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  • Vacancy fee return: fact sheet for foreign owners

    This content is also available in Chinese – traditional (繁体中文) and Chinese – simplified (簡體中文).

    If you are a foreign owner of residential real estate in Australia, you must lodge an annual Vacancy fee return with us if you:

    • made a foreign investment application for residential property after 7.30pm AEST on 9 May 2017
    • purchased the property from a developer who holds a new dwelling exemption certificate they applied for after 7:30pm AEST on 9 May 2017.

    You may also have to lodge a Vacancy fee return if you purchased a residential property before 9 May 2017 but did not apply for approval.

    Step 1. Obtain FIRB approval

    Before you purchase residential real estate, you must obtain Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval and pay a fee. To apply, complete the Residential real estate application form. This is available from

    Step 2.Record your property on the ATO Land and water register

    You will generally receive your FIRB approval within 30 days. The approval letter will tell you any conditions you must follow when you purchase your property and after settlement (the date that ownership of the property transferred to you, not the sale date). The ATO records details of purchases of residential property by foreign persons on the ATO Land and water register. As a condition of your FIRB approval, you are required to enter the details of your purchased property on the ATO Land and water register within 30 days of settlement.

    Note: Once you enter your information you will receive an ATO Land registration number, which you need to use when you lodge your Vacancy fee return.

    Step 3. Lodge your Vacancy fee return

    If your land has a residential dwelling on it, you must lodge a Vacancy fee return within 30 days of the end of every 12 month period you own it. This is called the ‘vacancy year’.

    The vacancy year is the 12 month period starting on the date you first had the right to occupy the dwelling (the ‘occupation day’).

    You will need to tell us:

    • your ATO land registration number
    • the occupation day
    • your vacancy year
    • how your dwelling was used over the previous 12 months.

    We will email you a reminder to lodge your Vacancy fee return to the email address you gave us in your land and water registration. You must lodge a Vacancy fee return even if you do not receive a reminder from us. To lodge your Vacancy fee return visit

    Step 4. Pay your Vacancy fee

    After you lodge your Vacancy fee return, you will see a confirmation page containing reference details, any amount you need to pay and how to pay. We will also send you a written notice by email. You must pay by the due date in your notice.

    The Vacancy fee may also apply if you do not lodge your Vacancy fee return by the due date.

    If your situation changes

    Make sure you tell us if your details change, so that we can contact you about your property.

    To update your email address, you can either:

    If your situation or the ownership of your property changes, update your details by completing the ATO Land and water registration form at

    More information

    For more information visit:

    Phone us on:

    • 1800 050 377 (within Australia)
    • +61 2 6216 1111 (from outside Australia) between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm AEST, Monday to Friday.

    If you don’t speak English well, you can phone us via the Translating and Interpreting Service on:

    • 13 14 50 (within Australia)
    • +61 3 9268 8332 (from outside Australia).
      Last modified: 07 Dec 2018QC 57312