Do You Owe Tax on Money You Transfer to Australia?

by | Mar 27, 2018 | Finances for Expats

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This week's post is from two questions about transferring money to Australia and taxes from an SMG email subscriber. I'm sure a lot of expats have the same questions, especially since we often transfer large sums of money to Australia from overseas.

Do You Owe Tax on Money You Bring with You to Australia?

The first is easy to answer and on the Australian Customs website.

There is no limit to the amount of currency you can bring in or out of Australia. However, you must declare amounts of A$10,000 or more in Australian currency or foreign equivalent. You must disclose any promissory notes, travelers’ cheques, personal cheques, money orders, postal orders, or other bearer negotiable instruments, regardless of value, if requested by a Customs and Border Protection officer or police officer.

You won't be taxed at the time of transferring the money, but will be taxed on the interest earned once in your bank account in Australia.

What About Money You Transfer After You Move?

If you transfer money into your bank account later from your savings back home then that also won't be taxed, but if that money is income earned back home and you qualify at tax time as a resident you will have to declare it on your Australian Tax return. This goes for income from rental properties back home too as that is foreign income earned according to the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

Australian Banking and Taxes

In Australia, your Tax File Number is linked to your bank account which means the Australian Tax Office has records of all your bank activities.

I would suggest opening your Australian Bank account before for you leave for Australia.

This way you can have your money transferred and waiting for you when you arrive. This will help out as far as time goes so that you are not waiting for funds to appear in your account and can jump on an apartment asap. Waiting for an international transfer to clear can take time and the real estate market in Sydney is very competitive. The waiting period may cost you the perfect flat here in Sydney.

Australian Customs and Traveling with Cash

The other advantage is not having to carry your life's savings with you when you travel to Australia. That way you don't even have to worry about customs when you arrive.

Even so, you just have to let customs know that you have more than $10,000 AUD with you.

Opening an Australian Bank Account is super easy, you can do it all online in about 10 minutes. And you can open your account 12 months before you move. I don't think anyone really plans that far ahead but nice to know.

Once you have your account details, you're ready to transfer funds. All you need is your account number, bank address, branch number, and the bank SWIFT code.

The Best Way to Transfer Money to Australia

Most banks will try and sell you on using them for your money transfers, telling you how easy it is to do.

Don't fall for it!!

Transferring money from your bank account at home to your bank account in Australia is one of the biggest mistakes people move make. They make it sound so easy that it is hard to resist.

The same goes for international bill pay. Don't even consider that.

Instead, I always suggest using a forex company. My two favourites are OFX and XE Money Transfer, both offer good rates. OFX offers free transfers for LIFE for SMG readers. You can find out more about that offer and my referral link here.

OFX is an Australian-based company, but don't worry, you can open an account with them and transfer money from anywhere in the world.

These aren't your only options as far as transferring money to Australia.

Many people really like Transferwise and, if you're located in Europe, CurrencyFair. Both of these are good options for transferring money quickly but, if you are transferring a large sum, then go with a forex company.

Why? Because you can lock in your rate and, if you choose not to lock in a rate of exchange, they can offer you a better rate of exchange.

Transferwise is great for transferring money quickly and in smaller sums. CurrencyFair's exchange marketplace is a fantastic idea, but again best for smaller sums.

If you are transferring over a large sum, over $5000 then go with one of the forex companies.

If you forget a payment back home that's due, this happens to me more often than I would like to admit, then Transferwise or CurrencyFair is a better option.

Ok, so I've added in a lot of extra info. Just to sum things up.

1. Not taxed on savings transferred, but on income earned back home if you are classified as an Australian resident for tax purposes.
2. Claim $10,000 AUD or more.
3. Open bank account before moving to Australia.
4. Transfer large sums with forex company. For small sums and for quicker transfers, use Transferwise or CurrencyFair if located in Europe.

Ready to Get Started with Your Move to Australia?

