Non-resident individuals can also be paid or credited franked dividends or unfranked dividends from Australian resident companies. However, they are taxed differently from resident shareholders.
If your residency status alters during the year (for example, you became a resident in the second half of the year) there may be occasions where withholding tax was not deducted from payments made to you before you became a resident. If this happens you should attach a schedule to your tax return explaining your circumstances. We will work out the amount of withholding tax you have to pay on these dividends and advise you of this amount.
If you are a non-resident of Australia, any fully franked dividends you are paid or credited are exempt from Australian income and withholding taxes. However, you are not entitled to any franking tax offset for franked dividends. You cannot use any franking credit attached to franked dividends to reduce the amount of tax payable on other income and you cannot get a refund of the franking credit. You should not include the amount of any franked dividend or any franking credit on an Australian tax return.
The other type of dividend a resident company may pay or credit you is an unfranked dividend. There is no franking credit attached to these dividends.
Any unfranked dividends paid or credited to a non-resident are subject to a final withholding tax.
Withholding tax is imposed on the full amount of the dividends; that is, no deductions may be made from the dividends, and a flat rate of withholding tax is applied whether or not you have other taxable Australian income. Withholding tax is also deducted from the unfranked portion of any partly franked dividends that you are paid or credited.
Withholding tax is deducted by the company before a dividend is paid, so you will be paid or credited only the reduced amount. It is deducted at a rate of 30% unless you are a resident of a country with which Australia has entered into a taxation agreement that varies the amount of withholding tax that can be levied on dividends.
Australia has entered into taxation agreements with more than 40 countries and the rate of withholding tax on dividends is limited to 15% in most of these agreements. Details of the rates that apply to residents of specific countries can be obtained from the Tax Office. Dividends paid on shares that are classified as non-equity shares under the debt/equity rules are treated as interest payments for withholding tax purposes. The rate of withholding tax on these payments is 10%.
The withholding tax on unfranked dividends is a final tax, so you will have no further Australian tax liability on the dividend income. Therefore, if the only income you earned was dividend income which was a fully franked dividend or an unfranked amount of a dividend which was subject to withholding tax, you do not need to lodge an Australian tax return.
If you were paid or credited dividends which were not fully franked - and from which withholding tax was not deducted - you should attach a separate schedule to your tax return showing details of those dividends. We will work out the amount of withholding tax you have to pay on these dividends and advise you of this amount. Note, however, that if the dividend is paid to you under a demerger that happened on or after 1 July 2002 and the head entity has not elected that it be assessable, you do not include it in your tax return even though it is an unfranked dividend and no withholding tax has been paid on that dividend. If you are in any doubt, please contact us.
You cannot claim any expenses incurred in deriving dividends which are not assessable in Australia, including any dividend which you do not need to show on your Australian tax return.