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  • Major reforms to foreign investment framework

    As a part of these reforms the Government announced it was considering a new Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian Assets which would be administered by the ATO.

    Data relating to foreign investment is currently spread out across the government, making it challenging to identify investor trends and emerging risks.

    The ATO administers the agricultural land and water registers which were implemented in 2015 and 2017 respectively (Register of Foreign Ownership of Water or Agricultural Land Act 2015) and the register of foreign owned residential land where registration is required only as part of the FIRB approval conditions.

    The Australian Communications and Media Authority administers the media assets foreign ownership register and the critical infrastructure assets register is administered by the Critical Infrastructure Centre.

    The new Register, the Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian Assets, was formally announced on 6 October 2020 in the 2020–21 Budget with the ATO being provided $24.3 million over four years to build and maintain the new register.

    The new register will aggregate and expand existing registers administered by the ATO, provide a streamlined experience for foreign investors to manage their investment affairs, support compliance with Australia’s foreign investment framework and provide administrative efficiencies.

    In addition, the reforms will impact on other areas of the ATO’s responsibility. The reforms will:

    • make changes to the infringement notice regime by expanding the contraventions that can be subject to an infringement notice and by introducing an additional infringement notice tier
    • make changes to the civil penalty amounts and introduce an additional civil penalty for providing false and misleading information or documentation in a foreign investment application, and
    • increase the fees payable for foreign investment applications and variation fees.

    Legislation

    The legislation that will facilitate the foreign investment reforms was introduced into Parliament 28 October 2020.

    Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Bill 2020External Link

    Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Fees Imposition Amendment Bill 2020External Link

    Other

    The Government’s foreign investment reforms announcement can be found on The Treasury’s websiteExternal Link.

    Foreign Investment Review Board website http://www.firb.gov.au/External Link

      Last modified: 03 Dec 2020QC 64242