Making Cents: What emigrants need to know for claiming back tax

Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness

AS INCREASING numbers of Irish people who emigrated to Australia in recent years are returning home, we have decided this week to look at key financial areas they need to address.

The most important thing is to ensure that you bring back any money to which you are entitled.

Sinead Gill, communications manager with Taxback.com, said many Irish people in Australia are still not claiming tax refunds due to them.

There is huge public awareness of tax refunds in Australia and generally if you are working there you will have been advised of what you can claim back at the end of the tax year.

“The big one is superannuation,” says Gill.

Employers in Australia are obliged to make superannuation or pension payments for anyone earning more than $450 per month, low enough to include almost all workers.

“Superannuation can be a really big refund,” Gill said. And with so many initial costs involved in returning and setting up a new home, it could provide a much needed cushion of cash.

Go to the Australian Taxation office website at ato.gov.au for detailed information on how to claim.

The good news for people already home is that the right to claim back tax dates a lot further back in Australia than in Ireland with refunds allowed for 10 years rather than four.

Income tax refunds can be processed in as little as 10 working days, while superannuation refunds could take a few months.

Don’t despair if you don’t have payslips or other paperwork relating to your employment.

“It is easier and quicker with all details,” Gill said. “But if you give us what information you have about where you worked, even if it involves multiple jobs in multiple areas, we can track down your tax history. It is much easier than it was in the past.”

Taxback.com have free tax calculators on their website to allow workers estimate the refund due to them. The site will take a percentage of the refund if you use them.

Organising somewhere to live is crucial, and ideally should be sorted before coming home. It is important to note that if you have owned property abroad you do not qualify as a first time buyer and so you will have to have 20% deposit for any mortgage.

Anecdotally, returning emigrants are finding that banks look for at least six months residency before considering home loan applications.

If your intention is to rent, be aware that the Irish rental market has changed considerably. It is advisable to have a property lined up before returning as finding one could take some time.

Crosscare Migrant Project work with emigrants, returning emigrants and migrants and they suggest people start planning for a return home at least a year in advance.

In addition to finding a place to live it is also important to start job-hunting. With online sites such as jobsireland.ie and Skype interviews commonplace there is no reason to leave it until you reach Ireland.

If you are returning to study rather than work, your entitlements may be affected by your time out of the country.

In order to qualify for grants through SUSI, you need to have been resident in Ireland for three of the past five years.

In general, to gain access to social welfare, you need to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition. Migrantproject.ie explain what is required for this on their site.

If your children were born abroad, they are entitled to Irish citizenship and it will be easier if you organise their Irish passport before returning. Returning emigrants should also address health insurance. Since the introduction of Lifetime Community Rating, anyone taking out cover for the first time aged 35 and over is penalised, but there is a nine-month grace period for those coming home.

For information on non-Irish partners, pensions for older people and exchange of driving licences — the Department of Foreign Affairs have detailed advice at dfa.ie/global-irish/coming-home.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

I recommend giving free app Vouchercloud a try. This is a mobile voucher app that promises to get you the best savings for restaurants, stores and brands.

Download it to your phone and it will check your location and let you know what vouchers are available near you.

It’s a very handy app to have if you are out and about and want to go for a bite to eat. Vouchercloud will offer you a choice of restaurants discounts near your current location. It will also let you know any nearby shopping discounts.

Vouchercloud also offers a range of discounts for online shopping. Browse through categories including fashion, travel and accommodation, days out, and health and beauty.

The app provides voucher codes to use online, mobile vouchers to show on your phone and also allows users print off vouchers to use in-store. Download and get shopping.


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