Recent changes to duty legislation in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland has meant that “foreign persons” who purchase certain types of residential land in each of these states, will attract a foreign duty surcharge as determined in each of those states relevant Acts. Legislation in New South Wales and Victoria also imposes a land tax surcharge.

Most family/discretionary trusts have wide beneficiary classes. As a result, it is probable that many family trusts have a foreign person as a beneficiary. For example, the primary beneficiary’s grandchild or parents might live overseas

The nature and terms of a family/discretionary trust is such that usually a beneficiary does not have a defined interest in the trust. However, for the purposes of applying the foreign duty surcharge, the legislation in New South Wales and Victoria has deemed each beneficiary in a discretionary trust to have a 100% beneficial interest in the trust fund. This means that if a foreign person (as defined) is not excluded from receiving a benefit from the trust, then the trust may be subjected to the higher duty rates. The position is different in Queensland.

If you are going to purchase land in a trust, you should ensure that you trust deed specifically excludes “foreign persons” from being beneficiaries. Only very recent trust deeds are likely to be structured thus way