Bills Digest no. 94 2013–14
PDF version [584KB]
WARNING: This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Bernard Pulle and Margaret Lee
20 June 2014
Purpose of the Bill
Position of major interest groups
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Key issues and provisions
Date introduced: 29 May 2014
House: House of Representatives
Commencement: This Act commences on the day it receives the Royal Assent.
Links: The links to the Bill, its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the Bill’s home page, or through http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent, they become Acts, which can be found at the ComLaw website at http://www.comlaw.gov.au/.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted by the United States (US) Congress to assist the detection of US taxpayers who use offshore accounts to conceal assets and income from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Briefly, FATCA requires individuals to report to the IRS their financial accounts held outside the US and foreign (that is non-US) financial institutions (FFIs) to report to the IRS about their US clients. FFIs that do not comply with obligations under FATCA will be subject to a 30 per cent withholding tax on their US source income.
In many cases, the laws of other nations, for privacy and other reasons, prevent a FFI from reporting to the IRS the information required by the FATCA statutory provisions and regulations. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the FATCA Agreement) Bill 2014 (the Bill) states that Australian privacy laws would generally prevent compliance with FATCA obligations and that Australian state and territory anti-discrimination laws could also prevent interrogation of customer accounts based on US citizenship.
The US Treasury developed models of intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) to overcome these impediments and to work within the framework of double tax relief treaties. It is anticipated that a number of Australian FFIs will be subject to FATCA. In order to facilitate compliance with FATCA obligations the Treasurer on behalf of the Australian Government, and the US Ambassador to Australia on behalf of the US Government signed the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America to Improve International Tax Compliance and to Implement FATCA (the FATCA Agreement) on 28 April 2014.
The purpose of the the Bill is to give effect to the FATCA Agreement.
FATCA requires FFIs to periodically report details of accounts held by US taxpayers or by foreign entities controlled by US taxpayers to the IRS of the US. Non‑complying financial institutions face significant penalties, notably a 30 per cent withholding tax on US income.
The Bill will require financial institutions in Australia to identify and report relevant account holder information, as specified in the FATCA Agreement, annually to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This information will subsequently be sent to the IRS under existing taxpayer information-sharing arrangements authorised by the US‑Australia tax treaty.
Why is the Bill important?
FATCA will commence on 1 July 2014, irrespective of any action taken by Australia. Australian financial institutions have a strong commercial incentive to comply with FATCA, as non-compliance could expose them to significant economic costs, reputational damage and loss of international competitiveness. Without the FATCA Agreement and the Bill, financial institutions that seek to comply with FATCA could breach Australian anti‑discrimination and privacy laws.
The FATCA Agreement also reinforces Australia’s support for international tax transparency and cooperation between revenue authorities to help prevent tax evasion.
Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
At the time of writing, the Bill has not been referred to a committee. As usual, however, the treaty itself, the FATCA Agreement, has been referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) for consideration. This is still in progress and hearings were held on the treaty on 16 June 2014.
Policy position of non-government parties
The Bill received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives debate, with Shadow Assistant Treasurer Dr Andrew Leigh noting that the Bill is the culmination of negotiations begun by former Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan in 2012. Dr Leigh said the Labor Party welcomes ‘sensible steps to assist tax authorities in ensuring compliance with tax regulations’.
The Financial Services Council fully supports the FATCA Agreement. The Australian Bankers’ Association also supports the Agreement.
The Explanatory Memorandum identifies that the financial impact of this initiative is nil.
As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The Government considers that the Bill is compatible.
The Bill amends Schedule 1 of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA 1953) which deals with the collection and recovery of income tax and other liabilities. Chapter 5 of Schedule 1 concerns administration. Part 5–25 of Chapter 5 sets out the record‑keeping and other obligations of taxpayers. Item 2 of Schedule 1 of the Bill inserts proposed Division 396—FATCA into Part 5–25, which will require reporting Australian financial institutions to give the Commissioner certain information to give effect to FATCA.
Proposed Division 396 requires two types of statements to be given to the Commissioner.
Proposed section 396–5 imposes reporting obligations about US Reportable Accounts:
Reporting Australian Financial Institutions that maintain one or more U.S. Reportable Accounts at any time during a calendar year will need to give a statement to the Commissioner in relation to each of those accounts. This statement must contain all of the necessary information about those accounts that would allow the Australian Government to fulfil its obligations under the FATCA Agreement.
This is an ongoing reporting requirement.
