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Vacancy fee return for foreign owners

Vacancy fee return requirements for foreign owners of a residential dwelling.  

Last updated 24 July 2023

Lodge a vacancy fee return and pay a vacancy fee if you are a foreign owner of a residential dwelling.

Vacancy fee return

Foreign owners of residential dwellings in Australia are required to lodge a yearly vacancy fee return (return) within 30 days of the end of each vacancy year. The foreign owner or their representative can lodge the return.

You must lodge a return where the foreign owner of a residential dwelling:

The vacancy fee may also apply where a foreign person failed to submit a foreign investment application but purchased a residential property before 9 May 2017.

You must lodge a return each vacancy year. This is even when the dwelling has been residentially occupied or genuinely made available for rent.

If the dwelling is owned by 2 or more people as joint tenants, you only need to lodge one return.

If you own a share of a dwelling as a tenant in common, you must each lodge a vacancy fee return.

If you're not sure if you are a joint tenant or a tenant in common, see our terms and definitions or the Foreign InvestmentExternal Link website.

Foreign owners of vacant land do not have to lodge a vacancy fee return until a dwelling has been constructed on the land.

When multiple dwellings are constructed on the land, you must lodge a vacancy fee return for each new dwelling constructed.

You are not required to lodge a vacancy fee return if any of the following occur during a vacancy year:

  • the dwelling is sold or otherwise legally transferred (including if the owner dies)
  • you are no longer a foreign person.

If any other changes occur, see If your situation changes.

Your liability to pay a vacancy fee is determined when you lodge the return.

Conveyancers, real estate agents and other persons charging a fee for services should review Tax Practitioners Board information at Conveyancers and the annual vacancy feeExternal Link.

You should direct any questions relating to tax agent services to the Tax Practitioners BoardExternal Link.

What is a vacancy fee

A vacancy fee is intended as a financial incentive for foreign owners to make their residential dwelling in Australia available for rent. This will increase available housing in Australia. By making your dwelling available for rent, you may not need to pay the fee.

You may need to pay a vacancy fee if your residential dwelling is not:

  • residentially occupied
  • genuinely available on the rental market
  • rented out for 183 or more days (6 months) in a 12 month period.

A vacancy fee may also apply if the vacancy fee return is not lodged by the due date.

See further guidance on residential land and the vacancy fee at the Foreign InvestmentExternal Link website.

When to lodge a vacancy fee return

Lodge your vacancy fee return within 30 days of the end of each vacancy year.

The first day of the 30-day period is the day following the last day of the vacancy year.

Email reminder

We will email you a reminder to lodge your vacancy fee return at least one week before the end of your current vacancy year. This email will have the information you need to complete your vacancy fee return.

We will use the contact details we have listed for you in our system. It is important to keep your email details up to date so we can send you the reminder. You can view or update your contact details in Online services for foreign investors.

You are required to complete a vacancy fee return even if you do not receive a reminder from us. It is your responsibility as an owner to be aware of the vacancy fee return requirements.

What is the vacancy year

For the purpose of applying the vacancy fee rules, a vacancy year is each successive period of 12 months starting on the occupation day for the dwelling during which you have continuously held an interest in the dwelling.

A vacancy year is unique to each dwelling held by you. It is not a calendar year or a financial year.

When is the occupation day

The occupation day is the first day you have the right to occupy the dwelling. This will typically be the settlement day for an established dwelling. It could also be the day on which a fitness for occupancy certificate for a new dwelling was issued.

When is a dwelling residentially occupied

A dwelling is considered residentially occupied if any of the following circumstances are met for at least 183 days in a vacancy year:

  • The owner or a relative of the owner genuinely occupied the dwelling as a residence.
  • The dwelling was genuinely occupied as a residence subject to lease or license for minimum terms of 30 days.
  • The dwelling was made genuinely available as a residence on the rental market (with minimum terms of 30 days).

Residential occupancy of at least 183 days does not need to be one continuous block of time. Residential occupancy can be made up of multiple continuous periods of at least 30 days throughout the vacancy year.

Dwellings made available for short-term lease less than 30 days (including via web-based stay sites) are not considered residentially occupied. These dwellings would be liable for a vacancy fee.

A dwelling will be considered genuinely available for occupation as a residence (with a term of 30 days or more) if it is:

  • made available on the rental market
  • advertised publicly
  • available at a market rent.

