Well, the dust has finally settled on the new legislation regarding the Budget changes to depreciation that will apply to second-hand residential properties.
In this article we will dig deep into some of the questions we have commonly been asked since the 9th of May 2017, when the changes were announced in the Federal Budget.
Before we get into the nitty gritty let’s begin with a quick recap:
Property investors who acquire a second-hand residential property after May 10, 2017, that contain “previously used” depreciating assets, will no longer be able to claim depreciation on those assets. Depreciating assets, in this case, refers to things like ovens, dishwashers, blinds, etc.
As you already know, in 2017, the rule book on depreciation changed massively.
The Federal Government successfully voted on new legislation to change the way depreciation works, representing the biggest move in the industry that I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been a quantity surveyor for over 25 years!
The changes were effective as at 9 May 2017 at 7.30pm, when the federal budget was handed down. As you can imagine, they have huge implications for property investors and more importantly, the property equation, which we’ll go into later.
So, how have things changed exactly?
The best way to understand it is to break the changes down into nine simple key points:
1. If you acquire a second-hand residential property from 10 May 2017, which contains ‘previously used’ depreciating assets, you will no longer be able to claim depreciation on those assets. This refers to the plant and equipment portion of a depreciation schedule, including:
• Lounge suites
• Common property plant and equipment items.
2. However, the building allowance, or claims on the structure of the building, has not changed at all. You will still need a depreciation schedule to calculate these deductions, which typically accounts for 85 per cent of the overall construction cost. The structure includes things like brickwork and concrete so there’s no change to that.
3. Acquirers of brand-new property will carry on claiming depreciation in exactly the same way as they have done so to-date – for both plant and equipment and structure. This is great news for the property industry, because a lot of developers rely on depreciation as part of their marketing strategy to attract investors. The government resisted making changes to depreciation on brand-new property because it did not want to halt construction, which would have impacted upon the supply of new property. A downturn in the construction industry would also have a knock-on effect – if tradies are out of work, they aren’t paying tax!
4. If you renovate a house while living in it, then sell the property to an investor, the assets will be deemed to have been previously used and the new owner cannot claim depreciation on the plant and equipment.
5. The proposed changes do not apply if you buy the property in a corporate tax entity, super fund (note self-managed super funds do not apply here) or a large unit trust. In other words, you can still buy a second-hand property in a company name and claim depreciation on it. You can buy a second-hand property in a super fund – as long as it’s a large one – and a large trust can buy a property as long as it has 300 members
or more, and claim depreciation on that property.
6. The proposed changes only relate to residential property. Commercial, industrial, retail and other non-residential properties are not affected, so you can still buy a second-hand office or similar and continue to claim the second-hand carpet, exactly as you could before. You can’t do this for residential property, as I’ve explained above.
7. If you engage a builder to build a brand-new house, or do the work yourself and it remains an investment property, you will still be able to claim depreciation on both the structure and the plant and equipment items. This is because it’s brand new, and was brand new when you put in that oven. Therefore, you can still claim it because the costs are known.
8. If you engage a builder to renovate a property – or you do the work yourself – and it is also being used as an investment property, you will still be able to claim depreciation on it when you have finished the renovations. As above, this is because the assets you install are brand new, therefore you can still claim. But if you bought a property renovated by someone else and they lived in it for six months or a year and then sold it – you can’t claim depreciation on the oven and dishwasher, etc. in the future, because they have now been previously used. See the difference?
9. While investors purchasing second-hand property can now no longer claim depreciation on the existing plant and equipment, they will have the benefit of paying less capital gains tax when they sell the property. How? Well, when they replace or remove an item of plant & equipment they would have been able to claim in depreciation under the previous legislation, the opening value of the asset can be claimed as a capital loss.
In my opinion, it seems like a lot of work to get the same result. The new rules have just moved depreciation from one line of the budget to another!
The good news is that the new legislation is ‘grandfathered’. That means that for everyone out there with an existing depreciation schedule, you can continue to claim exactly as you have been doing. So, if you bought a property prior to the budget – 9 May 2017 – nothing has changed. And if you have bought an investment prior to this date, and you don’t have a depreciation schedule, there’s never been a better time to get one! You might not get these allowances again.
One final point on grandfathering; if you bought a property prior to the budget and it is owner-occupied, and then you move out after 1 July 2017 – you will not be able to claim depreciation on the plant and equipment in that property.
Those items will be deemed to be previously used and caught in the net of the changing legislation – even though you acquired the property prior to the budget. So, these changes are kind of ‘half grandfathered’ if you ask me.
You will, however, still be able to claim the building allowance in this scenario if the property was built after 1987.
So let’s start with some of the easy questions we’ve been asked.
- 1. Do these new rules apply to brand new investment properties as well?