Proposed section 396–10 imposes reporting obligations about payments to non-participating financial institutions in 2015 and 2016:
… a Reporting Australian Financial Institution that makes a payment to a Nonparticipating Financial Institution holding financial accounts with the Reporting Australian Financial Institution in 2015 and 2016 will need to give a statement to the Commissioner in relation to each of these payments. Each statement must contain all of the necessary information about those payments that would allow the Australian Government to fulfil its obligations under the FATCA Agreement.
Financial institutions compliance costs associated with the reform proposal in the Bill are said to be high. In requiring relevant financial institutions in Australia to report to the ATO, rather than directly to the IRS in the US, the Government has adopted a ‘Model 1’ approach to FATCA in the Bill. The corresponding compliance costs are $482.7 million over ten years, with $255 million of these in upfront costs. The purpose of the regime is to enable detection of relevant US taxpayers in Australia. According to the Regulatory Impact Statement to the Explanatory Memorandum, there are at least 120,000 accounts with US connections. This suggests approximately $2,125 in upfront compliance costs for each account. (However, only accounts over $50,000 are required to comply, and there is no way of knowing the distribution of accounts by size.) However, the cost of doing nothing is higher ($477.5 million in upfront compliance costs and over a billion dollars over ten years). More important, the distribution of the compliance burden between potentially relevant taxpayers and other Australian bank customers (that are not US account holders) is not clear, as is explained in the Regulatory Impact Statement to the Explanatory Memorandum. However, some Australian entities are exempt from the FATCA regime, including certain financial institutions with a local client base and local banks. These are listed in Annex II of the FATCA Agreement.
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2500.
. This is part of the US Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act 2010.
. Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America to Improve International Tax Compliance and to Implement FATCA, Australian Treaty National Interest Analysis  ATNIA 9, paragraph 4, accessed 16 June 2014.
. The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at page 21 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.
. The Commissioner of Taxation as appointed by the Governor-General, refer section 4 of the TAA 1953.
. ‘US Reportable Accounts’ is given a wide definition in the FATCA Agreement (see Article 1(1)(cc)). It includes financial accounts held by US citizens or residents or entities controlled by them. Page 11 of the Explanatory Memorandum reflects that US Reportable Accounts will typically include cheque and transaction accounts, savings accounts, term deposits, debt interests and equity interests (including derivatives), and certain annuity contracts.
. Reporting Australian Financial Institutions are defined in the FATCA Agreement to mean any Australian Financial Institution that is not a Non‑Reporting Australian Financial Institution (Article 1). With the exception of those deemed or exempt, Non-Reporting Australian Financial Institutions are those that meet the criteria set out in Annex II of the FATCA Agreement. Page 11 of the Explanatory Memorandum reflects that generally speaking, banks, some building societies, some credit unions, specified life insurance companies, private equity funds, managed funds, exchange traded funds and some brokers (generally those brokers maintaining Custodial Accounts) will typically be Reporting Australian Financial Institutions.
. Proposed subsection 396–5(6) requires the statement to be given to the Commissioner no later than the first 31 July after the end of the year.
. Non-participating financial institutions are defined in Article 1 of the FATCA Agreement with reference to US Treasury Regulations. Essentially the definition includes foreign financial institutions that have not entered into an agreement with the US IRS, and are subject to withholding tax. More information on the basic operation of US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act is available from the PwC website in the fact sheet entitled FATCA FAQs: frequently asked questions on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, PwC website, accessed 17 June 2014.
. Proposed subsection 396–5(2). In Model 1 agreements a country will direct its financial institutions to provide FATCA information directly to its own revenue authority, which would subsequently transmit it to the US IRS. In Model 2 agreements a country will direct its financial institutions to conclude individual agreements with the US IRS and enable them to report directly consistent with the US FATCA regulations. That country would also agree to provide the US with further taxpayer information in response to IRS requests. For more information, see Explanatory Memorandum, Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the FATCA Agreement) Bill 2014, op. cit., pp. 48–49.
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
© Commonwealth of Australia
With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, and to the extent that copyright subsists in a third party, this publication, its logo and front page design are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia licence.
In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.
To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.
Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Bills Digests are prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament. They are produced under time and resource constraints and aim to be available in time for debate in the Chambers. The views expressed in Bills Digests do not reflect an official position of the Australian Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion. Bills Digests reflect the relevant legislation as introduced and do not canvass subsequent amendments or developments. Other sources should be consulted to determine the official status of the Bill.
Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Entry Point for referral.