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NZ needs to move beyond students, soldiers in Southeast Asia – report

Southeast Asia is familiar territory for New Zealand: it educated its elite and defended its shores.

However, New Zealand needs to move beyond students and soldiers in Southeast Asia and with ASeAN, says a report.

New Zealand needs to boost its relationship with Southeast Asia and not rely solely on China for its economic growth, the report from the Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ) says.

The report – Beyond Soldiers, Students and Sentiment: New Zealand, Southeast Asia and ASEAN – says the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is increasingly important to New Zealand’s trade routes, both in the region and through it to north Asia – including China.

“New Zealand’s economy security relies on the security of the region of Southeast Asia, in which New Zealand has both a stake and a role,” writes report author Dr Andrew Butcher, Asia:NZ director of policy and research.

New Zealand has a long history of engagement with Southeast Asia, including security and defence contributions. In education, the Colombo Plan brought students from the region to study in New Zealand, creating “deep and long-lasting” goodwill.

But New Zealand’s visibility in Southeast Asia is “remarkably low and does not appear to go much beyond the ‘students, soldiers and sentiment’ that characterised the bilateral relationships 60 years ago,” Dr Butcher writes.

The report discusses the need for balance in New Zealand’s economic ties with Asia. Economic relationships with the 10 countries of ASEAN not only “diversify New Zealand’s basket of FTAs”, but could also protect New Zealand from negative impacts if China’s economic growth slows.

Asia:NZ’s Perceptions of Asia tracking surveys show awareness of ASEAN countries is low amongst New Zealanders. ‘Beyond Soldiers, Students and Sentiment’ is the first in a series of reports aimed at increasing knowledge and understanding of the region.

In an audio interview accompanying the report, Terence O’Brien, a senior fellow at the Victoria University of Wellington’s Centre for Strategic Studies, says New Zealand needs to work hard to boost its engagement with Southeast Asia on all levels, not merely trade.

“For most of the 20th century, our international security and our international prosperity interests were taken care of by our relationships and alliances with major western countries.

“What’s happening now as we are move into the 21st century is that this marriage made in heaven between our economic interests and our security interests is actually being broken. Our economic interests now principally lie with countries that were not previously ones from whom we sought security. We have to enlarge our security-type relationships, defence relationships with key nations in East Asia.”

There are also strong people-to-people links between the region and New Zealand. Domestically, New Zealand’s population is becoming more diverse and more Asian, says the report. At the 2006 census, 11 percent of New Zealanders identified themselves as being ethnically Asian; this is projected to grow to 16 percent by 2026.

In the past five years New Zealand has had its first Asian cabinet minister  and its first Asian Governor-General. Robert Didham estimates that there are perhaps 8,000-12,000 New Zealanders in Southeast Asia, compared with approximately 50,000 Australians. In 2006 there were nearly 60,000 people born in Southeast Asian countries residing in New Zealand and about ten times that number (600,000) in Australia.

Business Money Technology

eBay to hire 1000 staff in India

In what could be seen as a good news for IT skilled staff, eBay Inc.  announced plans to hire up to 1,000 technologists over the next three years.

The world’s largest online marketplace is expected to set up a development centre in India’s software city of Bangalore, which will house technologists from both eBay Marketplaces and PayPal – an eBay company. The California-based eBay connects buyers and sellers around the world who make and receive payments using PayPal, which has 110 million accounts in 190 markets.

The new centre in India will build on eBay Inc.’s existing presence in India which includes a global development centre with over 2,200 employees in Chennai and the eBay India business unit in Mumbai.

PayPal is growing globally, says Anupam Pahuja, General Manager – PayPal. “To support this growth, we are looking to tap into the large pool of software engineering talent in Bangalore. We are committed to India as a technology hub and see India’ssoftware engineering talent as a critical driver forthe long-term success of PayPal’sglobal payment platform.”

“eBay provides technologists a combination of startup culture to innovate and product excellence culture to build products,” says Rajesh Ramachandran, General Manager -eBay Marketplaces. “The India centre plays a strategic role in global product and technology innovation.”

The company is aggressively hiring senior technologists with strong product development experience across many functions including research, platform and application development, architecture, quality engineering, product management, marketing and product analytics, user experience and design, and information security.

Those who wish to apply can visit and type “Bangalore” into the job search box.

eBay Inc. in India has been rated one of the top 25 best places to work by the Great Place to Work Institute.

Immigration Money News Work Abroad

Unregistered migration agent fined

An Australian citizen has been fined $12,000 by a Perth court for providing immigration assistance while not a registered migration agent.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) says the sentence sends a strong warning that illegal operators in the migration industry will not be tolerated.

Pacita Boynes, who was previously convicted on similar matters, pleaded guilty to 13 charges under the Migration Act 1958, for offences including making false statements on visa applications and referring people to work in breach of visa conditions.

In Australia, migration agents must be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.

DIAC began an investigation of the woman after receiving a complaint from one of her clients and found her acting without accreditation as a migration agent for dozens of individuals or businesses on temporary skilled migration matters.

She is suspected of earning more than $100 000 by charging fees to both businesses and visa applicants for migration services.

In November 2010, Boynes had to pay the Commonwealth $50,000 under the first successful proceeds of crime action for migration fraud for her work as an unregistered migration agent.

