New foreign property investment rules to combat housing crisis
Increased costs for foreign property investors will aim to improve the availability and affordability of homes for Australians. Foreign investors will face higher taxes on existing properties meanwhile the Federal Government will incentivise ‘Build-to-Rent’ projects by setting fees at the lowest commercial rate.
On Sunday 10 December, the government announced property tax changes to penalise overseas investors buying homes which are left vacant as well as cutting tax for Build-to-Rent investors. The reform is a bid to increase housing supply, however the effectiveness of these measures to address the broader housing crisis remains open to debate.
Increased costs for foreign buyers
From 2024, foreign investors purchasing established Australian homes will face tripled application fees.
Currently, the application fee charged to foreign investors for buying established homes in Australia is calculated on the property’s value. For instance, properties priced between $1m and $2 m incur an application fee of $28,200. This rises to a maximum of $1,119,100 for residential acquisitions of more than $40 million.
Additionally, if these properties are left vacant, the investors will incur an equivalent amount as a vacancy fee.
The tripling of application fee effectively is a six-fold increase in total fees (application plus vacancy fees) for properties bought since 9 May 2017. A vacant property costing between $1m to $2m will have an application fee of $84,600 and an annual vacancy fee of $84,600.
The new measures specifically target established dwellings, encouraging foreign investors to focus on new housing developments. This shift is intended to stimulate the construction sector, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth.
Incentivising ‘Build-to-Rent’ projects
To promote investment in new housing stock, the government is reducing application fees for Build-to-Rent projects. From 14 December 2023, the application fees for Build-to-Rent projects will be set at the lowest commercial rate – irrespective of the nature of the land involved. This initiative aims to make Australia’s foreign investment framework more consistent and attractive for long-term rental housing developments.
However, it’s important to note that this is in contrast with the proposed Federal thin capitalisation changes. Thin capitalisation involves tax reforms to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share, focusing on entities funded by high levels of debt over equity. For the latest update on the proposed changes, we have recapped the Thin Capitalisation rules.
Enhanced compliance measures
To strengthen the enforcement of its new property investment rules, the government is significantly increasing funding for the ATO. This aims to ensure strict adherence to the new regulations by foreign investors. A key regulation is the requirement for foreign nationals to sell their Australian properties upon leaving the country unless they have secured permanent residency.
This commitment to enhanced enforcement goes beyond merely introducing new rules; it reflects a concerted effort to effectively monitor and enforce compliance. Foreign nationals are typically barred from purchasing existing properties. This approach underscores the government’s dedication to addressing the complexities of the housing market and ensuring the integrity of its foreign investment framework.
The new foreign investment rules primarily impacts foreign investors, with increased fees and stricter compliance requirements. The construction industry may see growth from incentivised new housing projects. Australian residents, particularly those seeking affordable housing, could benefit from these changes. Real estate developers involved in Build-to-Rent projects are likely to gain from lower fees, encouraging investment in this sector. The repercussions of these changes are thus widespread, affecting various stakeholders in the property market.
Get in touch with SW
Get in touch with our property experts to learn more about how these new regulations affect you.
In light of these proposed changes, we encourage all stakeholders in the Australian property market to stay informed and actively engage with the evolving landscape. For further updates, insights, and guidance on navigating these new regulations, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn.