I have been offered a temporary (3 years) post doc in Australia with a salary and superannuation.

As an American,

  • Can I access this money? Is there a penalty?
  • Can I transfer it to a tax-advantaged American account?
  • Is it held in an investment vehicle? Can I choose it?
  • If I do not retire in Australia, can I still let it sit in an Australian investment vehicle until I am retirement age and then withdraw from it?
  • 4
    This has nothing to do with academia. If you had been offered a job as a plumber your questions and the answers would be identical. – user9646 Feb 14 '18 at 12:31
  • 5
    @NajibIdrissi are you sure? Some countries have special tax/retirement conditions for post-docs. – rhombidodecahedron Feb 14 '18 at 12:45

The comment above about non-specificity to academia is mostly correct, but there are special considerations for academics. Australian academics (including postdocs) typically receive their superannuation from Unisuper.

All Australian academics need to know that the rate of superannuation contributions varies and that there are defined benefit and defined contribution systems, depending on your contract you may not have the defined benefit option. Most Australians do not have defined benefit.

If you are a nonresident you can (and are incentivised to) withdraw your superannuation when you leave Australia, but there is a big tax. You may be able to obtain residency in order to avoid this tax, but it is very complicated.

If you are an American, you need to study up on Passive Foreign Investment Corporations. In short, this is a tax the American government imposes on superannuation. There is no way to calculate how much tax is owed. The IRS says it will take you 40 hours/year to complete the forms. Despite this idiocy, it is worthwhile to work in Australia.

I am not a lawyer. Talk to someone who specializes in international taxation and/or investments.

  • 2
    "The IRS says it will take you 40 hours/year to complete the forms." What the heck? Are they asking for an essay on how you will be using the money? – xLeitix Feb 15 '18 at 6:54
  • 2
    @xLeitix The US tax system is somewhat crazy. I stayed there four months on a student visa and couldn't even legally work. I still had to file my taxes for an amount of $0 salary, and send it by post (I guess internet is still too new) after I came back to France. With the explicit threat of refusing to issue me a visa in the future if I didn't do it. I was also lucky that my host US institution had paid for some tax software for their students, otherwise I would have had to file out the (very long!) form either myself and certainly make a mistake, or pay someone to do it! – user9646 Feb 15 '18 at 7:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.