Report a breach of the foreign investment real estate rules
We welcome information from anyone in the community with concerns about suspected illegal activities by foreign persons relating to ownership of Australian residential real estate. Your information will help us safeguard Australia's national interest, businesses and the economy.
We want to hear from you if you:
- have information about someone who may be breaking the foreign investment rules
- think you may have broken the foreign investment rules. If you tell us about your breach of the rules, the penalty may be lower than if we detect your breach.
We investigate all reports of suspected breaches if enough information is provided.
On this page:
Foreign investment rules
You can find detailed information about the rules for foreign persons purchasing residential real estate in Australia on the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) websiteExternal Link.
A foreign person includes a temporary resident or foreign non-resident.
A foreign person must apply for foreign investment approval before they purchase Australian residential real estate and vacant land unless they purchase it as joint tenants with a permanent resident or Australian citizen.
Foreign persons require approval before they can purchase new residential properties and vacant land (which they must construct one or more new dwellings on).
Foreign persons also require approval to purchase an established dwelling. They will generally only be allowed to purchase an established dwelling if they live in it while they are temporary residents in Australia or if they redevelop it – for example, by demolishing it and replacing it with two or more dwellings.
What you can report
We want to hear from you if someone you know has broken the foreign investment rules. You should also tell us if you have broken the rules.
Different rules apply to different situations. Check the information below for examples of how foreign owners and third parties can break the rules.
Purchasing and financing properties
A foreign person may have broken the rules if they:
- purchase a property without FIRB approval
- purchase an established dwelling as a foreign non-resident
- provide money to purchase an Australian property but hide the true owner by not registering the property title in the name of the foreign person.
Purchasing established dwellings
An established dwelling is on residential land and is not a new dwelling. A foreign person may have broken the rules if they:
- purchase an established dwelling but don't live in it while they are in Australia, or they rent it out
- purchase an established dwelling but don't sell the property within six months of when their temporary residency visa expires
- purchase an established dwelling for redevelopment but rent it out instead of redeveloping it and increasing the number of dwellings
- purchase more than one established property as a temporary resident
- purchase an established dwelling but don't redevelop it within four years
- demolish an established dwelling but don't replace it with two or more dwellings
- don't sell an established dwelling previously used for staff accommodation and leave it vacant for six months or more.
Purchasing vacant land
A foreign person may have broken the rules if they purchase vacant land but don't develop it by constructing one or more dwellings on the property within four years.
Occupying a dwelling
A foreign person may have broken the rules if they provide incorrect information to us about whether a dwelling was vacant or occupied.
A third party, such as a stockbroker, lawyer, solicitor, conveyancer, real estate agent or other advisor, may be in breach of the foreign investment law in relation to residential land, if they knowingly assist another person to breach the law by:
- aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring a contravention
- inducing (by threat, promise or otherwise) a contravention
- conspiring with others to effect a contravention
- being, directly or indirectly, knowingly concerned in, or party to, a contravention.
Officer of a corporation
Where an officer of a corporation authorises or permits a breach of the foreign investment rules, or fails to prevent such a breach from occurring, that officer may be subject to penalties.
How to report breaches of the rules
It only takes a few minutes to make a tip-off to report someone who is breaking the rules. If you know or suspect someone is breaking the foreign investment rules or you wish to self-disclose a breach, you can tell us confidentially by:
If you prefer to speak to us in a language other than English, phone the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 for help with your call.
If you are a tax professional, you can provide information by calling 13 72 86 (Fast Key Code 3 4).
- writing to us – mark your letter 'in confidence' and post it to:
Australian Taxation Office
Tax Integrity Centre
Locked Bag 6050
DANDENONG VIC 3175
Provide as much detail as you can so we can fully assess the information.
Remember to note the reference number when you submit your tip-off form. You will need to quote it if you want to add information later.
How to complete the tip-off form
When completing the ATO tip-off formThis link opens in a new window:
- Go to the What is this about section and select 'Illegal purchase of Australian property by a non-resident' – this is applies to reporting an individual or a business.
- If you are reporting an individual include their
- property address
- name (or the name of their company)
- phone number
- social media details (for example, username and profile address)
- If you are reporting a business include the
- ABN (if known)
- business address
- phone number
- website details
- social media details (for example, page name and profile addresses).
- Other useful information you can report includes
- activities and behaviour that may be in breach of the foreign investment rules
- the name of the property being reported and, if known
- the purchase date and price
- the selling agent
- the status of property (if it is vacant, rented or owner occupied)
- any other information you have about this property.
- Include your contact details as we may need to contact you for more information. Your details remain confidential in accordance with privacy laws.
Before submitting the form, check you have provided the relevant information and supporting documentation.
Make a note of the reference number when you submit the form.
Your privacy is protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and the strict secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, the Taxation Administration Act 1953 and other tax laws.
Due to privacy laws we are unable to share details specific to any foreign investment compliance investigation. We won't be able to tell you of the outcome of our investigations. We equally respect your privacy in reporting the suspected breach, as well as the privacy of the owner of the reported property.
Examples of foreign investment breaches
When we receive information through a tip-off, we will cross check the information provided and decide if further action is needed. It's important to include as much detail as possible so we can investigate fully.
The following are some examples of the outcomes of tip-offs we have received from the community.
Illegal purchase of established dwelling
We received a community tip-off about a foreign non-resident who didn't apply for foreign investment approval before buying an established residential property. As this is a breach of the rules, the foreign person had to pay a $12,600 infringement penalty.
The foreign person was unable to move into the property or redevelop it to create two new dwellings. This is considered contrary to national interest and the foreign person had to sell the property.
Breach of conditions – renting an established dwelling
A tip-off was made about a foreign person who had rented out their established residential property through a real estate agent. This was in breach of the conditions listed on their foreign investment approval. The foreign person had to pay a $12,600 infringement penalty and moved into the property as this was a condition of their foreign investment approval.
Breach of conditions – not redeveloping and renting
A member of the building and construction industry made a tip-off that three properties were held by an individual foreign person and associated trusts in breach of their foreign investment approval conditions. They breached the conditions of their approval by renting out one established property and not redeveloping the others within the approved timeframe. Infringement penalties were imposed and the properties had to be sold.
Incorrect statement in vacancy fee return
A foreign person stated in their vacancy fee return they had occupied their dwelling for six months or more in accordance with the vacancy fee rules. However, our investigation showed the person was overseas for more than six months of the year.
We helped the person understand that having a friend occupying the residence did not meet the definition of 'residential occupation' as defined by the foreign investment rules. They had to pay a $89,300 vacancy fee liability.
Third party in breach of the rules
A third-party agent finds out two days before settlement of an existing dwelling that his client, the purchaser, is a foreign person. The intermediary contacts his client to obtain details of the client's foreign investment approval. The client tells the intermediary they have not sought approval for their proposed purchase. The foreign person advises they would like to proceed with settlement.
The intermediary proceeds with settlement. He is confident the purchaser would have received approval from the Treasurer had they applied, as the purchaser is the holder of a temporary resident visa. Failure to give notice of a notifiable action is a breach of foreign investment rules.
As the intermediary may be a third party who knowingly participated in the purchase of residential land by a foreign person in breach of the foreign investment rules, he may be liable for a civil or criminal penalty.
Use our online tip-off form or phone us to confidentially report suspected breaches of Australia's foreign investment rules for residential real estate.