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How to expand your Australian business overseas – tax, legal and financial considerations

Table of Contents

By Harrison Dell, Director.

With advancements in technology, globalization, and free trade agreements, expanding your Australian business overseas is more necessary than ever to compete. This expansion can offer greater growth opportunities, especially in countries where Australian products or services might be in high demand​​​.

Top Countries for Business Expansion

Certain countries are more conducive to foreign business operations with Australian owners.

The most common destinations for expanding business from Australia are the United Kingdom, the United States, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Singapore, Switzerland as top destinations for business expansion​​.

The choice of country should align with your business’s unique proposition and market research.

Head Company Location

Just because you are seeking to break into new markets, doesn’t mean you have to have your head company in that market.

Common locations for head companies are the United States (Delaware, and other states), Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE and the United Kingdom. Certain low tax countries can also be appropriate, such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and UAE freezone companies. Most of these countries are generally good places to take investment and sell the head company in the case of an exit.

Speak to any investors and get legal and tax advice before choosing the location for your head company. In many cases, a tax-effective restructure can be done to put a new foreign head company in place and should be done before expanding into new markets.

Tax and Legal Considerations for Overseas Expansion

There are many legal and practical issues to consider when opening your business up internationally:

  1. Compliance with Local Laws: It’s crucial to ensure that your business operations comply with the laws of the country you’re expanding into. This includes making your contracts legally enforceable under international law and adhering to local employment standards​​.
  2. Intellectual Property Protection: If your business has a trademark or other intellectual properties, you need to ensure they are protected internationally. This might involve filing for international recognition through the Madrid System which covers 126 countries​​.
  3. Adherence to Overseas Laws: You must comply not only with Australian laws but also with those of the destination country. This is particularly important for eCommerce businesses, where considerations like shipping rules and product legality can vary significantly​​.
  4. Establishing a Subsidiary or Branch: Depending on the laws of the destination country, you might need to establish a subsidiary or branch there, similar to requirements for international businesses in Australia​​. Tax advice is needed to plan this properly.
  5. Customs Regulations: Understanding and complying with the customs rules and regulations of each destination country is essential, especially for businesses offering international shipping​​.
  6. Export/Import Taxes: Tax obligations will vary based on the destination country and your business model. Understanding how GST and VAT applies to your business in Australia and abroad is crucial for compliance​​.
  7. International Contract Law: Ensuring that your contracts are enforceable in other jurisdictions is vital. This might involve including international arbitration clauses to facilitate dispute resolution​​.
  8. Documentation: Maintaining proper documentation, such as employment contracts and terms and conditions for eCommerce, is necessary for legal compliance​​.
  9. Privacy Policy Compliance: Adhering to the privacy laws of each country you operate in, such as the GDPR for European markets, is critical for online businesses​​.
  10. Shipping and Returns Policies: Clear shipping policies and return procedures for international customers are essential to avoid disputes and enhance customer satisfaction​​.

Financial Strategies for International Expansion

Financially there may be many considerations.

  1. Banking arrangements: Depending on your business, you may need access to local banking. Consider opening multiple bank accounts for different purposes. Certain industries, such as financial services and crypto businesses, have great difficulty getting banking in some countries and are often de-banked.
  2. Managing Currency Exposure: Dealing with currency fluctuations is a key challenge. Strategies like using forward exchange contracts to lock in exchange rates, setting up limit orders for flexible transfer dates, and quick transaction settlements can help manage this risk​​.
  3. Negotiating Contracts with Currency Considerations: When dealing with suppliers, it’s crucial to consider currency preferences and potential impacts on costs due to exchange rate fluctuations​​.
  4. Repatriating Profits: Companies like OFX can assist in developing effective currency strategies for bringing profits back home, offering competitive rates and expert advice​​.

Each of these aspects plays a crucial role in the successful international expansion of an Australian business. It is advisable to seek expert tax, legal and financial advice to navigate these complex areas effectively.


International markets can be lucrative for the right kinds of businesses, but many pitfalls mean that significant practical, tax and legal planning is required to execute on this well. This is especially true if you are expanding the business with a view to sell in the future to private equity, IPO or a merger.

Cadena Legal has extensive experience with restructuring businesses overseas to facilitate expansions. This includes networks of lawyers in local countries, assistance with banking and more.

Disclaimer: This material is produced by Cadena Legal, a NSW-registered legal practice. It is intended to provide general information and opinions on legal topics, current at the time of first publication. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Contact us here for advice.

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