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Claiming depreciation on your property is one of the most critical steps in an investor’s journey. And it’s the only deduction that can be subjective.

All other expenses – such as interest, strata fees etc. must equal the amount you have precisely paid out.

But, having an expert prepare your tax depreciation report can enhance your claim. So, here are my Top 7 Tax Depreciation tips to take full advantage of the return on your investment property.

Number 1: Maximise the Cost of Construction

When depreciating an investment property, property investors must use the original construction cost.

Depending on the property cycle, you might be able to find properties at dramatically reduced prices – nearer to the original building cost.

So the tip is to make the most of falling market conditions and search for properties where the actual construction cost is close to the current purchase price.

Remember, Australia is a big place and whilst some areas are booming, others are falling.

If you can find a property where the purchase price is actually below the construction cost, it’s hard to lose money, in my view.

So not only will you pay less stamp duty, but you also increase the chance of a capital gain.

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Number 2: Old Properties Depreciate too

When it comes to depreciating property, even second had properties depreciate.

As long as the property was built after 1987, you will still be able to claim the capital works deduction for rental property.

The purchase price of your property includes the Land, Building and Plant and Equipment.

As a quantity surveyor, we help you apportion or break down those categories.

With the new depreciation rules for rental properties, you can only claim depreciation on the plant and equipment now if the property is brand new.

Investment Property Tax Depreciation Tip

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Number 3: Use the Washington Brown Property Tax Depreciation Calculator

Tax Depreciation Calculator - click here

For the first time, property investors can get an estimate of the likely tax depreciation deductions on a property before they buy it.

So you, as an investor, can use our website, free of charge, and compare apples with oranges and see what works best for you.

For example, you might be considering buying a five-year-old property but are concerned the depreciation deductions won’t be as high as a brand new property.

Our rental property depreciation calculator Australia estimates instantly what the difference will be.

This calculator uses accurate life data collated from every inspection we do on behalf of our clients.

So the data gets more accurate with time.

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Number 4: The Taller the Building the Higher the Depreciation

Taller buildings attract higher plant and equipment allowances, and the higher the plant and equipment, the higher the depreciation.

Due to the new depreciation law changes, this rule only applies to the depreciation of new rental property.

Plant and equipment refer to necessary services within the building and items within the property itself.

Some of the services required as buildings increase height are obvious, such as a lift (transport service). Other benefits are less obvious, with fire hose reels and intercoms all being depreciable under this category.

The other reason tall buildings have a higher rental property plant and equipment ratio is the developer’s amenities. For instance, some high-rise buildings have swimming pools, gyms and even mini cinemas.

OK, let’s look at the numbers. The first thing to look at is a rough ratio of plant and equipment relative to construction cost (see Table 1).

Now take a look at how this translates into deductions (see Table 2). These allowances all relate to a $400,000 property in a capital city – and are very approximate to allow for illustrative purposes only.

As you can see, the taller the building, the more you can depreciate. But keep in mind that a tall building doesn’t necessarily make a better investment.

It often means there’ll be higher levies and additional expenses, and you own less land as well. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons… and make that final decision!

But remember, with the new depreciation rules for residential rental property, you can only claim the structure of the building on second-hand properties, not the plant and equipment (ovens, dishwashers, carpet etc.)

Type of dwelling Percentage
Freestanding house 8-10%
Unit <4 floors 10-12%
Unit 4-8 floors 20-25%
Unit >8 floors 20-25%
Table 1
Type Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total
House $7,000 $5,000 $4,000 $3,500 $3,250 $150,000
Unit <4 floors $8,500 $7,000 $5,500 $4,750 $4,250 $175,000
Unit 4-8 floors $10,000 $8,000 $7,000 $6,000 $5,000 $200,000
Unit >8 floors $12,500 $10,000 $8,000 $7,000 $6,000 $225,000
Table 2

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Number 5: Small Items and Low Value Pooling

A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, so deduct items as quickly as possible.

Individual items under $300 can be written off immediately if purchased brand new.

An important thing to remember here is that your portion is under $300, and you can still write it off.

For instance, say, an electric motor to the garage door cost an apartment block $2000. If there are 50 units in the block, your portion is $40.

You can claim that $40 outright – as your portion is under $300.

You can also try to buy items that depreciate faster. Items between $300 and $1000 fall into the Low Pool Category and attract a higher depreciation rate.

So, for instance, a $1200 television attracts a 20% deduction while a $950 TV deducts at 37.5% per annum.

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Number 6: Furnish your Property – Investment Property Tax Depreciation Tips

Furnishing your property is another way to increase your depreciation deductions as it attracts higher depreciation rates.

For example, we have calculated that a $20,000 furniture package supplied by a developer can result in an additional $10,000 deduction in the first year alone.

In addition to your other depreciation opportunities, furniture really can enhance your overall claim.

According to Rob Farmer, CEO of Run Property, a typical apartment in Bondi Beach, for instance, can attract up to $100 in additional rent per week.

But he warns that furnishing your investment isn’t necessarily the best option for all properties and locations.

It’s better suited to smaller one or two-bedroom apartments in transient areas that attract short-term tenants and holiday rentals.

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Number 7: Use an Experienced Quantity Surveyor

Our final Investment Property Tax Depreciation Tip

Quantity Surveyor Tax Tips

For starters – let’s put this issue in perspective, you have just paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a property – do you want to save a couple of hundred tax-deductible dollars on the ONLY tax break available to you that can be open to interpretation and skill?

The laws have changed frequently over the years, and each building is unique, so it pays to get expert advice.

I suggest you engage a firm that has been around for at least ten years. They will have the necessary experience to analyse your property correctly.

The ATO has identified Quantity Surveyors as appropriately qualified to estimate the original construction costs in cases where that figure is unknown.

Please note that your accountant, real estate agent, and property valuer are not qualified to make this assessment according to the ATO.

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About Tyron Hyde

Tyron Hyde is the CEO of Washington Brown Quantity Surveyors. He is regarded as one of the industry's leading experts in property tax depreciation, is regularly quoted in the media & asked to speak at conferences. Connect with Tyron on LinkedIn Watch Tyron Hyde speak at Washington Browns 40th Party