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The Living Away from Home Allowance is one of the most popular searched terms for workers on the 457 Visa.
LAFHA may cease to be available to foreign workers from July 2012
See: LAFHA to be abolished
This tax benefit can be very advantageous to certain groups of Temporary Visa holders, and can make up for some of the disadvantages of that Visa class.
What is a living away from home allowance fringe benefit?
A living away from home allowance is an allowance the employer pays to an employee to compensate for additional expenses incurred, and any disadvantages suffered, because the employee is required to live away from their usual place of residence in order to perform their employment-related duties.
The term ‘additional expenses’ does not include expenses the employee would be entitled to claim as an income tax deduction.
Examples of employees on appointments of finite duration who will generally be living away from their usual place of residence are foreign nationals employed in Australia (expatriate employees).
The employee would be regarded as living away from the usual place of residence provided that they intend to return there at the end of the term of the transfer.
An employee is regarded as living away from their usual place of residence if they could have continued to live at the former place if they did not have to work temporarily in a different locality.
The residence does not have to be the employee’s permanent place of residence.
Employees who move to a new locality with an intention to return to their old locality at the end of the appointment would generally be treated as living away from their usual place of residence.
A 457 Visa holder is normally allowed to claim this allowance from the Employer, and it is the Employer who has to handle all the paperwork.
You do need to complete a declaration stating what your Usual Place of Residence is for each period, and an example of this is a PDF file located at:
Financial Benefits ?
The financial benefits vary depending on each appointment, and on how much each employer decides, and is allowed by the Tax Office, to allocate as the Tax Free payment towards living expenses.
I have seen figures where about $1,000 per month is paid Tax Free by the employer to cover allowable living costs. This will normally be deducted from your agreed total salary package.
This figure could be more, or even less, depending on individual circumstances.
eg: $100,000 per year normal salary would attract Tax/Medicare of $27,500 per year (2008/2009 rates), leaving you with $72,500 per year net.
With $1,000 per month set as LAFHA, the gross salary would become $88,000 with Tax/Medicare of $22,520 per year (2008/2009 rates), leaving you with $77,480 per year net, after adding back the LAFHA paid to you.
ie: Almost $5,000 per year better off.
How much is a reasonable figure for the Food component in a LAFHA claim
The 2008-2009 Weekly food component
figures were shown at the Australian Tax Office at www.law.ato.gov.au, which show that for the year ended 31 March 2008, (The FBT Tax Year period), the reasonable food component for expatriate employees living away from home was:
$206 per week for the first adult, $330 for two Adults, $370 for two adults and two children. Adults are classed as 12 years of age or older, for the full year.
HOWEVER, these figures need to be reduced by an amount that you would normally expect to pay for food at home. In 2007 this was $42 pw per adult and $21 per week per child, and does not appear to have changed in subsequent years.
The Weekly Reasonable Food Component of a Living Away from Home Allowance (LAFHA) have been:
|Household||2011 – 2012||2010 – 2011||2009 – 2010|
|One adult and one child||$301||$296||$286|
|Two adults and one or two children||$419||$412||$397|
|Two adults and three children||$488||$480||$463|
|Three adults and one child||$488||$480||$463|
|Three adults and two children||$558||$549||$529|
LAFHA Accommodation component
There are no strict guidelines concerning how the amount of reasonable accommodation costs should be calculated, however some figures that I have seen are:
Less than Six Months $700 pw (reasonable accommodation)
More than Six Months $350 pw (reasonable accommodation)
Based on the LAFHA period, and a QLD Government department at: www.frp.qut.edu.au
Applying for Permanent Residence Visa
Based on the Australian Tax Office (ATO) statement that a living away from home allowance (LAFHA) is for people who intend to return to their usual place of residence, it is logical that the LAFHA is no longer tax free from the date an application to become a Permanent Resident is made.
Refunding the LAFHA benefits
There are cases where people have claimed the LAFHA, but then the ATO do not allow the claim.
When this happens, any benefit must be repaid. I have read that changes such as selling their former home can trigger this event.
To be eligible for the LAFHA you just need to live somewhere else, and have an intention to return back to that place of abode, after the work has finished.
If an employer is looking to employ you long-term, ie: you advise that it is your intention to work with them for many years, even after your 4 year temp visa expires, then I would understand that an employer may be reluctant to effectively lie to the ATO about the intentions for the job.
But if the employer is aware that you are only with them for up to 4 years, then I see no reason why the employer would not assist with the LAFHA application, other than the paperwork involved, and maybe the Fringe Benefits Tax complications that they may have concerns about.