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  • Clarify income tax exemptions for IMF and WBG short-term missions

    As part of the 2020–21 Budget, the Government announced that it will clarify privileges and immunities, including income tax exemptions, available to Australian individuals performing short-term missions on behalf of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the following three institutions of the World Bank Group (WBG):

    • International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
    • International Development Association (IDA)
    • International Finance Corporation (IFC)

    If enacted, the measure will apply retrospectively from 1 July 2017. It will affect relevant tax returns for the 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20 and subsequent income years.

    The measure will clarify that Australian short-term experts and consultants are entitled to an exemption from income tax for their relevant income from the abovementioned organisations.

    This aligns Australia’s domestic legislative framework with its international obligations and provides certainty for taxpayers. The outcome is consistent with Australia’s longstanding support for, and contributions to, the IMF and WBG.

    Tax returns not yet lodged

    If you haven't yet lodged a tax return for one or more of the impacted income years, you should self-assess under the existing law until the proposed law is enacted. This will mean that payments you receive from your short-term expert or consultant engagements with the IMF or the identified institutions of the WBG will generally be included in your income.

    After you've lodged your tax return under the existing law, you can then lodge an amendment request under the proposed law. We'll hold your amendment request until the proposed law is enacted.

    If you choose to self-assess by anticipating the proposed law, we may not enforce compliance with the existing law. In these circumstances we'll consider whether it would be an efficient, effective and ethical use of the ATO's limited resources to enforce compliance.

    If you choose to self-assess by anticipating the proposed law, you may be liable to shortfall interest charge (SIC) at the base interest rate if the law is not enacted and you understate your liability.

    However, if the law is enacted and you overstate your liability, you would generally be entitled to a credit amendment and interest on overpayment.

    We'll take all reasonable action to prevent the payment of incorrect refunds where allowing taxpayers to anticipate the announced change would be likely, at least in some cases, to result in refunds and we could reasonably identify the affected taxpayers before the incorrect refunds were paid.

    Tax returns already lodged

    If you've already lodged your 2017–18, 2018–19 or 2019–20 income tax returns and self-assessed under the existing law, you can lodge an amendment request to self-assess under the proposed law.

    There are time limitations on the lodgment of amendment requests. If you're amending your 2017–18 tax return, you should lodge your amendment request as soon as possible to ensure it is lodged within the required timeframe. Note: If you're outside the timeframe to lodge an amendment you can still have the amount that becomes exempt income excluded by lodging an objection along with a request for an extension of time to object.

    We'll hold your amendment request and process it once the proposed law is enacted. If you choose to do this, please amend your return so the amount that becomes exempt is shown at item 20 label N Exempt foreign employment income.

    If you lodge your amendment via your tax agent, ask them to use the following wording as the reason for your amendment request: 'Foreign sourced income – IMF/World Bank mission' (whichever is applicable).

    See also:

    • PS LA 2007/1 Administrative treatment of taxpayers affected by announced but unenacted legislative measures which will apply retrospectively when enacted.

    Guidance

    The ATO will update and finalise Draft Taxation Ruling TR 2019/D1 Income tax: income of international organisations and persons connected with them that is exempt from income tax following the enactment of this measure.

    See also:

      Last modified: 18 Dec 2020QC 64442