Australian tax authorities force sale of foreign-owned homes

More than 300 properties forced back onto the market for breach of foreign investment rules

Story Bridge in Brisbane, Australia. Julianne Houweling/Shutterstock

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has forced the sale of 316 properties over the last three years for violating foreign investment rules, government officials revealed this week.

Nationals from countries such as China, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and Hong Kong were forced to sell more than AUD380 million (USD274 million) in Australian homes between 2015 and October 31 this year.

Other affected property owners hailed from the UK, US, Italy and Germany.

“This is the result of the government’s commitment to enforcing our rules,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was quoted as saying on Monday.

Around 144 of the forced-sale units were in Victoria, while 73 and 64 were in New South Wales and Queensland, respectively.

The ATO began overseeing residential real estate compliance in February 2015. The office has since taken responsibility for approvals of foreign investment in residential real estate and a register of foreign investors in agricultural land.

The ATO forms a crucial wing of the initiative to Strengthen Australia’s Foreign Investment Framework.

More than 1,500 penalty notices have been issued to property owners who had failed to undergo vetting by the Foreign Investment Review Board before buying their homes. Notices have also been given to those who breached conditions of approved ownership.

The 2017-18 period saw the forced sale of 131 properties, estimated to be valued at AUD133.9 million.