- 2. How do these new changes affect purchasers of non-residential property like offices and industrial suites?
- 3. Can I still claim depreciation on things like the bricks, concrete & windows etc?
- 4. Can I still claim depreciation on plant and equipment items if I buy them and have them installed?
- 5. If I buy a property in a trust or company will I get around these laws?
- 6. What if I bought a property prior to the budget and lived in the property until now – can I claim the depreciation?
- 7. What happens If I inherit a property – can I claim the depreciation on the plant and equipment as well as the building?
- 8. What happens if I buy a unit that’s 3 months old where the developer has already found a tenant and is selling it “as new”. Can I claim both the plant and equipment and the building allowance?
- 9. Can I still claim depreciation on a property that I bought overseas?
- 10. What happens if I engage a builder to renovate my investment property can I still claim depreciation?
- 11. What happens when you sell the property that you bought after the 2017 budget?
- 12. Show me the numbers?! How much will these changes actually mean in terms of how much depreciation I will be able to claim moving forward?
- 13. Can I still claim depreciation on plant and equipment on my holiday home if I use it twice a year?
- 14. I have been asked this many times: “Tyron, what do you think about the changes?”
1. Do these new rules apply to brand new investment properties as well?
No, they don’t, if you buy a brand new property you will be able to carry on claim claiming depreciation exactly the way you have done so to date. That means you can claim both the plant & equipment and structure of the building. That is unless you live in the property as an owner occupier at any time after its completion, this would then mean the plant and equipment assets are deemed ‘previously used’.
2. How do these new changes affect purchasers of non-residential property like offices and industrial suites?
The proposed changes only relate to residential property. Commercial, industrial, retail and other non-residential properties are not affected in the slightest.
3. Can I still claim depreciation on things like the bricks, concrete & windows etc?
Yes you can, provided the residential property was built after 1987 when the building allowance kicked in.
You will still need a depreciation schedule to calculate these deductions. This component typically represents approximately between 80 to 85 percent of the construction cost of a property.
Now would be a good time to get a quote for your depreciation schedule.
4. Can I still claim depreciation on plant and equipment items if I buy them and have them installed?
Yes, you can, provided they are brand new or from 2nds World or the like.
However, if you buy a second-hand item off Gumtree, for instance, you cannot claim the depreciation.
There is now no other depreciable asset class where this occurs.
The new laws state that the item cannot be “previously used” in order for you to claim the depreciation on it.
However, if you buy a “previously used” lounge off Gumtree and put it in your office – you can claim it.
5. If I buy a property in a trust or company will I get around these laws?
The proposed changes do not apply if you buy the property in a corporate tax entity, super fund (note Self-Managed Super Funds do not apply here) or a large unit trust.
This is interesting and I suspect a lot more people will start buying properties in company tax structures.
6. What if I bought a property prior to the budget and lived in the property until now – can I claim the depreciation?
If you bought a property prior to the budget and it is owner-occupied, and then you move out after 1 July 2017 – you will not be able to claim depreciation on the plant and equipment in that property.
The property needed to be income producing in the 2016/17 financial year.
Those items will be deemed to be previously used and caught in the net of the new legislation – even though you acquired the property prior to the budget. So, these changes are kind of ‘half-grandfathered’, if you ask me. If you did buy an investment property prior to the budget, I would recommend getting a depreciation quote now, more then ever.
7. What happens If I inherit a property – can I claim the depreciation on the plant and equipment as well as the building?
Well, you will certainly be able to claim the depreciation on the residential structure of the building, provided it’s built after 1987. So there’s no change there – and this covers most properties.
Whilst there is no specific ruling on the plant and equipment it seems to me that if you inherit a property with plant and equipment items contained within, they will be deemed to be “previously used” and you won’t be able to claim them.
This would, in my opinion, even occur if the person that you inherited the property from, bought the property brand new.
As I mentioned, there is little guidance on this topic so it might be best to check this with the ATO if this question is relevant to you.
8. What happens if I buy a unit that’s 3 months old where the developer has already found a tenant and is selling it “as new”. Can I claim both the plant and equipment and the building allowance?
In this case, the answer is yes. The new legislation allows a developer 6 months to find a tenant and sell it as a leased investment without nullifying the depreciation claim to the incoming buyer.
This was a late change to the legislation and occurred after industry consultation between the treasury department and the property industry (including myself).
9. Can I still claim depreciation on a property that I bought overseas?
The answer is yes, you can depreciate an overseas investment property… but there are a few key differences.
The first main difference is with regard to claiming the building allowance. With Australian properties, you’re entitled to claim 2.5 per-cent of these construction costs per annum, as long as the property was built after July 1985. The rate for overseas properties is the same – but the date is different.