Australia Moving Checklist Download

Australia Moving Checklist

39 pages, packed full of resources you need to kick start your move to Australia. Plus invite-only access to my Private Facebook Group with over 2,200 members. The group is a great place to get answers to all your questions, from visa applications to moving with pets and schools. Join us!
Transferring Money to Australia from Overseas

Lock-In Your Exchange Rate

Did you know the Australian dollar is a commodity currency? This means the value of the Australian dollar is linked to the price of iron ore and other Australian exports. It also means that it's HIGHLY VOLATILE! When a good rate comes along, you need to be ready to jump on it and lock-in that exchange rate.
International Moving Companies

Have You Started Packing Yet?

No, not yet? Still got several months to go? Ok, but have you at least started thinking about what you're taking? Maybe even started a list? The truth is you don’t need to know what's going with you before getting your shipping quote. Why? Scheduling a shipment to Australia can take as long as 6 months.
Moving to Australia Banking for Expats

Open Your Bank Account

In 5 minutes or less, you can open both a checking and savings account BEFORE you move to Australia. There are only 3 things you need to get started.
1. Your passport and visa details.
2. Know where you're going to live.
3. Be arriving within the next 3 months.
*This link will take you to Commonwealth Bank of Australia's special accounts for newly arriving expats and migrants. Commonwealth Bank is a sponsoring partner of Sydney Moving Guide.

About the Author


Hi, I’m Lauren, and I've helped thousands of people from all over the world move to Australia since starting my blog back in 2009. You can read more about me here, but Sydney Moving Guide isn't about me. IT'S ABOUT YOU. So, I have one question for you. How can I help you with your move to Australia? Let me know in the comments below and don't forget to grab my moving checklist before you go.

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  1. foad

    Hi Lauren – i have a question that may sound a bit far fetched – but lets say i am planning to retire (permanently = for the rest of my life) in Australia – don’t know details yet -still researching – but the location is important since it will have to meet my budget over the next 20 odd years (if i am still alive ) -i am 76 now – i have tons of questions once this comment gets responses – so i really need answers from serious people – no jokers – no time wasters- this is a big move for me and i need to plan it carefully thank you
    so question #1 where can a 76 year old fogie retire safely – no racism – no sarcastic nosy parkers – just plain simple old folk kind of place – make friends -meet – talk jibberish to pass time – maybe sing old songs – try cooking – painting – ikebana – stuff like that and enjoy retirement –
    question #2 – how much will i need to bring with me or put in a bank account either here in the US or there in Australia to live comfortably without worrying about money, rent, bills etc?
    more questions after i get answers to these two main ones
    thankyou anyone

    • Lauren

      Hi, First things first, the Retirement Visa (subclass 410) has been closed to new applicants. It might be reopened, but right now it’s closed. If you are set on retiring in Australia, then you need to contact a migration agent to talk about other options. I am not a migration agent so I don’t know all the ins and outs of what other visas will work for you. Most migration agents will not charge for an initial call to discuss options. If they do, then move on to the next migration agent.

      As far as where to live and cost of living in Australia, Sydney is probably not the best option as it is the most expensive city to live in Australia, but there are many lovely, small coastal towns that would be a better fit for you. Up around Port Stephens is very nice and a slower pace of life. Or you can head south towards Wollongong or even Kiama. Outside of NSW, take a look at Adelaide, a smaller city that has a nice friendly community and plenty of American expats. If you’re after a warmer, tropical place then head north to Brisbane and surrounding areas.

      For opening a bank account in Australia, that will depend on getting a visa as you will need one to open a bank account here. Since it sounds like you are from the US, health insurance will be a factor because you are not eligible for Medicare in Australia. But again that depends on what visa you get. Right now the exchange rate is in your favour so that should help with expenses.

      For a more detailed account of rent and monthly expenses, I just updated a post about how much money saved one needs once they arrive in Sydney here. In that post I give an example of how to calculate monthly rent accurately and I give a range in monthly bill costs. I also have a post where I breakdown rents by suburb in Sydney, but again Sydney is very expensive and if you are living on a fix income, I would start looking at regional areas in Australia.

      Before researching where to live and expenses, get your visa options sorted. If you need a recommendation for a migration agent, I would be happy to give a few. Let me know.


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