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  • Foreign Investment Reforms Working Group key messages 29 May 2019

    The Foreign Investment Reforms working group meeting was held on 29 May 2019.

    The information provided below is a summary of topics discussed at the meeting.

    Foreign investment publications

    A number of Foreign investment publications have issued since December 2018 as detailed below. The key highlights were provided during the meeting.

    Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) results are produced annually as this provides a more comprehensive snapshot of fluctuations and trends in approval data.

    The ATO is currently compiling the 2017-18 Residential land register report which will report on property settlements.

    FIRB appointment – Margaret McDonald

    A media release was made by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on 27 March 2019 announcing the new Foreign Investment Review Board AppointmentExternal Link of Margaret McDonald to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

    Ms McDonald serves on the Board of Directors of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and on the Board of the Co-operative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living. She also served as a judge for the MacArthur Foundation #100andchange program. She has been appointed for five years commencing from 26 March 2019.

    Legislative update – Near new dwelling exemption certificate reconciliation payments

    This legislative change is still pending and is currently on the schedule for the next sitting period.

    New approved form to nominate an authorised representative

    A new approved form has been created to enable advisers representing FIRB applicants to discuss matters, where relevant, with the ATO. A permanent website location is currently being resolved so that the form may be available online, however it is currently available upon request.

    Vacancy fee update

    The deployment of the relevant system infrastructure to support vacancy fee lodgments is now complete. The ATO is continuing to engage with foreign investors and intermediaries to promote awareness of the measure and encourage on time lodgment.

    Managing lodgment obligations

    • The current approach to engaging with foreign persons in relation to the vacancy fee involves sending a reminder notification to the primary contact email address. This notification is sent at least six weeks prior to the due date for lodgment. To receive a notification, foreign persons in scope for the vacancy fee must be registered on the land register.
    • The primary obligation on the foreign person in relation to the vacancy fee is to lodge the vacancy fee return within 30 days of the end of the vacancy year. A failure to lodge on time may result in the client being liable for the vacancy fee regardless of the number of days the dwelling has been residentially occupied. Prior to raising a liability for non-lodgment, the ATO will attempt further client engagement by way of phone contact and/or postal reminders.
    • Where a foreign person is legally restricted from occupying a dwelling for 183 days or more during the vacancy year, there will be no liability to pay a vacancy fee. A vacancy fee return must be lodged to claim this exemption.

    Vacancy fee statistics have not been published as yet as a full 12 month lodgment period has not yet elapsed.

    ATO Communications update

    Two fact sheets have been recently published to help foreign owners of Australian residential real estate meet their foreign investment obligations. The fact sheets are designed to assist intermediaries to advise their clients about their obligations. The two facts sheets are:

    The ATO is hosting a free live webinar on 13 June 2019 about the FIRB reporting requirements for property developers, and their representatives, in relation to New Dwelling Exemption Certificate and Near-New Dwelling Exemption Certificates.

    The ATO is undertaking communications activities to promote increased awareness of Residential real estate exemption certificates.

    Further information about exemption certificates can be found at:

      Last modified: 19 Jul 2019QC 59716