By Martin North, cross-posted from the Digital Finance Analytics Blog
Speaking on ABC Insiders yesterday, Josh Frydenberg, Assistant Treasurer made the point that the foreign investor regulations, recently announced were open for consultation, and that a number of issues had yet to be resolved. For example, should a foreign investor pay the fee each time they apply to purchase a property (so bidding on multiple properties would mean multiple fees)? Or should they pay one fee to cover multiple potential transactions? If they are not successful in purchasing the target property, is the fee refundable? He appeared to be advocating paying the fee before putting a bid in, one fee for multiple bids, and refundable if unsuccessful.
However to decide, we need to know if the fee is simply to cover the cost of appropriate agency administration, or whether it is designed to be a barrier to transact. It is not clear for the available material which is envisaged. Administration would be a combination of assessing the credential of the individual (so once per person), and also the property (so once per property). Also, if unsuccessful, is it appropriate to refund the entire fee? After all, the work needs to be done before allowing a bid (else if you only pay after a successful transaction, what happens if you were declined subsequently, once you have contracted to purchase?)
He also confirmed there had been no action taken on a residential purchase by a foreigner since 2006, adequate data was not being collected, and cross agency communication was not effective.
Clearly more work needs to be done to design this right. DFA suggests that a foreign investor should be able to make application for approval to purchase property in Australia. This should be a licence, which needs to be maintained and renewed from time to time. Then there would be a fee payable on each property application. This latter fee would be refundable in the case of an unsuccessful sale. It would also reduce the red tape so some extent.