A DIAC spokesman said anyone found to be providing unregistered immigration assistance can face charges under the Migration Act with penalties ranging from two to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or fines.

“The Australian Government will not tolerate illegal operators posing as migration professionals,” the spokesman said.

“Migration decisions involve considerable financial and emotional investments on behalf of prospective migrants. Unprofessional, incompetent or unethical behaviour by unregistered individuals challenge the integrity of Australia’s visa programme and brings the entire profession of more than 4500 registered migration agents into disrepute.”

Anyone found to have obtained a visa based on fraudulent information will be considered for cancellation, and any future applications may be refused under new provisions introduced in April 2011. People working in breach of visa conditions also face visa cancellation.

Earlier, a Perth man was prosecuted in August 2011 for supplying illegal workers to West Australian businesses.

In Australia, migration agents must be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA). A list of registered migration agents in Australia is also available on the website.

Agents Outside Australia: Migration agents who operate outside Australia do not have to be registered. The MARA department may give some overseas agents an identification (ID) number. This number does not mean they are registered.

Lifestyle Money

Sponsored child embarks on brighter future

A LinkedIn search for her name brings up a profile that describes Esther as senior associate at Ernst & Young, a global professional services firm. This may not strike as a major achievement for a 25-year old until you learn that Esther could have been one of the millions of poverty-stricken Indian children who never complete their primary education.

Esther Azariah’s story took a turn for the better, thanks to her grit, and her Kiwi sponsors, who financially supported her during her education. While many sponsors get an opportunity to visit the country where their sponsored child is studying, Esther is visiting New Zealand to meet her sponsors.

Esther will be giving a free talk as part of The Compassion Tour at Auckland’s Indian CLC (Christian Life Centre) on Sunday 29 April at 6pm.

Born and raised in India’s software city of Bangalore, Esther was sponsored since the age of five as the family was burdened by the heavy debts incurred to pay her two sisters’ dowry – an illegal practice to pay money in matrimony. The situation was compounded when her family’s small business collapsed. Shortly after, Esther became a sponsored child and went on to complete both primary and secondary school.

Esther is travelling abroad for the first time to meet her Wellington based sponsor parents Gordon and Sonia Hadfield who are thrilled: “It’s not every day you have your sponsor child come to your country; usually it’s the other way around. We can’t wait to meet Esther!”

TEAR Fund events organiser, Megan Claxton, who is looking forward to the tour, says: “Esther is a remarkable young lady that has achieved so much in her life.”

The free event is one of the many hosted by NZ Aid and Development Agency, TEAR Fund. Details of other free events featuring Esther are available here

Business Money

Auckland sets out to woo China

Auckland’s mayor is leading his first trade delegation, and with his sights firmly focused on Asia, his is set his sails for China.

Len Brown’s overdue visit to China next week is expected open doors for Auckland businesses to one of New Zealand’s most important trading partners.

The mayor is joined by councillor Richard Northey and representatives from 28 Auckland businesses and organisations that will visit five cities in China.

The mission coincides with the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and comes on the back of ongoing union issues at Ports of Auckland which handles cargo the equivalent to 13% of the New Zealand’s total GDP – twice as much as any other New Zealand port.

China is Auckland’s second largest trading partner.

“We have selected businesses from amongst our priority sectors – infrastructure, tourism, education, film, biotech and investment,” says Len Brown. “These companies are from sectors that together represent 58% of the Auckland economy.

Mayors and local government officials are highly respected in China, and being part of a mayoral-led delegation will give Auckland businesses access they may not have independently.

Delegates will travel to Guangzhou, Qingdao, Beijing, Ningbo and Shanghai from April 10 – 20.

In September last year, New Zealand signed two bilateral arrangements with China – one to improve market access for apples into China and second to boost scientific cooperation on fresh water management and protection.

“The protocol on New Zealand’s apple exports into China clarifies pest management conditions and will give greater certainly for New Zealand apple exporters,” New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Bill English then said.

New Zealand also has three commercial agreements with China. A clean energy joint venture between China’s steel producers Shaogang and New Zealand company LanzaTech, which develops technology to convert waste gas to ethanol, will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions of steel making in China.

A memorandum of understanding between PwC (formerly Pricewaterhouse Coopers) and the China Development Bank, could result in greater co-operation on major development projects, including in Canterbury.

A cultural agreement between China Radio International and World TV Limited, provides new Chinese language content and editorial resources to the station, which broadcasts in New Zealand.

New Zealand and China:

A Free Trade Agreement between the two countries was signed in 2008, the first between China and a developed country.

135,062 Chinese tourists visited New Zealand in the year ending August 2011. China is now the New Zealand’s 4th largest source of inbound tourism behind Australia, UK and the USA.

Chinese students in the Auckland region represent the largest source of fee-paying students in Auckland (14,068 or 25% to December 2010).

Money News Relationships

Campaign to lure Asians to gambling criticised

A community group is protesting as a government organisation tries to lure more Asians to buy lotteries – a mild form of gambling.

New Zealand Lotteries Commission, a Crown entity, is launching a marketing initiative to attract more Asians to buy lottery tickets. But Problem Gambling Foundation is concerned.

The Foundation told the New Zealand Herald that it is “irresponsible of the commission to be targeting the Asian community as Lotto is often a “stepping stone” to more serious gambling problems.”

