Thursday, May 6, 2010

Aussie overhauling taxation laws for Islamic investments

by Habhajan Singh

Australia will overhaul sections of its taxation laws to ensure they do not hamper the growth of Islamic finance products, with one of the nation's senators emphasising that the changes could come as early as the end of this year.

In a recent report, Australia Assistant Treasurer senator Nick Sherry told Radio Australia that a number of nations like UK and Malaysia have had changed tax and legal regimes and that "we do have to deal with these legal issues to hopefully draw levels and go past some of these other countries." Sherry was on recent four-day tour of Gulf countries to sell the credentials of Australian financial services companies.

The report noted that the 'reality is Australia is lagging far behind other Asian countries which have for some time facilitated financial products based on Shariah law'.
It noted that Sherry had been consulting experts in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain, on changes needed to Australia's taxation and financial regulation laws to accommodate greater Islamic investment.
"I'd be hopeful we can identify where the law needs to be changed by the end of this year and hopefully have some and well we need to have legislative change by next year," he told the radio station, according to transcripts available on its website.
The report noted that it was 'hardly surprising' that Australia, which enjoys a good reputation throughout Asia for funds management, wants to tap into the potential market.

On March 29, The Malaysian Reserve reported that the lack of regulations supportive was one of the challenges when one tries to structure Islamic finance products in Australia, but the situation is slowly changing, according to Crescent Investments Australasia Pty Limited, an investment firm providing Shariah-compliant investment products.
"We face many challenges in Australia, in trying to structure Shariah-compliant products. The laws and regulations were not designed for Shariah compliant products and we have spent significant time, effort (not to mention expense) negotiating our way in the legal system to ensure compliance with the Australia statute and common law as well as Shariah rulings," said its executive chairman Talal Yassine.
However, he noted that the Australian authorities are now paying serious attention to the Shariah compliant market.

In an earlier report on March 19, this newspaper reported Amanie Business Solutions, a Malaysian-inspired Islamic finance consulting firm led and anchored by Shariah scholar Dr Mohd Daud Bakar, was looking to expand its presence in Australia, as well as Europe, to tap the growing business opportunities in those regions.

In the Radio Australia report, it said that senator Sherry was confident as Australian banks and investment funds develop their expertise and understanding of Islamic finance, Indonesia, for one, will welcome their services. "For Australia it's not just about the attraction of investment flowing into Australia it's to assist using Australia as a base to provide products and investments into Indonesiam," he said.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on 3 March 2010. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh)

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