industry experts from our London E-team in this webinar where they explain the important points you must consider when doing business in the UK.

Watch the recording of the webinar now.

 

What You Need To Consider Before Returning Home To The UK

Due to the current international state of affairs, with economic uncertainty and increased travel restrictions, many expats living abroad are considering a return home to the UK.

We recently hosted a webinar during which our London E-Team provided valuable insights into how a UK expat should navigate this return home.

Topics covered in this webinar included:

  • relocating,
  • property and education considerations,
  • tax matters,
  • financial planning,
  • pet relocation.

With presentations from our hosts Phil Oakey from Gerson Relocations, Charlotte Firth from James Cowper Kreston, Sasan Lohrsab from Frontier Wealth Management and Nick Foden-Ellis from Starwood Animal Transport, you’ll feel equipped to make the move back home well informed and free from concern.

Watch the recording of the webinar now.

 

Tax Considerations for Australians Living in Singapore

Given the current uncertainty in the world, many Australians living in Singapore may be considering a return to Australia.

For most Australians working in Singapore, a good income coupled with low-income tax usually means that a decent amount of savings will be sitting in the bank at the end of their stint. Whilst tax is low in Singapore, it is certainly not the case in Australia.

Australian’s returning home with significant assets and wealth accumulated while in Singapore, will find the Australian taxation system will hit hard unless they make a plan!

Our Singapore E-team member, CST Tax Advisors will be participating in a webinar with St. James’s Place Wealth Management this Friday to discuss some of the important things you need to plan for while in Singapore to avoid getting bitten by the ATO when returning home to Australia.

Details of the webinar:

Date: Friday 12th June

Time: 1:00 – 1:45pm (Singapore local time)

Please click here to register for the webinar.

IRS Announces Extension for All American Taxpayers

In response to the growing concern over the Coronavirus pandemic, the US government has announced a deadline extension for filing federal income tax returns and tax payments. The deadline has been extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. All US taxpayers—including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment income tax—can defer payments until July 15, 2020.

You don’t need to file for an extension or call the IRS to qualify for the extended deadline. The relief is automatically provided to all taxpayers. 

As a US expat, you normally receive an automatic extension until June 15, hence, this year you have one additional month until the deadline and all your taxes are extended without interest or penalties. In case you require extra time beyond June 15 to file your taxes, you are eligible to extend your tax return due date until October 15 by submitting IRS Form 4868.

You are eligible for an additional two-month extension, which is specially designed for US expats. This extension is until December 15; however, it is a discretionary extension and not automatically granted. Thus, it is best not to rely on this and only use as a last resort in case you face unexpected circumstances.

Meanwhile, you can stay ahead of updates and follow the IRS coronavirus page where information about the taken measures helping Americans affected by the outbreak is published.

James Cowper Kreston Budget Update

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will unveil the new Government’s first budget on 11th March 2020.

Our London E-Team Co-Group Leader, James Cowper Kreston, are hosting 2 seminars and a webinar at which they will cover the main changes that have been announced and how these will impact you and your business.

During the events particular attention will be given to any changes in:

  • Tax efficient profit extraction
  • R&D tax relief
  • Capital allowances
  • Tax planning opportunities
  • VAT & Customs Duty
  • Tax allowances
  • Inheritance tax
  • Capital gains tax

Date: Thursday 12 March 2020

Locations and time:

Newbury Racecourse, Newbury, 8.00am -10.30am (local time)

Solent Conference Centre, Southampton, 12.15pm -2.30pm (local time)

Webinar, your desk, 1.00pm -1.45pm (local time)

To Attend:

Please email Lizzie Uzzell stating which event you would like to attend.

Please click here to register for the webinar.

Change in Capital Gains Tax Exemption All Australian Expats Need to Know

The proposed removal of the main residence exemption on capital gains tax (CGT) for non-residents was met with criticism when it was first introduced in 2017. Although the Bill lapsed, a recent reworking was brought back on October 23rd, 2019. 

So, what’s new? More importantly, what does this mean for Australian expats who still own a former main residence?  

Changes with the main residence exemption for non-residents 

As a revisal of the original Bill, this new proposed measure delays the inevitable loss of the CGT exemption. Two primary changes have been introduced. The first is simply an extension of the transitional concessions. 

This concession applies for expats who owned a primary residence on May 9th, 2017. Existing Australian expats now have until June 30th,2020, to sell their main residence under the existing rules. (Previously they had until June 30th, 2019). 

The new Bill also introduced some exceptions whereby a non-resident may be able to access the main residence exemption. These exceptions apply in the event of death, terminal medical conditions, or divorce. However, these events must occur within 6 years of becoming a non-resident. This ensures that the 6-year absence rule can still be accessed by expats who face such unexpected life events.  

Retrospective application means there will be no expat CGT main residence exemption for any foreign resident.

It’s not all that often that major tax changes are applied retroactively. In this case, it does. Anyone who purchased their primary residence before a hint of these changes existed will still be caught by them. 

Were you a foreign resident with a main residence property held on May 9th, 2017? The main residence exemption will only apply for non-residents if you sell prior to June 30th, 2020. Of course, you still need to meet the usual requirements for main residence CGT exemptions. If you wait, then you’ll miss out. You won’t even be able to apply for a partial main residence exemption.  

No relief for long-term main residence

Imagine this scenario. 

You purchase and live in a home from 1989 through to 2019. You’re then given the opportunity of a lifetime and make a permanent move overseas. You put your home up for sale immediately. However, by the time your property sells, you are a non-resident for Australian tax purposes. This means you are hit with a CGT bill on the capital gain. It doesn’t matter how long you previously lived in the property. You don’t qualify for any exemption. On top of this, you’re missing out on potential capital gains reductions. That’s because you didn’t think it was necessary to keep the relevant records for the 20 years that you lived in the property.  

Anyone who purchased their main residence after May 9th, 2017 will be caught under the new laws when they sell as a non-resident. Whether they sell now or next year, they will be subject to the full CGT. 

Time To Act

While the Bill hasn’t passed into law yet, it is important to strategise. Be prepared for what it may mean for your situation and plans so that you have your contingencies ready and, if necessary, put any immediate plans into action. While CST Tax Advisors and other accounting bodies will continue to address the concerns with this measure, it’s important that you understand how these measures could impact you. 

 

Contact CST Tax Advisors to discuss your current situation and assess your options.