Not only will foreign investors be exempt from capital gains tax on their non-real estate punts here, foreign guest workers also won’t have to pay it on their generous share and options packages either, according to the AFR.

Scrapping CGT for foreign investors has been something of a sleeper, announced in last year’s budget and only slowly making its way through the system. Crikey has been a lonely voice in suggesting foreign private equiteers will have an advantage over local businesses in their raiding as a little careful structuring could see them take their profits almost entirely tax-free.

The punters might take more notice now though with the giveaway personalised. According to the Fin, Telstra’s Sol Trujillo, the NAB’s John Stewart and the CBA’s Ralph Norris should all benefit from the tax windfall of their generous options and shares packages being tax free. Nice.

“Tax is often crucial to the structure of executive remuneration, given that the typical chief executive of a top 20 company took home some $6.8 million last year, including $2 million in shares and options for other long-term incentives,” says the AFR.

“The proposals affecting executives apply only to temporary residents. Any increase in share prices after executives acquire stock under company schemes will not be subject to capital gains tax under the rules, which are being reviewed by the Senates economics committee.”

You don’t have to be a remuneration consultant to work out what happens next – watch companies structure most of their foreign hired guns’ pay packets mainly in options with low hurdles.

Visit Australia, play with the locals, earn good money, pay no tax. Now that’s a tourism campaign that might actually work.

Peter Fray

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