New Zealand Lotteries Commission was set up in 1987 to raise money for the community.

In 2010, the commission paid (through Lottery Grants) $183.3 million to various community projects including SPARC, Creative New Zealand, and the New Zealand Film Commission.

Lottery sales in the 2010 amounted to $925.9 million – roughly equivalent to the revenue of major retailers combined – Briscoes, Rebel Sports, KFC, Hallensteins and Glassons.

In its briefing paper to the incoming minister last year, the commission highlighted its strategy to increase lottery sales – by getting people to buy more often, and by increasing the number of outlets.  Currently, NZ Lotteries already has New Zealand’s largest retail network, with more than 1,000 stores located in  supermarkets and corner dairies largely run by ethnic migrants.

The commission intends to promote online gambling by launching a new website in the coming months. “The new site will be easier to use and able to be accessed by a much larger variety of devices, including iPhones,” the briefing paper says.

According to the commission’s research, 86% of New Zealand’s adult population – about 2.8 million New Zealanders – buy lottery at least once each year. Problem gambling figures for the 2010/11 year show that NZ Lotteries products were cited 202 times as a primary mode of gambling by gamblers and affected others, who received a full intervention treatment for the first time.

Problem Gambling Foundation feels that gambling leads to more serious crime. According to the Foundation’s figures, 10,000 New Zealanders engaged in illegal activities because of their gambling (2008).

While Asian community faces a growing problem of gamblers, Māori and Pacific adults are about 3.5 times more likely than adults in the total population to be problem gamblers, according to the Foundation.

Lotteries Commission has completed some discussion with Asian retail stores to explore the possibility of selling lotteries through these stores.

“One retail sector that has experienced growth in recent years is supermarkets and grocery chains featuring Asian products in Auckland … these now represent a significant portion of the Auckland retail sector, however NZ Lotteries products are not currently sold through these stores,” commission spokeswoman Karen Jones told the Herald.

Jones says Auckland underperformed in sales last year, and a key difference between Auckland and the rest of the country was its proportion of people from an Asian background.

How serious is gambling problem?

The NZ Health Survey showed that 3% of adults  had experienced problems due to someone’s gambling in the previous 12 months.

Another study found that 9% of adults had gambled to a harmful level in the last 12 months.

Over 74,000 New Zealanders suffer from inferior mental health because of gambling.

10% of the adult population are regular continuous gamblers and are the most at risk of developing a gambling problem.

One in six New Zealanders say a family member has gone without something they needed or a bill has gone unpaid because of gambling.

Loans Money

Hatch a plan for your retirement nest egg

It’s nearly Easter and what better time for taking steps to sort out your retirement nest egg. No matter your age, it’s never too soon (or too late) to hatch a money plan that will help you to enjoy the lifestyle you want in retirement.

Life expectancy has risen as our quality of life improves and on average, a 65-year-old man can expect to live until they are 85 and a woman until they are 89. The majority of New Zealanders end up relying on the government pension (NZ Super) and their savings for income during retirement.

There’s no ‘rule’ about how much you need to save for retirement because everyone is different, but putting aside some of the money you earn now will make your retirement nest egg that much more cosy.

To work out how much you’ll need, think about these questions:

  • When would you like to stop working?
  • What sort of lifestyle would you like in retirement?
  • How does that compare to your current lifestyle?
  • Will you live in your own home or rent?

If you retire at 65 you will need to have a plan that provides the income you want for at least 20 years.

Any retirement plan should include the goal to be debt-free by retirement. Pay off ‘dumb debt’ (high-interest debt such as unpaid credit cards, and hire purchase that’s no longer interest-free) as soon as possible and avoid acquiring any more.

Focus on becoming mortgage-free as soon as possible and definitely by the time you intend to stop working. Debt can be very hard to pay off once you have retired.

While being debt-free including owning a mortgage-free home in retirement is an essential part of retirement savings, you’ll want to save extra unless you’re happy to live on NZ Super alone. (For a couple where both qualify, NZ Super pays around $523 a week.)

Consider joining a retirement savings scheme such as KiwiSaver. With KiwiSaver, your money grows because your employer has to contribute (a minimum of 2%) and the government contributes 50 cents for every dollar you pay up to $1,042. There’s also the $1,000 kick-start which the government pays when you join. At 64, it’s still worth joining KiwiSaver because of the extra contributions you receive.

Review your retirement plan whenever your circumstances change so that you can continue to reach your savings goal. Planning ahead now will provide stability and peace of mind during retirement. Make a retirement plan and start building a nest egg so your retirement can be one you look forward to.

David Kneebone is a Sorted spokesperson. Sorted is New Zealand’s free independent online money guide, run by the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income.

Loans Money News Study Abroad

Tax changes to affect many Kiwis on 1 April

Changes to student Loan, KiwiSaver and Working-for-Families scheme are likely to affect thousands of New Zealanders on 1 April.

A number of these changes take effect from 1 April 2012 for student loan borrowers, KiwiSaver members and people receiving Working for Families Tax Credits.

The changes to student loans are designed to reduce the possibility of borrowers defaulting on their loans, and help address the overall size of student loan debt, says Inland Revenue Acting Customer Services Manager, Denis McDermott.

