expat tax accountant

How to choose an Australian expat tax accountant?

Australian expats love the adventure and excitement of living overseas and of overseas travel generally. But there’s nothing exciting about having to managing their own taxes by themselves, particularly when those taxes and tax returns straddle multiple countries!

It is possible that as an Australian tax resident, an Australian tax accountant has filed your tax return. Since you have worked with that accountant and built a relationship, it is only natural to want to continue working with them even when you become an Australian expat.

Why do you need an Australian expat tax accountant?

Managing your Australian expat tax affairs is a whole new experience that your existing accountant might not be able to handle. If you choose to stay with them, make sure they are extremely skilled and experienced with how Australian & overseas taxes apply to Australian expats.

Over the years, we have advised many Australian expats who have made the mistake of using an accounting firm inexperienced in expatriate tax. Quite often, there are a decisions that must be made in your returns, that once chose, can’t be undone, so it’s important to get these things right. Sadly, through, when reviewing the work of other firms, we regularly pick up errors or witness a lot of missed opportunities that non-expatriate tax firms miss.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m not being critical of domestic Australian accounting firms, not at all. Most firms only have a handful (and generally less) of expat clients. As such, they never really gain expertise with expatriate tax as they simply don’t work in that space every single day! And that’s very important! Expatriate tax is extremely complex and so your accountant must be on top of the latest changes in tax legislations and complexities regarding your circumstances living in a foreign country.

How do you choose the right Australian expat tax accountant?

Here are questions we recommend you to ask them regardless of whether they are your existing or new tax accountant?

Are you up-to-date with the latest legislative tax changes affecting Australian expats?

If you have been following our articles, you would know that we are highly updated on tax legislation surrounding Australians overseas. Your incoming tax accountant should be versed with Australian Taxation Office (ATO) obligations for Aussie expats on topics such as residency versus non-residency, application of the main residence exemption, implications of foreign bank accounts overseas, application of Australia’s double taxation treaties, implications of Australia’s Foreign Income Tax Offset rules, application and interaction of foreign jurisdiction rules and regulations as they apply to Australians living temporarily or permanently overseas.

What percentage of Australian expats do you serve?

If their clientele constitutes a small percentage of Aussie expats, then it’s highly unlikely that the accounting firm has enough experience to be a competent tax accountant for you. The danger is that mistakes are likely to be made and such mistakes are likely to be very costly indeed!

Have you handled different classes of assets before and successfully?

Here, you want to ensure that you are getting a professional who can handle your property, Australian tax return, Australian and overseas shares, taxation of foreign pension funds, application of Australia’s tax rules to Employee Share Schemes, RSU’s, stock option schemes of residents and non-residents alike along with all other tax responsibilities as they pertain to Australian expats.

Where are your clients located?

It’s important to understand where your accountant’s clients are located, to gauge their familiarity with that other jurisdiction’s rules so that they can raise pertinent issues for you to discuss with local firms in that other country and so that they can point out key issues that you need to consider for that jurisdiction.

Here at Expat Taxes, we have clients located in 104 countries around the world at last count, with major regions being the United States and Canada, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong and Asia generally, and of course Australia. Beyond that we have a good chunk of the rest of the world coloured in also, with amazing Aussies doing amazing things all over the world so we’re well placed to assist you, wherever you may be!

So, now that you’re armed with the right questions to ask your potential expat tax accountant, we hope that you’ll find a great firm that you can trust, that you feel comfortable talking to and importantly, that you trust will provide you the right advice, at the right time . . . when you need it.

If you’d like to learn more, or if you need some expat tax advice, or assistance with your returns, feel free to reach out to us here at Expat Taxes. We’d love to hear from you!

Shane Macfarlane CA
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