Australian Taxes Audit Return on Foreign Income: A Comprehensive Guide for tax return and audit

If you’re returning to Australia after living and working abroad, it’s crucial to understand your tax obligations, especially regarding foreign income.

This guide will help you navigate the complexities of declaring personal services income, utilising the foreign income tax offset, and more.

Tax concepts represented by wooden blocks and coins, featuring symbols for global income, tax calculations, and financial institutions. Perfect for understanding personal services income, foreign income tax offset, and navigating tax obligations on foreign income for returning Australians.

Mastering Australian Taxes on Foreign Income: Top Tax Tips for Returning Aussies

Understanding Tax Residency in Australia

Tax residency status determines your tax obligations in Australia. As a resident, you’re required to declare all worldwide income, including foreign earnings and investments. Understanding your residency status is crucial to comply with Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requirements.

Implications of Tax Residency

Your tax residency status affects the scope of your taxable income. Australian residents must declare global income, while non-residents are only taxed on Australian-sourced income. Ensuring accurate determination of your residency status can save you from potential penalties and ensure compliance.

Types of Foreign Income to Declare:

Foreign income encompasses various types of earnings and investments. Here’s a breakdown of what needs to be declared:

  • Employment and Personal Services Income:
    • Types of Personal Services Income Personal services income includes salary, wages, director fees, consultancy fees, and business income. These earnings must be reported, even if they are earned overseas.
    • Exemptions for Charitable Activities: Certain exemptions apply, such as income earned from charitable activities abroad, which might be exempt under specific conditions.
  • Income from Assets and Investments:
    • Bank Deposits and Bonds Interest earned from foreign bank deposits or bonds needs to be reported on your Australian tax return.
    • Dividends from Shares Dividends received from overseas shares must be declared, along with any associated foreign taxes paid.
    • Royalties from Intellectual Property Income from royalties related to intellectual property held abroad is taxable and must be reported.
    • Rental Income from Overseas Properties Rental income from properties located outside Australia is considered foreign income and must be included in your tax return.
  • Pensions and Annuities
    • Types of Pensions and Annuities Pensions, annuities, and lump sums from foreign sources are taxable in Australia. Understanding the nature of these payments and their tax implications is essential.
    • Managed Funds and Super Funds Earnings from managed funds and superannuation funds located overseas are part of your foreign income and should be declared accordingly.
  • Capital Gains on Overseas Assets:
    • Reporting Capital Gains Capital gains on assets acquired before becoming an Australian resident must be reported when sold. The cost base for these assets is typically the market value at the time you became a resident.
    • Record Keeping for Assets Maintaining detailed records of asset values, acquisition dates, and any related costs is crucial for accurate reporting of capital gains on overseas assets.

Foreign Income Tax Offset: 

  • Eligibility for Foreign Income Tax Offset If you’ve paid tax on foreign income, you may be eligible for a foreign income tax offset to reduce your Australian tax liability. This offset helps prevent double taxation.
  • Calculating the Offset Ensure you maintain records of foreign tax paid. Use the offset calculation to claim the maximum benefit, especially for claims exceeding $1,000.

Converting Foreign Income to AUD: 

  • Exchange Rate Usage Convert all foreign income to Australian dollars using the prevailing or average exchange rate. The ATO provides guidelines on the appropriate rates to use for different types of income.
  • Reporting Requirements Accurate conversion and reporting of foreign income in Australian dollars are essential to avoid discrepancies in your tax return.

Apportioning Foreign Income: 

  • Reporting Across Multiple Tax Returns If the foreign tax year differs from Australia’s financial year, you might need to report foreign income across multiple Australian tax returns. This ensures all income is accurately captured.
  • Differences in Tax Years Understand the differences in tax years between Australia and the foreign country to appropriately apportion income and avoid errors.

Managing Foreign Income and Assets:

  • Strategies to Minimize Tax Liabilities Develop strategies to minimize tax liabilities, such as selling assets before returning to Australia or using tax-effective structures to manage your foreign income.
  • Tax-Effective Structures Consider establishing tax-effective structures to manage foreign income and assets. Professional advice can help you optimize these strategies.

Superannuation Strategies: 

  • Contributing to Australian Superannuation Contributing to Australian superannuation can reduce your taxable income and build retirement savings. Understand the benefits and rules associated with super contributions.
  • Transferring Foreign Superannuation Funds Learn the rules for transferring foreign superannuation funds to Australia. This process can be complex, and early planning is essential to avoid unnecessary tax burdens.

Seeking Professional Tax Advice: 

  • Importance of Professional Advice Given the complexities of foreign income, tax offsets, and other obligations, seeking professional tax advice is crucial to ensure compliance and optimize your tax position.
  • Finding a Qualified Tax Advisor Finding a qualified tax advisor with experience in foreign income is vital. They can provide tailored advice to help you navigate your specific circumstances.


Navigating tax obligations on foreign income is vital for returning Australians. Plan ahead and seek professional advice to ensure compliance with ATO requirements and maximise available tax benefits.

By following this guide, you can manage your foreign income and assets effectively, ensuring a smooth transition back to Australia.

About the Author
default author image"
Accru Felsers
Accru Felsers provides a total support system to help you achieve financial value and business growth. From starting up to market leadership and business sale, we’re with you at every stage of your journey. Your success is our success.