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Guide: Australian Tax on Foreign Super Lump Sum

Introduction to Tax Rules for Australian Residents Receiving Foreign Superannuation

For Australian residents with overseas assets, particularly in the form of superannuation funds, it’s essential to comprehend the tax implications when accessing these funds. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) governs the taxation of foreign super lump sums, ensuring compliance with local tax laws.

An Australian resident need to determine if a foreign pension is considered a foreign superannuation fund by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). If a foreign pension can be withdrawn before retirement (for education and housing), it is likely that it will not meet the definition of a super fund in Australia.

The Commissioner’s view is that a foreign superannuation fund must exclusively provide a narrow range of benefits that are characterised by specific future purpose i.e. the payment of superannuation benefits upon retirement, invalidity or death of the individual.

What Does Super Lump Sum Mean?

A super lump sum refers to a one-time payment from a superannuation fund, typically upon retirement, reaching preservation age, or meeting specific conditions outlined by the fund’s terms. This lump sum can comprise contributions, earnings, and any applicable benefits accumulated within the superannuation fund over time. Properly categorizing these components is essential for accurate tax assessment.

How Are Foreign Super Lump Sum Payments Taxed in Australia?

In Australia, the taxation of lump sum super payments depends on various factors, including the recipient’s age, residency status, and the components of the payment. Lump sum payments may consist of taxable and tax-free components, each subject to different tax rates and thresholds as per the ATO guidelines.

If a foreign pension qualifies as a ‘foreign super fund’, timing of pension transfer is crucial. Foreign superannuation lump sums are tax free provided they are transferred within six months of the individual member becoming a resident of Australia. They are considered non-assessable non-exempt income. A similar tax treatment is extended to foreign superannuation lump sum payments received within six months of the termination of foreign employment, including payments due to retirement or death.

If the payment or transfer of foreign super funds occurs more than six months after the taxpayer becomes a resident for tax purposes, the applicable fund earnings will form part of the taxpayer’s assessable income.

The applicable fund earning calculation needs to take into consideration the proportion of the total days during the period when the taxpayer was an Australian resident. The period commences on the date (related to the foreign super lump sum) on which the taxpayer first became an Australian resident and ceases when the foreign superannuation lump sum is paid.

How Much Tax Do You Pay on a Foreign Super Lump Sum in Australia?

The tax payable on a super lump sum in Australia varies based on several factors. Tax rates are applied to the taxable portion of the lump sum, with concessional tax treatment available for individuals aged 60 and above. Additionally, tax-free components of the lump sum may be fully exempt from taxation, providing certain conditions are met.

The taxpayer is assessed only on the income arising in the foreign fund during the residency period. Earnings made during periods of non-residency, and contributions and transfers into the foreign super fund, do not form part of the taxable amount when the foreign super lump sum benefit is paid.

This will result in tax being levied on the individual in relation to the growth, if any, in the foreign fund since the taxpayer’s Australian residency commenced at the taxpayer’s prevailing marginal tax rate.

How Does Changing Residency Affect Tax on Foreign Superannuation for Australians?

For Australians transitioning between residency statuses, such as becoming a non-resident for tax purposes or relocating to Australia from abroad, the taxation of foreign superannuation can undergo significant changes. Understanding the implications of residency status on taxation of superannuation is crucial to optimize tax outcomes and avoid potential pitfalls.

The Commissioner has determined that the exchange rate at which it is reasonable to translate foreign super amounts into Australian currency, is the exchange rate applicable at the time of receipt of the relevant foreign superannuation lump sum which would be the time when the benefits are transferred from foreign fund to Australia.

A Foreign Income Tax Offset may be available to the amount of foreign super benefit taxed in Australia, which may be different to the amount that is taxed in the other country. A foreign tax paid would need to be apportioned between the part of the fund that is taxable in Australia and the part that is not.

In conclusion, navigating the taxation of foreign super lump sums in Australia requires a comprehensive understanding of relevant tax rules, residency considerations, and reporting obligations. By staying informed and seeking professional advice when needed, expatriate clients and high-net individuals can effectively manage their cross-border financial affairs and optimize their tax outcomes in compliance with Australian tax laws.

For more insights and updates on navigating Australian Tax on Foreign Super Lump Sum, Book a Chat or Consult Today

For any enquiries related to this update, contact us today.

Natasha Jurista

Natasha, Managing Director of Global Mobility Tax at Andersen Australia, brings over 18 years of expertise in Australian expatriate taxation and global mobility tax. Natasha excels in global payroll, cross-border share plan tax implications, and compliance support for multinational clients.

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