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The Australian National University

Taxing Sovereign Wealth Funds: Looking to Singapore for Inspiration

Sally-Ann Joseph (2017) 45 (1)

The taxation of sovereign wealth funds is an important issue for governments as they are both investors and need to attract investment. Operating in global markets, how these funds are taxed can affect investment location decisions. In Australia there are currently no legislative provisions for these investments and issues of residency, applicability and terminology hamper the use of tax treaties.
The basis of how sovereign wealth funds are taxed in Australia is administrative where tax exemptions are provided on the basis of private ruling applications. It is an inefficient and costly process which lacks certainty. Over the period 2009 to 2011 the government of the day proposed legislating its practices dealing with sovereign wealth funds. In 2010 Singapore introduced a fund exemption scheme, markedly different from that proposed in Australia. Yet it is a method that is able to be adapted to the Australian income tax legislation. It avoids definitional issues by targeting the entities the policy aims to cover, is compatible with a self-assessment system and provides flexibility in policy making. Recommendations with accompanying considerations are made with respect to incorporating Singapore’s tax exemption for sovereign wealth funds into the Australian tax legislation.

Vol 45, Issue 1, 2017

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