“Borrowers will get a more up to date balance for their loan, and will see changes around the length of repayment holidays if they go overseas, late payment penalties and some other aspects of the scheme.

“If you’re earning salary or wages you must add “SL” to your tax code and make repayments when you earn more than the pay period repayment threshold of $367 a week.

“If you want to pay off your loan faster, you can make extra repayments. You can pay Inland Revenue directly or ask your employer to make extra deductions.”

McDermott says KiwiSaver members will also see changes from April.

“The employer contribution will be taxed and the members’ tax credit also changes for the year ending June 2012 onwards, up to a maximum of $521 a year.”

Changes to abatement rates for Working for Families Tax Credits also take effect in April.

People can find out more about the changes to Student Loans, KiwiSaver and Working for Families Tax Credits at

Money News Work Abroad

New IRS form to affect US NRIs

Indians living in the US, like other foreigners, will be monitored even more closely for their overseas assets, with the new provisions being introduced by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS has introduced an additional form – Form 8938 – which is a Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, that needs to be filed along with income tax returns from 2012. This is in addition to a similar form that taxpayers are required to file – Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report or FBAR.

Both the forms are intended to secure more information about financial assets and transactions of US citizens and residents with respect to their overseas bank accounts.

These forms are designed to help the IRS in identifying international tax non-compliance of American taxpayers. Form 8938 asks questions such as whether the bank account was opened during the last financial year. Answer to this question can provide a prompt to the IRS for further investigation of overseas accounts.

Tax experts feel that these forms are designed to specifically track the overseas accounts in Switzerland and India. Earlier in 2011, the United States Justice Department conducted a probe into bank accounts of US residents with HSBC India, which remained undisclosed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The new Form 8938 – will have to be included with the 2011 returns, if applicable. The form is not limited only to US citizens, but also applies to US residents as well.

Who needs to file Form 8938

Certain US taxpayers holding specified foreign financial assets with an aggregate value exceeding $50,000 will report information about those assets on new Form 8938, which must be attached to the taxpayer’s annual income tax return.

You must file Form 8938  if:

1. You are a specified individual AND

2. You have an interest in specified foreign financial assets required to be reported AND

3. The aggregate value of your specified foreign financial assets is more than the reporting thresholds that applies to you

Read Form 8938 instructions on IRS website (PDF file) for more information on assets that do not have to be reported.

Indians in the US will need to incude share holdings, mutual fund holdings, ULIP and insurance policy holdings, pension plans and bank balances in India.

Interestingly, for the purposes of Form 8938, financial assets do not include physical assets like property, silver and gold. Of course, investment in gold via ETFs (Exchange Traded Fund), will need to be declared.

Taxpayers will have to disclose the maximum value during the tax year of each financial asset included on Form 8938. For the purposes of conversion, the taxpayer can use the currency rate on the last day of the tax year.

Finally, Form 8938 must be filed by 17 April 2012 for US tax year 2011.

(This is not financial guidance. Please consult your accountant for professional advice.)

Business Global Indians Loans Money

NRIs don’t need to report property deals to RBI

India’s federal bank says people of Indian origin (PIOs) and non resident Indians (NRIs) are not required to report property deals in India to the bank. This is likely to encourage further investment by NRIs in India.

NRIs and PIOs don’t need to inform the Reserve Bank of India about  purchasing immovable property in India.

“Regulations do not prescribe any reporting requirements for transactions where a person resident outside India who is a citizen of India or a PIO… acquire/s immovable property in India,” the central bank says.

This announcement clarifies the confusion about reporting between NRIs and foreigners. As per RBI regulations, foreigners are required to make a declaration under the IPI form within 90 days of acquiring a property.

“Form IPI has been, accordingly, amended for greater clarity,” says the Reserve Bank.

However, there are still restrictions on the purchase of agriculture land by overseas Indians.

NRIs can buy  residential as well as commercial properties in India, and there’s no limit on the number of residential or commercial properties they can buy.

Overseas Indians are not allowed to purchase agricultural land, plantation land or a farm house in India. Also worth noting that global Indians cannot even be gifted agriculture land.

The only permissible way to acquire agriculture land for NRIs is to inherit agriculture land.

Can NRIs and PIOs acquire any immovable property in India by inheritance?

Yes, foreign citizens of Indian origin can acquire immovable property (IP) in India by the way of inheritance. However, citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan (whether resident in India or not) are prohibited from acquiring or transferring any IP in India without prior approval of the RBI.

Can a person of Indian origin, resident outside India gift properties acquired earlier in terms of the provisions of FEMA?

Yes. A person of Indian origin resident outside India may transfer residential or commercial property in India by way of gift to a person resident in India or to a person resident outside India who is a citizen of India or to a person of Indian origin resident outside India.

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Beware of bad credit traps for migrants

Australia Day is the time when thousands of new Australians are welcomed into the country’s dynamic multi-cultural society, but a national credit repairer says the road to financial success in Australia can be a harsh one for new migrants.

Busy with starting a new life in the new country, many migrants fail to understand how their credit history can have a severe impact on their resettlement.

MyCRA’s CEO, Graham Doessel says he deals first-hand with many new migrants who have struggled to come to terms with a credit system which is far different to the one they are used to, and ultimately their Australian credit rating can suffer.