You may need to provide supporting evidence to prove a dwelling was residentially occupied during a vacancy year.

Lodge a vacancy fee return

Lodge a vacancy fee return using Online services for foreign investors. Select either:

  • Lodgments then Vacancy fee return
  • Lodge or pay vacancy fee return quick link.

For further details on how to lodge your return and pay the vacancy fee, see Vacancy fee return.

Online services for foreign investors

From July 2023 when you register a residential dwelling, you will receive an asset identification number (asset ID), previously known as a land registration number.

If you:

  • received a vacancy fee reminder from us, the number will be in the email
  • haven't received a vacancy fee reminder, you may need to register your asset first in Online services for foreign investors to receive an asset ID.

Paying the vacancy fee

When you lodge your vacancy fee return, the confirmation page will tell you if you are liable for a vacancy fee and the amount you need to pay. You can pay when lodging the return.

We will email you a notice of liability of the vacancy fee payable after you've lodged. The notice provides:

  • information on the reason the fee is being charged
  • the fee payable
  • payment details
  • the due date.

It is important you use the correct payment reference number (PRN) when making a payment.

The vacancy fee will generally be the same amount as the foreign investment application fee you paid at the time you submitted your foreign investment application.

If you acquired the dwelling under a new or near new dwelling exemption certificate held by a developer, the vacancy fee payable will be equal to the foreign investment application fee that would have been payable for the dwelling had the exemption certificate not been in place.

If the application fee was waived, the vacancy fee payable will be equal to the lowest foreign investment application fee that would have been payable.

In the case of joint tenants, only one fee will be payable. For tenants in common, the fee payable will be the same as foreign investment application fee that was payable by each individual tenant. Refer to terms and definitions to determine whether you are a joint tenant or a tenant in common.

For more information on fees, see Fees for foreign investors.

Vacancy fee exemptions

You will not be liable to pay the vacancy fee if you can show that your dwelling was incapable of being occupied as a residence for at least 183 days in a vacancy year. You must lodge a vacancy fee return to claim this exemption.

Your dwelling may be considered incapable of being occupied as a residence if any of the following apply:

  • The dwelling is damaged, unsafe or is otherwise unsuitable to be occupied as a residence.
  • The dwelling is undergoing substantial repairs or renovations.
  • Occupation of the dwelling as a residence is prohibited or legally restricted by an order of a court or tribunal or a law of the Commonwealth, state or territory.
  • A person (who may or may not be the foreign person) who ordinarily occupies the dwelling was absent from the dwelling due to receiving long-term, in-patient, medical or residential care.

You may be required to provide acceptable supporting evidence to prove the dwelling was incapable of being occupied.

Fee waivers

We only waive or remit fees in limited circumstances.

The vacancy fee waiver form is not available in Online services for foreign investors.

For information on details we consider and how to make a request, see Fee waiver application for foreign investors.

Penalties that may apply

If you don't lodge your vacancy fee return by the due date, you may be liable to pay a vacancy fee. This is regardless of the number of days the dwelling was residentially occupied during the vacancy year.

If you're liable for the vacancy fee for failing to lodge, you'll receive a notice of liability of the vacancy fee payable via email.

The notice will provide you with information on the:

  • reason the fee is being charged
  • fee payable
  • payment details
  • due date.

You may be liable for an infringement notice or a civil penalty if you fail to either:

  • lodge a vacancy fee return on time
  • keep records that are relevant to your liability for vacancy fees.

You are required to keep these records for at least 5 years after the end of each vacancy year.

For further guidance on compliance for residential land, see the Foreign InvestmentExternal Link website.

If your situation changes

It is important to keep us up to date about your situation, so we can contact you about your property.

If your situation changes, update your details in Online services for foreign investors or contact us.

A change of situation may include where:

  • you are no longer foreign person
  • ownership of your property changes
  • the owner has died
  • the vacant land or redevelopment property does not have a dwelling on it, or construction is not complete
  • construction of a new dwelling has been completed and a certificate of occupancy was received.

If your:

Self-disclose a breach

If you suspect you’ve breached your foreign investment conditions, contact us as soon as possible.

If you know or suspect someone else has breached the foreign investment rules, you can confidentially report a breach to us.

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