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Appointment of public officer

Last updated 29 May 2019

If a trust carries on a business in Australia or derives income from property in Australia and there is no trustee who is an Australian resident, the trustee generally appoints a public officer. The public officer must be a natural person of at least 18 years of age residing in Australia and who is capable of understanding the nature of their appointment as the public officer. The appointment of a public officer is made by giving written notice, specifying the name and address of the public officer, to the Commissioner.

The trust does not need to appoint a public officer if the Australian income of the trust consists solely of dividends, interest and/or royalties subject to withholding tax, or the Commissioner has granted an exemption in writing.

If the trustee does not appoint a public officer they may be prosecuted. A fine of up to $210 (one penalty unit) from 1 July 2017 may be imposed for each day that the trustee fails or neglects to meet the requirements.

The public officer is answerable for doing everything required to be done by the trustee under the ITAA 1936, the ITAA 1997 or the Regulations. A public officer who defaults on any of these duties is liable to the same penalties as the trustee.

Lodging a trust tax return

A notice advising which entities are required to lodge tax returns is published annually in the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments. The ‘Notice of requirement to lodge a return for the income year ended 30 June 2019’ legislative instrument can be found on ComLawExternal Link.

For most trusts, the trust income tax return is due to be lodged on or before 31 October 2019. The Commissioner may allow later lodgment dates in certain circumstances; see Due dates for lodging and paying.

If no trustee is resident in Australia, the trust tax return is lodged by the public officer of the trust or, if a public officer does not need to be appointed, by the trust’s agent in Australia.

If a trust has derived income, irrespective of the amount of income derived, a trust will have to lodge a return unless exempted by the Commissioner.

However, a trust tax return is not required if the trust was a subsidiary member of a consolidated group or multiple entry consolidated (MEC) group for the full income year. Where this is the case, the head company of the group will have the responsibility for reporting any trust income in its tax return and for preparing any necessary schedules.

If the administration of a deceased estate is not completed in the same year as the date of death, a trust tax return for that income year does not have to be lodged if:

  • the deceased person died less than three years from before the end of that income year
  • no beneficiary is presently entitled to a share of the income of the trust estate at the end of that income year
  • the net income of the trust estate under section 95 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 is less than $18,200 for that income year, and
  • there are no non-resident beneficiaries of the trust estate during the income year.

Trustees of trusts that satisfy the conditions of section 102R (public trading trusts) of the ITAA 1936 in an income year are subject to the company tax arrangements and must lodge company returns. They must also apply for a company TFN. Trustees of trusts that satisfied former section 102J (corporate unit trusts) of the ITAA 1936 must lodge company returns if:

  • their income year started before 1 July 2016;
  • the trust has made a choice under Subdivision 713-C of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to be the head company of an income tax consolidated group.

For more information, see Unit trusts treated as corporate entities.

See also:

Our address to lodge tax returns is:

Australian Taxation Office
GPO Box 9845

The following are the only schedules that are sent with the trust tax return:

At various questions you may be instructed to attach additional information to the tax return. If you are instructed to provide a statement on a separate sheet of paper showing particular information (for example, the type and amounts of a claim for a tax offset) include a heading indicating which question or item the information relates to, sign the statement, attach it to the tax return and print X in the Yes box at Have you attached any ‘other attachments’? at the top of page 1 of the tax return.

Do not send other schedules or documents with your tax return unless instructed to attach them as ‘other attachments’. Keep any other schedules or documents with the trust’s tax records. Tax returns lodged without all the required schedules may not be considered to have been lodged in the approved form. Unless the trust tax return and all required schedules are lodged by the due date, a failure to lodge on time penalty may be applied.