He says new Australians don’t get enough help to make the most of their finances, and to ensure they are never blacklisted once they become credit-active.

“I am seeing more new Australians caught out with the system here, being banned from new credit – can’t get a home or car loan and often from fairly small amounts in arrears on their credit accounts,” Mr Doessel says.

Australia’s credit reporting system is fairly unique in the fact that it is currently a negative reporting system. There is no way of balancing out a bad credit report with good repayments, and any negative listing remains on a person’s credit file for 5-7 years.

Once an individual is 18 and is credit-active, they have a credit file issued in their name. It is even at this early stage where some new migrants come unstuck. Sometimes in those early stages the credit file can be issued under the wrong name.

“Creditors have been known to mix up names or put someone’s last name as their first name. This could potentially open up a can of worms in terms of correct listing,” he says.

Creditors can also place a default on the wrong person’s file.

“We have a case at the moment where a lady had a default listing placed on her file which was for a male with a similar name. It wasn’t until our client applied for a loan that she found out about the default placed on her file from someone else’s account,” he says.

It is suggested that new Australians make a point of ensuring continuity with their name on any credit they take out and requesting changes to any bills or documentation which come back incorrect.

They should also check their credit file to make sure everything reads correctly.

“It’s actually not just new Aussies who are kept in the dark. Many Australian-born Aussies are unaware they should be checking their credit file regularly and that they can obtain a credit report for free every 12 months,” Doessel says.

Many people are unaware that once an account goes past 60 days in arrears, it will be listed as a default on the person’s credit file for the next five years.

A common reason people can have defaults go unnoticed is after they move house or when they go overseas for extended holidays. They fail to divert their mail, and do not receive the written notification of either the late account, or the creditor’s intention to list the late payment as a default on the person’s credit file.

Identity theft can also occur, with current statistics showing 1 in 6 Australians are currently affected.

“Identity theft is a major problem in this country, and many new migrants are not aware of the frequency of attacks, or the need to safeguard their personal information. They end up with their identities stolen, and credit taken out in their name,” Mr Doessel says.

Sometimes migrants can become victims of identity theft before they even get on the plane. In December 2010, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen warned new migrants of online scams that often leave them without a visa and at a loss for the money they have spent.

“It is vital that people are aware of fraudsters’ tricks before handing over money for immigration assistance which is never provided,”  Bowen said.

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Tax identity scam on rise in Australia

Australian tax payers should be aware of scams designed to extract tax file numbers for the purpose of identity fraud.

This could leave their bank accounts empty and credit files ineffective for up to five years, says an Australian credit information expert.

Director of MyCRA Credit Repairs, Graham Doessel says if people fall victim to this particular type of identity theft, they are at a high risk of having their credit file misused.

“A person’s tax file number is like the key to their credit file. If fraudsters are able to obtain this number, they have a crucial piece of information for building a duplicate identity in the victim’s name,” Mr Doessel says.

Mr Doessel says social networking sites like Facebook have made it easier for fraudsters to obtain the extra personal information a criminal could need for identity fraud.

“People post a whole host of information about themselves on sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, but people need to think – what would a criminal do with this information? If fraudsters already have a person’s tax file number, a simple check on Facebook for a date of birth can give them the tools they need to request replacement copies of personal documents, and use those documents to take out credit – even mortgage homes in the victim’s name,” he says.

This comes as the Sunday Telegraph reported that the practice of stealing tax file numbers has almost doubled in the past year, from 12,669 to 31,200 from the previous year.

The number of complaints made to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about the Australia Tax Office also increased almost 40 per cent, largely because of the stolen TFNs.

It reported that techniques to steal someone’s TFN include bogus approaches by phone calls, emails, letters, websites and text messages. People who share the same name and birthday are also in the “at risk” category.

The Government issued an alert on its StaySmartOnline following the 2010 financial year about bogus emails from the ATO specific to e-tax.

“New fraudulent emails are circulating which pretend to be from the Australian Tax Office. Using social engineering tricks the criminals behind these emails try to trick you into providing personal information as a pretext to receiving a tax refund. This personal information can be used by the criminals to steal your identity,” the alert says.

The Telegraph reported an ATO spokeswoman as saying stolen TFNs and identity theft was a big problem – the effects could last for years and were a nightmare to clean up.

“When an identity is stolen it can take a long time to put everything right,” she said. “A person can face financial problems if someone commits fraud or other crimes using your identity.

Other impacts may be experienced in getting a job, a bank loan or other credit, renting a house or a car, or applying for government services or benefits. “She said the ATO had established a “client identity support centre” to assist people whose identities were stolen.

Mr Doessel says identity fraud can often go undetected until the victim applies for credit and is refused.

“The fraudster could abuse someone’s good name all over town and it is not until the victim applies for credit and is refused, that they learn about the identity theft and subsequent fraud,” Mr Doessel says.

Any kind of credit account (from mortgages and credit cards through to mobile phone accounts) which remains unpaid past 60 days can be listed as a default by creditors on the victim’s credit rating, and those defaults remain there for 5 years.

Mr Doessel says the consequence of people having a black mark on their credit rating is generally an inability to obtain credit.

“Most of the major banks refuse credit to people who have defaults, or even too many credit enquiries, so it is really essential to keep a clean credit record,” he says.

