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Trading US futures in Australia

Nov 28, 2011

I am an Australian but trade US futures, do I need to pay tax in the States and Australia, or neither?

If you think you don’t need to declare your overseas income then think again.  Whilst it would be great to pay no tax, unfortunately very few people are that lucky.  The only way to avoid tax is if you don’t make any money at all in your trading each year.  But of course that is not desirable either.

The country that you reside in generally determines which country that you have to pay tax in.  The ATO considers that you are an Australian resident for tax purposes if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • you are born and bred in Australia;
  • you are living permanently in Australia;
  • you have been living in Australia for at least six months and working the majority of that time at the same job and lived at the same place; or
  • you have been living in Australia for more than half of the financial year except where your usual home is overseas and you do not intend on living in Australia permanently.

As you are an Australian resident, you are taxed on your worldwide income.  As a result any foreign income will need to be included in your Australian tax return as assessable income. 

Whilst the US taxman would obviously want a piece of the tax pie, there is an agreement between Australian and the US Governments which avoids any double taxation of income.  US tax will be restricted to only dividends (15%) or interest (10%) that you might derive over there in your trading activities.  You would be entitled to a foreign income tax offset for the amount of any US tax paid in your Australian tax return.  The only way that the US could tax your trading income is if you operated via a permanent establishment but there is a specific exemption if you are merely using US brokers.

Don’t try to hide the income from the taxman either.  The ATO has tax treaties with 46 countries, including the US, that allow them to exchange information about offshore income and transactions.  Any data received is matched against Australian tax returns.  The ATO also receives information from AUSTRAC which monitors domestic and international transactions over $10,000.

 

This article first appeared in the Jul/Aug 2011 issue of YTE Magazine www.YTEmagazine.com Copyright Your Media Edge Pty Ltd 2011.

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Author: Mr Taxman

Comments

"I think you missed the point, mrtaxman. This person is trading foreign derivatives, so he is actually based IN Australia, BUT is trading say, the US 10 year notes or the E-Mini S&P 500 futures contracts. So he will have to pay taxes in Australia, but I think more importantly, he wants to know whether he will have to pay taxes in America as well. I think because he is trading via a provider of some sort in Australia, who gets connections directly to CME/CBOT in the United States, they will deal with all the mess behind this and he will only have to declare his income in Australia. Hope this is a far better answer."

By: John on Aug 13, 2012 1:54AM

"I don't agree with the definition of non-resident for taxation purposes. The first bullet point is untrue, which is unfortunate as you use it to expand on and then apply to the individual's circumstances. http://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Income-and-deductions/How-much-income-tax-you-pay/Are-you-an-Australian-resident-for-tax-purposes-/ "

By: Former Expat on Sep 07, 2013 1:18AM

">The only way to avoid tax is if you don’t make any money at all in your trading each year. But of course that is not desirable either. Australian non-residents for taxation purposes in Singapore are paying no capital gains taxes on their trades and no tax in Australia thank you very much. There's a big list of countries that fall into this category. So I don't agree with this either. I think the opposite is true and is more common than mrtaxman thinks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_gains_tax"

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