Construction of an overseas property must have commenced after 22 August 1990.
So, if you want to maximise your depreciation benefits on an overseas property, look for a newer property built in the last decade or two.
The plant and equipment, such as carpets, ovens, lights, and blinds, can also be depreciated as they would be in an Australian investment property but now they will have to be brand new or not previously used.
If you own an overseas investment property, start claiming the deductions, we do many reports worldwide.
10. What happens if I engage a builder to renovate my investment property can I still claim depreciation?
In simple terms yes – provided all the plant & equipment items that were installed were brand new. You will also be able to claim all the structural items installed such as kitchen cupboards, tiling windows etc.
11. What happens when you sell the property that you bought after the 2017 budget?
The Budget statement words it like this: ‘Acquisitions of existing plant and equipment items will be reflected in the cost base for capital gains tax purposes for subsequent Investors.’
This video explains the changes and also outlines our new report offering:
12. Show me the numbers?! How much will these changes actually mean in terms of how much depreciation I will be able to claim moving forward?
Well in order to understand this – it’s best to examine 3 different scenarios:
An investor buys a brand new unit or house for $850,000.
As you can see from the above chart the depreciation amount you can claim if you bought the same property pre-budget or post-budget hasn’t changed.
That’s because a brand new property is exempt from these changes.
An investor buys a residential house or unit for $850,000 that was built in the year 2000.
As you can see from the above the depreciation allowances available have dramatically reduced in the early years now.
Towards about year 8 they level out and aren’t that different. This is because the pre-budget chart on the left-hand side still shows that you can claim the plant and equipment. Whereas the chart on the right-hand side shows how you can only claim the building allowance moving forward.
The key takeaway from this is: That the depreciation allowances on second-hand property built after 1987 are affected most in the first 5 years. After that – there’s not much difference.
An investor buys a residential house or unit for $850,000 that was built prior to 1987 – that hasn’t been renovated.
Well in this scenario it’s all or nothing! Pre-budget we, as quantity surveyors, would visit a property, regardless of its age, and re-value the plant and equipment items like carpet, oven etc. In essence, starting the depreciation process again.
The Government wanted to stop this continual revaluation of plant & equipment and this will be achieved by the new legislation.
As you can see from the chart above if you buy a property that was built prior to 1987, there will be no claim at all if the property is still in its original state.
Why? Well, the plant & equipment will be deemed as previously used, thus no claim applies and in order to claim the building allowance, the property has to be built after 1987.
However, this is very rare, as most properties built prior to 1987 have had some renovation to them, whether that be a new bathroom or kitchen and those costs are claimable.
13. Can I still claim depreciation on plant and equipment on my holiday home if I use it twice a year?
This is the biggest grey area of all the legislative changes in my view and one that will require further clarification moving forward.
The Government in the Housing Tax Bill Explanatory Memorandum states that if a property is used in an “incidental way” or “occasionally used” then your depreciation eligibility on the Plant & Equipment does not stop if you acquired the plant & equipment prior to The Budget in May 2017.
Incidental Use is described as:
“Use is incidental if it is minor in the context of the overall use and arises in connection with another non-incidental use – for example staying at the property for one evening while carrying out maintenance activities would generally be incidental use.”
Occasionally Used is described as:
“Spending a weekend in a holiday home or allowing relatives to stay for one weekend in the holiday home free of charge that is usually used for rent would generally be occasional use.“
It’s a bit vague, isn’t it?
Does one week a year over Christmas nullify your claim? What about if you stay for Easter and Christmas?
What does this mean for all the Airbnb landlords out there that claim depreciation but move in when times are quiet but acquired the property prior to the budget? They went into that investment doing the maths on being able to claim the depreciation on a pro-rata basis based on the tax laws at the time?
Now if they use the apartment for an unknown time they may be disallowed the depreciation deduction.
Strangely, this Memorandum, differs from the ATO’s website which was updated on the 15th of December 2017 which indicates that “Gail and Craig” who use their property for 4 weeks a year can claim the depreciation? “Kelly and Dean” would appear to be ok as well!
Whilst the Memorandum doesn’t give a time frame… it indicates that a weekend is OK…I would’ve thought 4 weeks would’ve been stretching it?! Who knows – pick a number????
This is at a time when the ATO wants to target Airbnb hosts and pro-rata any capital gain tax exemption that may be applicable.
Hopefully, sense will prevail and if the holiday home is clearly available for rent – like 11 months over the year – it’s still an investment property.
14. I have been asked this many times: “Tyron, what do you think about the changes?”
I agree that the constant revaluing of plant & equipment items on very old properties made no sense and needed refinement.
However, I think the approach the Government has taken in disallowing depreciation on properties that are near new doesn’t make a lot of sense and could’ve been rolled out far more logically.