By law in Australia, if a listing contains inconsistencies the credit file holder has the right to negotiate their amendment or removal.

“To clear their good name, the identity theft victim needs to prove to creditors they did not initiate the credit – which can be difficult. Not only are victims generally required to produce police reports, but large amounts of documentary evidence to substantiate to creditors the case of identity theft,” Mr Doessel says.

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India’s tax officials to review all property deals

With the growing pressure to tackle the black money issue, India’s income tax officials have aimed their guns at the country’s biggest source of black money – property.

Under scanner will be the real estate deals likely undertaken in the 2010-11 year. Indian tax officials will begin reviewing properties bought and sold in New Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR – which includes Noida and Gurgaon), extending the review to other cities later.

The income tax watchdog will be looking for cash deals in the last 12 months.

The crackdown will be carried out by India’s Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) which hopes to catch property deals in black money which are not detected by the taxation system.


Also read: NRIs can buy property in India

Also read: Rules to buy property in India

It is a common corrupt practice in India to under-report a real estate deal – show a lower purchase price so that both the buyer and seller benefits – the buyer has to pay lower stamp duty and the seller saves on the capital gains tax.

This practice is common in the secondary property market – where occupied properties are bought from the existing owners.

The difference between the purchase price and the officially recorded price is paid in cash – often using black money.

However, tax officials say that transactions are under-reported even where a house is bought from builders directly.

The corrupt practice has maintained a stronghold despite a rule that requires the registrars to report all property deals exceeding Rs 30 lakh.

India’s IT department compares the data of these transactions with the records of PAN (permanent account numbers) to identify any irregularities, an IT official told The Global Indian magazine.

The IT official revealed that it is difficult to assess property deals of less than Rs 30 laksh.

Under pressure from the Supreme Court on dealing with black money, especially wealth stashed away in tax havens, the government is keen to show that it is doing its bit to address the concerns.

Business Money

India’s Aurobindo Pharma receives USFDA approval

Aurobindo Pharma Limited has received tentative approval from the US Food & Drug Administration to make and sell Venlafaxine Hydrochloride Extended-release

These capsules are indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) and falls under the Neurological (CNS) therapeutic category. The product has a market size of US$ 2.4 billion (in 2010) according to IMS.

The tentatively approved ANDA  is currently under litigation in the United States District Court [Wyeth LLC v. Aurobindo Pharma Limited]. The product will be launched after the litigation settlement.

Headquartered in India’s Hyderabad, Aurobindo Pharma Limited ( makes generic pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Business Money Property

RBI simplifies rules for investing in property in India

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has relaxed norms and issued simple guidelines for the convenience of NRIs and PIOs wishing to invest in Indian real estate under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

This is a good news for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO), since investment in Indian real estate is monetarily rewarding and emotionally gratifying for them.

As per RBI guidelines, PIOs and NRIs can buy residential and commercial property in India. However, holding agricultural land, plantations and farmhouses is not allowed by the Government of India. Resident Indians owning such property must inform the RBI if and when they acquire citizenship of another country.

However, overseas Indians are also eligible to inherit or be gifted property in India, and in turn, can sell, gift or transfer such immovable assets to resident Indians, NRIs or PIOs.

But persons of Indian origin living in Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are not permitted to own or acquire any kind of property in India. PIOs in this category can only reside on rented property, subject to a maximum lease of 5 years.

As far as foreign direct investment goes, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry relaxed its policies in March 2005, and investment from NRIs falls within its purview. Barring a few sectors, 100% investment is allowed under the automatic route from foreign and/or NRI investors.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows are welcomed in building up infrastructure in urban locations, and Special Economic Zones, Export Oriented Units, industrial parks, hardware and software technology parks have been permitted under the automatic route for 100% investment.

Overseas Indians have been offered additional entry options to invest in Indian firms or proprietary concerns on a non-repatriation basis through their NRE Account, FCNR Account or NRO accounts.

In case they wish to avail of repatriation benefits government approval is required for the same.

Acquisition of Immovable Property by Inheritance

– In case of inheritance of agricultural land or plantation or farm house property, the RBI has to be informed.

Citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal or Bhutan are not permitted to acquire or transfer property in India. Only a lease rental of less than 5 years is allowed for such persons.

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Unsecured loans: without delay and documents

Unsecured loans are highly sought after in this recessionary economic climate.

Unsecured loans are more popular than secured loans because you don’t need any property to get an unsecured loan. You don’t need to give any documents. In many cases, you can easily obtain an unsecured loan online, from the comfort of your bedroom

Secured loans on the other hand require appropriate documentation to secure the loan against a property such as land, house or car.  In other words, you need some collateral for secured loans.

There are many NRIs or Indians living overseas who don’t have land, house or car to secure a loan. They may not have a clean credit record too. Such people can get unsecured loans which are often provided with no credit check.

If you are looking to obtain an unsecured loan, what should you do?

Many banks, non-banking financial institutions and pawn brokers provide plenty of information on their websites.

Borrowers should read the fine print on the websites and familiarize themselves with all the terms. They should visit the websites of at least three lenders and compare rates and terms.

Once they decide on the borrower, all that they have to do is fill up an online form with personal details such as name and address, income source if employed, phone number, email, postal address and bank account details.

