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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.

Details of the webinar:

Date: Thursday 26th November 2020

Time: 9am GMT (London time)

 

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.

The Visa Dilemma Facing Many Expats

While COVID-19 numbers are continuing to rise and many countries are still in lockdown, Governments have started to adjust their future migration and travel policies. 

Russia is planning to “cut visa red tape” – to ease visa procedures for foreigners and in parallel has announced simplified Russian citizenship approval rules for many applicant categories. On the contrary, the USA has shut down its borders and announced that it will temporarily suspend approval of green cards this year except for health workers or for those who have close relatives in the USA.

Meanwhile, Governments around the world are trying to address and resolve the questions that expats face amid the lockdowns and travel restrictions. The two key issues expats are facing are extensions to their visa and issues arising if their employer ceases their employment.

1. Visa extensions for those within the country

With borders closing, often with very little notice, many expats had very little time to plan whether to stay where they were or return home. With lockdowns in place, many immigration authorities are not operating at all or functioning at a diminished capacity.  In some countries, for example in the UK, special commissions have been formed to deal with expats whose visas are expiring to make sure that they can remain in the country they are in legally and until they plan their next move. 

With COVID-19 classified as a force-majeure, immigration assistance is usually handled through a set of simplified procedures, often available online and free of charge.  For example, in the UK, one can request a visa extension through a Coronavirus Immigration Team website. In China, the visa will be automatically extended for two months. In South Africa, one can re-apply for the same type of visa and have it extended up to 31 July 2020. In Australia, Immigration offices are assisting expats with issuing short-term tourist visas to make the overstay valid.

2. Coping with redundancy on an employer-linked visa

With a sharp drop in revenue, many businesses are struggling to survive and have to cut employees, including expats on an employer-linked visa. In New Zealand, the government is providing wage subsidies to employers so that they can retain as many employees as possible during and for weeks following the lockdown. 

However, if an expat has been made redundant, with the increase of unemployment after the lockdown, they would be struggling to find a new position to extend their visa. 

In Australia, the government is creating new visa types to assist those expats that have been left without a job due to the shutdowns, to find a new position in industries that have a workforce shortage.

Demand for expats in post COVID-19 world

Given the speed with which COVID-19 has ravaged the world – Governments have had to move quickly. With many increasingly looking to safeguard the health and livelihoods of their own citizens and permanent residents, the expat population in many cases was not top of mind.

As the situation progresses and as countries regain some control over the virus, issues such as visa and immigration will become more of a focus for governments  – providing some certainty to expats. 

It is already becoming clearer that the dislocation caused by Covid 19 will dramatically shift global supply chains in a wide variety of industries. 

The silver lining for expats is that as some countries look to boost their own internal capabilities – more expats will be needed across a range of industries. 

Countries that were comfortable importing key strategic goods and services will now need to develop an in-house capability and attract foreign labour to develop these domestic industries.

That could mean more movement in Expatland in the years to come.

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.

COVID19: Tax Residency Update

Australian expats who have had to come back to Australia because of the corona virus pandemic, should recognise what it may mean for their income tax position. 

The latest advice from the Australian Taxation Office on this issue can be found here

The ATO’s view is that if you are an Australian expat and you are temporarily in Australia for some weeks or months because of the corona virus, then you will not become an Australian resident for tax purposes as long as you live overseas and intend to return as soon as possible.

However, the ATO guidance acknowledges that tax residency issues can become more complicated if the non-resident ends up staying in Australia for lengthy periods or does not plan to return to their overseas country of residency.

The ATO guidance also acknowledges that there will be unique situations with a range of potential tax outcomes.

Even though we are in the midst of a crisis a number of far reaching implications will arise if a person incorrectly classifies themselves for tax residency purposes. 

These can range from not declaring income which has become taxable in Australia and also incorrectly calculating capital gains (or losses) if the incorrect tax residency date is chosen. 

The ATO will expect people to take advice and make reasonable enquiries in situations where they are not sure of their income tax status.

CST Tax Advisors can assist Australian expats with expert advice in this area.

Expats and COVID-19: Beware of the issues other than health!

One of the key points coming out over the recent weeks about COVID-19 is the unintended impact it has had on the movement of global expats.

While many global expats are naturally focused on the potential health effect of the virus on themselves and their families – other more costly negative impacts are lying in wait to cause major issues.

Please read on and be careful COVID-19 does not hit you in ways you don’t expect.

Rushing to become an expat

Our evidence is that many companies and businesses are speeding up the deployment of expat executives to beat border shutdowns which are anticipated to come into effect.

While this is understandable from an employer perspective – making an employee move sooner than they plan – can negatively impact them in the areas of:-

  • tax management,
  • insurance planning for both life and property,
  • investment and pension management,
  • housing,

and more generally across the spectrum of their lives.

People need ‘time to plan’ in the above areas to make sure they get it right.

Leaving your home country sooner than you intend can trigger a tax disposal of your worldwide assets for tax purposes in some countries like Australia and Canada. Thus, being sure of the market value of some assets and being clear about what assets you are ‘taking’ into the new host country is important.

If you are speeding up your departure – things will slip through the cracks.

These mistakes can be challenging to recover from.

For example, you may arrive in your new country – uninsured medically (you or your family) and then suffer a health incident – COVID-19 or non COVID-19.

Wittingly or unwittingly there can be serious problems caused by failing to plan.

A recent case of a client moving to the US is illustrative.

The client left their home country and their family home empty as they planned to rent it.

This dragged on for a couple of months and they failed to notify their insurer of their move overseas or that the house was empty.

Following a storm and some rain damage – quite normal – the insurer denied the claim for water damage on the basis that the home roof leak would have been noticed earlier in the ordinary course of events (if they were living there as per their insurance coverage) and the excess water damage was greatly exacerbated by them being absent from the home.

Simple issues like this can be avoided by planning and working through our Expatland checklist.

Beware of hurrying home

Likewise – expats scurrying home can leave a host of other issues unresolved.

Many employees have stock options or other share plans. Not considering the consequence of arriving home with these share plans means – no time to plan and tax liabilities being triggered when they might otherwise have been managed.

Coming home earlier than you plan might mean that the cost base of assets you bring into a country, like shares, happens when the share price is much lower than what you bought the shares for.

Australia, for example, would give a deemed cost to a returning Australian expat based on the market value of the shares at the date they resumed Australian tax residency.

As global stock markets have been in ‘free fall’ many expats will be return home with their international share portfolios – in loss territory.

A year or two from now these shares may be back up to what they originally cost.

However, that is a ‘capital gain’ in the eyes of the Australian Tax Office.

Selling the shares ‘at cost’ would yield a capital gain.

Apart from tax, a returning expat has to deal with cancelling leases or leaving behind financial obligations in their host country. This might be a long-term saving plan contract – which requires you to make a monthly payment – which is no longer something you want to do when you leave the country and return home.

There may be penalties if you stop making contributions to some savings plans.

Hurrying up to get home – can be just as fraught with financial risk management issues as leaving for Expatland.

Our advice is for you to think carefully through any move and to realise that the Expatland Global Network is here to help you.

Our E-Teams are full of experienced professionals who know what to do in most situations. They can very quickly provide you with the advice and guidance you need to ensure you are fully aware of the consequences of your move. Once you know understand the risks, you can make more informed decisions.

For more info on how to cope with these and other issues please contact us and we’ll be happy to connect you with an E-Team member that can assist.

Enjoy the journey and keep safe!