Discretionary trusts – foreign person
Where a foreign person acquires or holds residential property, duty and land tax surcharge can apply. Foreign person surcharge duty and land tax can also apply to discretionary trusts where foreign persons are beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries.
The NSW Commissioner of State Revenue issued a ruling in March 2017 allowing exemption of discretionary trusts from surcharge duty and land tax if the trust deed was amended to exclude foreign beneficiaries within six months of the exemption being granted.
The State Revenue Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2019 is currently before the NSW Parliament. If this Bill is passed, the ability to amend a trust deed to avoid the surcharge will be restricted. Once the Bill passes, the exemption is likely to be removed. The second reading speech for the Bill states: ‘the Government considers that the end of 2019 allows sufficient time for any remaining trustees and their advisers to make necessary changes to trust deeds’.
It is therefore important for trustees to review existing discretionary trust deeds and consider whether they require amendment.
In order to avoid the application of surcharge duty and land tax, discretionary trust deeds must include a clause that prohibits the trustee from making trust distributions to, or otherwise benefiting a foreign person. The deed must also prohibit an amendment that has the effect of allowing the trustee to make distributions to, or to otherwise benefit, a foreign person.
The By Lawyers Discretionary Trust deed precedents and commentary have been amended accordingly. A note has also been added to the ‘Retainer Instructions – Trusts’ precedent, to prompt practitioners to raise this issue with clients when drafting trust deeds.
See the commentary in the By Lawyers Trusts Publication for further details.