ABN/ Foreign Resident Withholding Variation

Ok, so I’m going to Australia for 1 month to perform in two different fringe festivals. In order to not get taxed an extortionate rate, it seems I need an ABN or a  Foreign Resident Withholding Variation form.

I’ve written this blog for the benefit of fellow fringe artists travelling to Australia, and for the fringe itself to see what we’re up against. Dead ends, brick walls, archaic systems and no help on the so-called help pages. Plus we need a fair bit of information from the Fringe itself.

So if anyone can help make sense of this, let us know what we have to do, or has a PhD in Tax, do get in touch.

I’m not planning on making loads, and whilst in the UK there’s a threshold of how much you can earn before you get taxed, I can’t seem to find that for Australia. Anyway, I was sent this email – lets see where it takes me.

If you don’t have an ABN, we require a Foreign Resident Withholding Variation from you. Please click on this link for more information on how to apply for a Foreign Resident Withholding Variation: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/PAYG-withholding/In-detail/Foreign-resident/Foreign-resident-PAYG-withholding—non-individual-entities/?page=3
If we do not have an ABN or the Foreign Resident Withholding Variation at the time of settlement, we will be required by law to withhold 47.5% of your taxable earnings.

So I head for an ABN. I check the ABN Entitlement form here and there was nothing about foreign residents. It all seems to indicate I can get one, although it takes about 20 days and the fringe has given people a deadline of 24th December…

abn 1

On the application, however, I hit several snags.



On Page 2, it asks ‘Are you a resident for tax purposes? I don’t know, so I open up the help box.

abn 2



Oooh! A page that will help me determine if I am? Let’s click on that…


Aaaand it takes you to –


abn 3


PAGE NOT FOUND. Or, what I am calling, DEAD END 1


Ok, so let’s google. Am I a resident for tax purposes if I’m visiting Australia for a month?


So, according to https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/International-tax-for-individuals/Work-out-your-tax-residency, I am ‘a foreign resident for tax purposes’.



abn 4

Ok, cool. Back to the form. But WAIT! It asks if I’m an Australian  resident for tax purposes, but not a foreign resident for tax purposes…

So..err…I click…no?




abn 5


Let’s see where that takes us.


I get to Business Information, fill it out with the drop down box stating I’m in the UK, but it tells me I need an AUSTRALIAN telephone number. Now, I’m not there until February, so I don’t have one.



abn 6

So, I’m going to have to cheat, and put the only Australian number I know down – which is that of the Fringe. Sorry Fringe.


Anyway, at least I can carry on filling the rest of the form, hit the declaration, aaaaand –


abn 7



My Identity has not been confirmed? What does THAT mean?? I go to Fix Error, and it takes me to my details page where all the boxes are duly filled in.



abn 8



Click to proceed, it takes me back to the declaration. Click to
finish, it gives me the same error – my identity has not been confirmed.


Round and Round and Round we go.



abn 9



The error message itself says to ‘check the details held by ATO or ASIC’ but…as far as I know, they don’t have any details about me anyway. And there’s nothing I can see that tells me how I can check the details anyway. So…how do I confirm my identity????

This, therefore, is DEAD END 2.



I can see no way of beating the level boss, and will have to try a different path than getting a straightforward ABN.


It’s on to a Foreign Resident Withholding Variation form. Four lovely words which I’ve read over and over again and still don’t understand what they mean in that order.


So, back to square one. I head to the address on the email, which tells you about the variation form, but not so quick to point out where it is. Scroll down and I head to

How do I apply to vary the rate of withholding?

Which I’m assuming is right?

I go to the E-form, because printing and sending one in the post just makes me break out in hives. Only this is where a LOT of people are going to hit a snag, because it’s

  • not compatible with Apple Mac
  • not supported by Firefox or Google Chrome.

Now me – being of the creative sort – uses an Apple Mac. But I also have a windows laptop, just in case. And it still has explorer. Even though opening explorer still makes me want to kill those in the nearby vicinity.

Still. Show must go on, and all that. Best foot forward. Lie back and think of England…

So I’m now looking at THIS form – https://www.ato.gov.au/misc/formflow/forms/nat11097.htm?title=PAYG+foreign+resident+witholding+variation+(FRWV)+application+(E-variation)+2013

abn 10

…which is scary because the first thing it’s asking me for is a TFN or ABN number!

