Aussie Expats – The Devil Is In the Detail

 

25/06/2015 - Last month there was a case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal between the Australian Taxation Office and an Australian citizen over his status as a resident for tax purposes.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the case but what caught my attention and gave me the idea of writing this post was the information that was presented before the Tribunal. In particular the ATO used the incoming and outgoing passenger arrival cards that a lot of us don’t pay attention to and think they get thrown away after the cursory immigration interview. In this case even though he was claiming to be a non-resident for tax purposes on his outgoing (departure) passenger card he indicated that he was an Australian resident departing temporarily and on his incoming (arrival) passenger card that he was a resident returning to Australia.

 

Immigration card

 

Now there is a lot more to this case and why he failed in his appeal but it just goes to show that the devil is in the detail and if you are claiming to be a non-resident for tax purposes why you need to pay particular attention to these types of details. In a report that was tabled to Parliament in 2012 the Department of Immigration & Citizenship (DIAC) detailed how the passenger cards were processed.

  • The cards are batched into flights at the airport and sent to Canberra for scanning by an outsourced provider;
  • The contents of the cards are scanned and the images are made available for DIAC and other authorised agencies;
  • Cards are stored for a maximum of 8 weeks depending on receipt date, and destroyed once the ABS publishes their monthly data on overseas arrivals and departures;
  • Typically, the data from the passenger cards is available for retrieval within 24 hours of receipt of the cards. However, the time taken to process cards depends on a number of factors, including the location of the airport where the cards were produced; and
  • Sea arrivals are dealt with in a different manner and there can be a longer delay in processing given the time taken to batch and send the cards through. Once the cards are received, scanning usually takes place within 24 hours.

Things may have changed since 2012 but I dare say that even if 80% of the above process is still used today then its safe to say that the next time you’re arriving into or departing from Australia you may pay a little more attention to what you write on those cards.