Your guide to doing business in Australia
Australia is one of the largest countries in the world by landmass and is located in the southern hemisphere between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. Australia’s closest neighbours are New Zealand to the southeast, Papua New Guinea to the north, and Indonesia to the northwest. A highly developed, wealthy, and democratic country, Australia had a 2019 GDP of around $1.89 trillion and one of the highest incomes per capita in the world. While it has been historically reliant on its agricultural industry, the Australian economy diversified in the 20th century and key industries now include energy, healthcare, and financial services. Mining has also become extremely important to the Australian economy: the country is rich in natural resources and, in 2010, the mining industry was estimated to be contributing 8.4% to Australia’s GDP. Australia has strong political and trade connections to Asia and the rest of the world and is a member of the UN, G20, the OECD, APEC, and the Commonwealth of Nations. In 2019, the World Bank ranked Australia 14 on its Ease of Doing Business Survey.
The Australian Government proactively encourages inward investment, with a wide array of incentives to encourage investment in the national economy. In recent years, the government has tried to put measures in place to encourage employers to hire Australian nationals where possible, and to only use expatriate work force where skill shortages exist.
A company wishing to employ staff within Australia must have a legal presence in Australia. This is usually via a branch or a subsidiary. There are various withholding and remitting requirements in Australia. This may require registration with the Australian Taxation Office (‘ATO’), and, depending on the level of wages and location of activities, with one or more State Revenue Offices. Much of the ATO and State Revenue Office registrations can be completed online.
Common types of registrations that need to be completed by companies looking to process payroll:
It is not mandatory to make payments to employees or the authorities from an in-country bank account.
A standard working week in Australia is typically Monday to Friday totalling 38 hours. The working day for commercial offices is typically from 8:30AM to 5:00PM. Lunch breaks range from 30 minutes to one hour.
Full Name: Commonwealth of Australia
Population: 24.99 million (World Bank, 2018)
Largest City: Sydney
Major Language: English
Monetary Unit: 1 Australian dollar = 100 cents
Main Exports: Ores and metals, wool, food and live animals, fuels and transport machinery
GNI per Capita: US $57,373.7 (World Bank, 2018)
Internet Domain: .au
International Dialling Code: +61
The tax year runs from 1st July to 30th June.
Australia taxes individuals on a progressive basis based on their annual taxable income.
Superannuation must be paid to the authorities by the 28th of the month following/subsequent to each quarter. Employee deductions on behalf of Centrelink must be paid to the government agency by the 6th of the following month.
Employees are allowed to make salary sacrificed contributions to their superannuation fund, this salary sacrifice contribution is before tax and as such is a tax efficient way of saving for retirement. The tax free amount that can be contributed is subject to a contributions cap.
Previously, the maximum amount of concessional superannuation contributions (e.g. employer paid and salary sacrificed contributions) that could be paid in a financial year were as follows:
For individuals aged 49 or over – up to AUD 35,000 per annum
For individuals under 49 – up to AUD 30,000 per annum.
As of 1 July 2017, the maximum amount of concessional contributions which can be made during a financial year (e.g. between 1 July and 30 June) is AUD 25,000 per annum, regardless of age. An employee whose total contributions in a year exceed the contribution cap may be liable for additional tax on the excess contributions.
Payment Summary/Annual Statement of Earnings
The Australian Government has legislated to simplify business reporting obligations via a concept known as single touch payroll (‘STP’). Businesses familiar with the United Kingdom RTI (Real Time Information) process for reporting employee wages and taxes will note that the STP system will be very similar. The most significant difference will be the lack of Tax Code adjustments in STP.
The salient points to note are:
Employers are required to register a new start by sending a TFN declaration form to the ATO – this is done electronically through the payroll software. The employee must provide the employer with their TFN declaration within 14 days of starting to avoid paying increased tax of 47.5%. If an employee does not provide this declaration within 14 days, the employer is required to lodge one on the employees behalf and withhold tax at the highest rate.
When employing a new start, an employer should request/file the employee’s personal information. The information you should request should include, but is not limited to the following:
Expat employees must be registered within 14 days of receipt of document.
Leavers must receive their final payment within the following payment cycle unless requested earlier by the client or at a date mutually agreed between the employer and employee. This can vary and may be stated in the award or EBA specific to that employer or industry.
If requested by an employee, a separation certificate is completed by the agent on behalf of the client and submitted to the government agency called Centrelink. This is only upon request.
It is legally acceptable in Australia to provide employees with online payslips. Payslips must be issued to each employee within one working day of pay day in electronic or hard copy.
Payroll reports must be kept for at least seven years. The records can be kept electronically as long as the records can be printed out on request.