Once the application is submitted, lenders get back to the borrowers in a very short time. In most cases the turnaround time is less than 24 hours.

There are a few minimum conditions that most people will be able to fullfill easily to qualify for a cash loan:

1. You must be above the age of 18.

2. You must be the citizen of the country. In some countries, even green card holders or permanent residents can get cash loans.

3. You must meet the minimum income requirements; high income earners find it easier to get a loan.

4. You must have a bank account.

If you have a sizable overdraft on your credit card, and are struggling to pay your credit card debt, then unsecured loan can be a good option, if you get the loan on good interest rate.

–Simon Ronster is a financial planner based in Sydney. If you have any questions about obtaining loan, please send a message.

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Can NRIs inherit agriculture land?

Manoj Mohapatra* lives in the United States. He is a US citizen with OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India). His parents own an agricultural piece of land in Andhra Pradesh in India.

They are keen to give this land to Manoj. However, Manoj is not sure whether he can inherit agriculture land since he is a US citizen.

India’s laws governing investment by NRIs are governed by Foreign Exchange Management Act. The law prohibits NRIs and PIOs (non-resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin) from buying agricultural land in India.


Also read: NRIs can buy property in India

Also read: India’s tax officials to review all property deals

However, there’s good news. This law does not prohibit inheritance of agriculture land by NRIs or PIOs.

And some more good news. There is no inheritance tax. Also, NRIs can sell the inherited agricultural land to a resident Indian.

However, they will have to pay capital gains tax on the sale proceeds.

Once this tax is paid, the remaining sale proceeds can be remitted abroad. Such remittance should not exceed US$1 million in any financial year.

This rule also applies to any other property inherited by NRIs or PIOs.

* name changed on request.

(Satyajit Banerjee is a Calcutta-based accountant specialising in NRI accounting. This article is for information only. Please consult an accountant for professional advice.)

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What are the rules for buying property in India?

NRIs have continued to buy and sell houses in India despite the global economic crisis in the recent years. In fact, NRIs have used the gloomy global scenario to their advantage to secure bargain properties in India.

As India Inc continues its success story, and while the country maintains its economic growth prospects, more Indians living abroad are exploring opportunities to invest in India.

Before investing in the real estate in India, it is important to know the rules and regulations governing property investment in India by NRIs or people of Indian origin.

Which law governs NRIs

India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act, 2000 (FEMA, previously known as FERA – Foreign Exchange Regulations Act) provides rules for investment in properties by non-residents. This includes non-resident Indians, persons of Indian origin and other foreign nationals to hold, acquire or sell immovable property in India. The rules apply to divestment as well as investement. Keeping in mind their Indian origin, non-resident Indians (NRIs) and persons of Indian origin (PIOs) have special privileges under FEMA.


Also read: NRIs can buy property in India

Also read: India’s tax officials to review all property deals

Who is an NRI

It is important to understand the difference between an NRI and a PIO. An NRI or non-resident Indian is a citizen of India who is currently living outside India.

A Person of Indian origin (PIO) on the other hand, is someone who is not necessarily a citizen of India but someone who has held an Indian passport at some stage in the past.

A PIO is also someone who was (or whose parents or grandparents were) a citizen of India by virtue of the Constitution of India or the Citizenship Act, 1955.

This provision does not apply to the citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China or Iran.

What type of property can I buy in India?

The law gives general permission to NRIs and PIOs to buy immovable property in India. This permission is available only for buying residential or commercial property. It does not apply to buying or selling of agricultural land, plantation property or a farmhouse in India. Such properties can be bought or sold with a specific approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

A foreign national resident in India who is a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal or Bhutan would require RBI’s approval before investing.

Can I take the proceeds out of India?

Yes, you can, provided you use the right mode of remittance. An NRI or PIO can remit the proceeds using normal banking channels, or through funds held in a non-resident external account (NRE account)/foreign currency non-resident (B) account (FCNR(B) account)/non-resident ordinary rupee account (NRO account) maintained in India.

You cannot make a payment using traveller’s cheques or foreign currency notes. Also, you cannot make payment outside India.

If the original investment amount has been received from inward remittance or debit to an NRE/FCNR(B)/NRO account for buying a house or for loan repayment, then the principal amount can be repatriated outside India.

If an NRI or PIO buys properties using foreign exchange, then he can repatriate sales proceeds of only two such properties when he sells them. The NRI will need to credit the additional capital gains to the NRO account and then repatriate up to US$1 million in any one financial year, after any due taxes have been paid.

Citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Afghanistan and Iran have to seek specific approval from the RBI for repatriation of sale proceeds of immovable property.

Who can I sell the property to?

An NRI or PIO can sell property in India to a person resident in India or to an NRI or PIO. Other types of sellers need an RBI approval.

A PIO or NRI can sell agricultural land, plantation property or farmhouse to a citizen of India without RBI approval. However, foreign nationals of non-Indian origin living outside India need RBI approval to sell agricultural property in the country.

(Satyajit Banerjee is a Calcutta-based accountant specialising in NRI accounting. This article is for information only. Please consult an accountant for professional advice.)

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NRIs can buy property in India

With India’s booming property market, and improving job prospects, many NRIs are keen to buy a house or commercial property in India, and become part of India’s success story.

