Why is it important?

Like most other countries, one of the ways that New Zealand imposes tax is by the concept Tax Residency. It means that all New Zealand tax residents are liable to pay tax to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) on their worldwide income.

Your worldwide income includes any income that you derive in a foreign country even if you do not bring the money into New Zealand.

This is very important because it will drastically change the amount of tax you will have to pay to the IRD. This will be particularly relevant if you have significant assets overseas, or if you’re a new migrant to New Zealand, who still have financial ties to your country of origin.

Your worldwide income could include the following:

  • An amount of interest you derive from funds you have in an offshore bank account
  • Rental income (a rental property in Australia? Or China?)
  • Salary and wages paid both by New Zealand companies and offshore companies

Common Misconception

A common misconception that people have is that they confuse the definition of “resident” for immigration purposes with “tax resident” for tax purposes. The definition of a New Zealand resident for immigration purposes is different to the definition of “tax resident”, which is defined in the Income Tax Act 2007. What this means is that whilst you may be on a student or work visa in New Zealand, you might still nonetheless be considered a tax resident of New Zealand. Conversely, you might hold a permanent resident visa but, in some circumstances, still not be a tax resident of New Zealand.

Therefore, this leads us to the next question.

What is the definition of a “tax resident”?

If you want to find out if you are a New Zealand tax resident or not, then you have to look at the definition in sYA1 of the Income Tax Act 2007. Essentially, if you meet either one of points below, then you will be a tax resident of New Zealand.

  1. Be physically present in New Zealand for 183 days in any 12 month period; OR
  1. Have a Permanent Place of Abode (PPOA) in New Zealand

Things to watch out for

Note how the first point mentions that the 183 days is counted in any 12 month period. So it’s not 183 days in a calendar year or tax year. This is an important distinction because you could have triggered this inadvertently if you’re not careful.

The term “Permanent Place of Abode” in layman’s terms is a lasting or enduring place where the taxpayer usually live. A person could have more than one permanent place of abode in different countries. So say if you split your time between New Zealand and Australia, and have a regular place to live in each country, then it could be very possible that you have a permanent place of abode in both New Zealand and Australia.

Common Issues

Properties Owned Overseas

Being a New Zealand tax resident not only means that you will need to pay tax on your overseas income, but it also means that New Zealand tax law apply to your overseas assets as well.

Many of you might have heard of the bright-line test for residential properties, where if you buy and sell within 5 years, then you will need to pay tax on the capital. However, not many people know that if you’re a New Zealand tax resident, then this rule applies to your properties owned overseas as well. So if you bought and sold a residential property in Australia for example, within 5 years after 29 March 2018, then you will need to report that gain to the IRD and pay tax on it.

Rental or Business Income from overseas

Another common issue that we see is clients having rental properties or business income from overseas. In that situation, taxes might have already been paid in that foreign country, and in order to avoid double taxation, we can help you determine if a foreign tax credit might be available and then to accurately ascertain that tax credit amount to reduce your tax payable.

Own shares in a foreign company?

Another common issue that some clients face is if they also own shares in an overseas company. In particular, if they own shares in an overseas privately held company. There are separate rules dealing with such cases which can be very complex and you might need to pay tax on paper gains which you have not received a cash receipt for. So be very careful in that case, and contact us to make sure all the right disclosures are made to the IRD, and that you’re not paying more tax than you should.

Transitional Resident

There is another rule called the “transitional resident” rule, which exempts overseas income from taxation within 4 years of a person first becoming a New Zealand tax resident. There are some strict rules around who can qualify for this, and when the 4 years start and when it ends. There are also some exceptions to this transitional resident rule. So please make sure to contact us if you’re in this situation and we can help you determine which rules apply to you. This could potentially mean thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. So getting the right advice is crucial.

We hope this answers all your queries. Watch this space and stay tuned, because we will be back to talk about what happens when you’re a tax resident in New Zealand as well as another country.

Written by Gordon

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