I’ve left it blank, and put my entity type as ‘Individual’

But when it’s asks for my name and my main trading name, I get

abn 11

..ANOTHER request for my ABN! So the only work-around I’ve found is to leave question 6 – payee trading name – blank, which might be awkward for anyone who uses a stage name.

(Question 10 – the country TIN code, you can use either your UTR reference from HMRC or your National Insurance number)

Anyway, I fill out section A, section B doesn’t really count for me I think, but section C is where the party is really getting started!

abn 12

21 – What is the payment for? Entertainment! Obvs!

22 – What is the reason for the variation?

Errrr…..the people at the Fringe told me I needed one? Where’s that clicky box?? Ok, so in my mind, the settlement form the fringe will have tax deductible expenses (such as travel and accommodation) AND the UK has a Tax Treaty with Australia…but…does it count?

It seems not when it’s entertainment or sport.



How dare those brits come over ‘ere! Try to entertain us with their funnies and sporting prowess!

Anyway, here’s what the UK tax treaty says (Article 16 for entertainers and sportspeople)-

abn 13

Anyone understand it? Anyone? I genuinely can’t figure out what it’s saying. I’m guessing it’s saying the stuff we do in Australia gets taxed in Australia?

Lets see what articles 7 and 14 are on about…

Article 7 –

abn 14

I think I speak for all of us when I say

abn 15

Article 14, BTW, is Income From Employment. But I’ve lost the will to live so much that I can’t even click to it to get a screenshot.

But we have business expenses, right?! And this is Income form employment, so something must stand….right? I honestly don’t know, so I tick the box, and click . Because I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE TREATY BECAUSE I’M NOT A FUCKING TAX LAWYER.

So, question 22, I click Tax deductible expenses, because…I’m going to have tax deductible expenses!

But I click the Help box, and the help is not help whatsoever. In fact it says ‘If you have any questions, please send them in writing.’


And of course, because we’re working with Explorer, this has to happen!

abn 17


So I start again. Again.

Question 23 – What is the required rate of withholding?

Umm…I dunno. Google?

ATO help page says – a Company pays 30%.

abn 18

A company. Nothing about individuals or sole traders…

But still. I’ll put 30%. Because by this point I honestly don’t know any better.

Question 24 – Australia & New Zealand Industry Code. (ANZ SIC)


Again, google. Because it couldn’t possibly have a nice little helpful ‘Look up the code here!’ button. What it does have is a rollover box you need to be a speed-reader to catch, which tells you what page to go on without being so helpful as to give you a link. because that would be too easy.

But for those still paying attention, here’s what it says (please note it is giving it’s age away, and saying search for codes 2009. This forms technology is 6 years old. No one has bothered to update this form for six whole years) –

abn 19

Or just go straight to the ANZSIC code finder page, which could have easily been linked to, Australia!!!

I click to go to the next page and –

abn 20



So that’s if I click Tax Deductable Expenses.

I don’t have an ABN number because they couldn’t confirm my identity, remember?

So…the treaty? Can I click the treaty? Well..I could, but I get the feeling I need to be a sodding tax lawyer to explain why!



I’m going to pick one that sounds good. Double taxation.

abn 21

Yes, I know I spelt registered wrong. Im in the throws of a breakdown.

Section D-

abn 22

I don’t know when the first payment will be paid, I have to guess. There’s nothing on the fringe website. Same for last payment. Same for how much. Well, same for the whole bloody lot really.

32 – I take the average bums-on-seats (7, I think?), times it by the ticket cost, the performances, minus the fees being taken by the fringe, and hope for the best.

33 – Same, but I take out my accommodation and travel costs. Don’t know if I should, but I’m gunna.

Section F.

I’m genuinely stumped, but as you can see – I soldiered on and filled in all the parts I definitely knew.

We need the ABN, trading name, trading address, trading email and contact number.

And a bucket of gin.

abn 24

That’s it. That’s as far as I can get. I need the details from the fringe to continue on.

I hope this has been a little bit helpful in showing the archaic systems we’re ploughing through. If there’s any help out there, or anyone knows how I can confirm my sodding identity, that would be great!


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