As per RBI rules, NRIs or persons of Indian origin (PIO) are permitted to buy and sell properties in India. However, it is important to understand what is allowed and what isn’t.

Who is an NRI

To understand who is an NRI for the purposes of investment, we must see who is a person resident in India.

The remittance of money to and from India is governed by the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), which defines person resident in India as a person residing in India for more than 182 days during the course of the previous financial year.

According to this definition, it does not include a person who has gone out of India for job, business or vocation, or for any other purpose for an uncertain period.

Not just that. A person who has come to stay in India other than on employment, business or vocation, or for any other purpose for an uncertain period is a resident of India. As such, any person who does not meet this definition is an NRI. Basically, an NRI as someone who is not resident in India.

I am an NRI, can I buy property in India?

Yes, if you meet the NRI definition just discussed. You can not only buy but also sell property in India, as long as the transaction is carried out in compliance with the FEMA.

These provisions are simple to follow. Buy the house or property with a registered conveyance deed. You can also buy it on a power of attorney, when an agreement to sell and a power of attorney are executed by the seller in favour of the buyer.

Do I need to get RBI permission?

No. You don’t have to seek permission from India’s federal bank to buy residential or commercial property in India.

Whether resident in India or abroad, foreign citizens of Indian origin have RBI’s blanket permission to buy property in India. This permission is subject to certain conditions.

The property must be for their bona fide residential purposes of the buyer. Also, the buyer must pay either out of inward remittances in foreign exchange through normal banking channels or out of funds in a NRE or FCNR account maintained with a bank in India.

There is one more condition – declaration. The buyer has to file a declaration with the RBI’s head office in Mumbai within 90 days from the date of purchase of the property or final payment of amount.

Such declaration should include a certified copy of the document evidencing the transaction and bank certificate regarding the amount paid.

Now I want to sell my house in India

India’s federal bank (RBI) has made this also a breeze. NRIs can sell their property in India subject to certain conditions. If the property is bought by another foreign citizen of Indian origin, the purchase consideration should be either remitted to India or paid out of the balance in a NRE or FCNR account.

Can I remit the sale proceeds outside India?

Yes, you can take the sale proceeds outside India if:

  • the amount does not exceed the amount paid to buy the property in foreign exchange received from overseas,
  • the amount paid from a FCNR account, or
  • the foreign currency equivalent of the amount paid from funds held in a NRE account.

In relation to residential properties, the RBI considers applications for repatriation of sale proceeds up to the consideration amount remitted in foreign exchange for the acquisition of two properties.

If the sales proceeds exceed the amount brought into the country to buy the house, then the excess of sale proceeds are to be credited to an ordinary non-resident rupee account of the owner of the property.

But wait. There’s one more provision to consider. You can repatriate funds if the sale takes place after three years from the date of final purchase deed or from the date of payment of final instalment, whichever is later.

What about house as a gift?

NRIs, PIOs or foreign citizens of Indian origin can receive a house as a gift. They can also gift a house in India. But only two houses at the most.

The gift can be received from or given to a relative who may be an Indian citizen or a person of Indian origin whether living in India or not. Of course, they have to follow the tax laws of the country.

Can I get a loan to buy a house in India?

Of course you can. Again, the apex bank (RBI) has allowed a selected housing finance banks to provide housing loans to non resident Indians. The loan is avialble for buying a house for self-use.

As per RBI rules, the nature and amount of the loan will be similar to those for residents. The maximum repayment period allowed in 15 years.

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What are tax rates on bank interest for NRIs?

Mrunal Paranjape* lives in the United States and invests her money in Mumbai in India. These are investments in bank deposits in India.

However, her bank is deducting TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) which is very high. She is also keen to expand her portfolio and diversify into mutual funds and property investment in India, but is unsure how much tax she will pay.


Also read: NRIs can buy property in India

Also read: India’s tax officials to review all property deals

She seems to be maintaining an NRO account which attracts TDS. She cannot save tax by filing form 15G which only resident Indians can file. The best way to save tax is by filing an annual return, and claim refund if the final tax payable is less than TDS.

What about mutual funds?

Indian tax rules encourage investments in equity-oriented mutual funds. As such, tax rates are lower for equity-oriented MFs. An equity-oriented mutual fund is one where the investments are 65% or more in domestic equity shares.

Long-term equity-oriented MFs (more than 12 months) are tax free. However short-term MFs attract capital gains tax of 15 percent.

However, non-equity-oriented mutual funds attract a higher capital gains tax of 20 percent after reducing indexed cost or at 10 percent after reducing actual cost without indexation, whichever is lower.

But the good news is – dividends from mutual funds are tax-free. But you will still pay a dividend distribution tax of 12.5 percent if you have invested in a non-equity oriented mutual fund.

What about property investment?

You can save tax if you use property investment as a long term asset – an asset that you own for more than three years. Such long-term property attracts a capital gains tax of 20 percent after reducing indexed cost from the sale proceeds, similar to mutual funds. However, you cannot use the 10 percent option like mutual funds.

What about tax in the United States?

Mrunal will have to pay tax in her host country – the United States – on all the income she earns in the US as well as outside US, which includes all the income from her investments in India.

* name changed on request

(Satyajit Banerjee is a Calcutta-based accountant specialising in NRI accounting. This article is for information only. Please consult an accountant for professional advice.)