On Friday 14th July, the Treasury Office released a draft bill regarding how depreciation deductions on a second-hand property can be claimed moving forward. They also invited interested parties to make submissions.
It’s complicated, to say the least, so I’ve tried to simplify this Bill and the key points. Here are my 9 Key Takeaways from the Legislation;
- If you acquire a second-hand residential property after May 10, 2017, which contains “previously used” depreciating assets, you will no longer be able to claim depreciation on those assets.
- Acquirers of brand new property will carry on claiming depreciation exactly the way they have done so to date. This is great news for the property industry and the way it should be.
We suspected this would be the case and I believe the property industry can collectively breathe a sigh of relief.
- The proposed changes only relate to residential property. Commercial, industrial, retail and other non-residential properties are not affected in the slightest.
- 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. This component typically represents approximately between 80 to 85 percent of the construction cost of a property.
- 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.
- If you engage a builder to build a house and it remains an investment property, you will still be able to claim depreciation on both the structure and the Plant and Equipment items.
- If you renovate a property that is being used as an investment, you will still be able to claim depreciation on it when you have finished the renovations.
- If you renovate a house, whilst living it in, then sell the property to an investor, the asset will be deemed to have been previously used and the new owner cannot claim depreciation.
- Perhaps the most interesting point: Whilst 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, in summary, what you would’ve been able to claim in depreciation under the previous legislation, now simply gets taken off the sale price in the event you sell the property in the future.
Here is an example of how this will work:
Peter buys a property in September 2017 for $600k, included within the property was $25k worth of previously used depreciating assets.
As they were previously used, Peter can’t claim depreciation on those items.
Peter sells the property in 2022 for $800k, which included $15k worth of those depreciation assets.
Peter can now claim a capital loss of $10k ($25k-$15k) for the portion that Peter has not claimed in depreciation.
SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES
In my view, the Draft Bill could’ve been a lot worse for both the property industry and the Quantity Surveying professions.
It will certainly address the integrity measure concern of stopping “refreshed” valuations of plant and equipment by property investors.
It may, however, create a two-tier property market in relation to New and Second-hand property.
You can see the ads now “Buy Brand New – We’ve Got The Depreciation Allowances”.
It will still be just as critical for all property investors to get a breakdown of the building allowance & plant and equipment values so you can:
- Claim the building allowance (where applicable) and
- Reduce the CGT payable when selling the property by deducting the unclaimed Plant and Equipment allowances.
The Quantity Surveying industry, just like the property development industry just breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I believe this integrity measure could’ve been better addressed and will be making a submission accordingly.
But it wasn’t a bad ‘first run’ by the Government!
P.S. If you purchased an investment property prior to The Budget, and it’s been an investment property the whole time, you are not affected and you should get a depreciation schedule quote now.
(UPDATE: Some changes to negative gearing were made in the 2017 Budget – Read about the Budget changes here).
Now I’m not one to whinge about a system without a solution…I think the current Negative Gearing model needs some repairs for two reasons.
Reason 1 – The system was not designed so that someone could buy 100 properties, off-set those losses against personal income and never pay tax in the foreseeable future!
Reason 2 – Someone should not be able to buy a $20M house, get a terrible yield of 1-2% on such a large purchase price and offset the difference against personal income.
NEGATIVE GEARING SOLUTION
Solution 1 – Cap negatively geared property to a maximum of 3 properties per person over their investing life.
Solution 2 – Cap an individual property to the median price of an Australian property. (This takes into account the vast range of average prices across the board). So someone could buy a house in Sydney + one more in Brisbane for instance, or perhaps 3 properties in Hobart?
I’m interested in your thoughts so please leave your views below…
Dear Fellow Investors,
Cuts to Negative Gearing Stink
I get it. I get what Bill Shorten and the Labor Party are trying to achieve by cutting negative gearing…but it stinks for 6 reasons.
First, for those of you who might not know…Labor proposes to:
- Eliminate negative gearing to all residential investment properties other than new housing from the 1st of July 2017.
- Stop investors from claiming losses on secondhand properties against their wage income after that date.
- All investment properties purchased prior to this date will be “grandfathered” (meaning any current tax arrangement with your investment property will remain).
- Reduce the capital gains discount on all investment properties from 50% to 25%.
Stinky Reason #1 – How much will the budget be improved?
The latest data from the ATO shows that in the year 2012/13 property investors “negatively geared” or reduced their taxable income by approx $5.5 Bn. That’s $5.5Bn that the Government could have taxed (not necessarily collected).
Firstly, this data, the most recent available, was based upon a period when the RBA cash rate was higher than it is now.
Interest rates on borrowing have dropped since that time – meaning the losses investors can now claim will be reduced.
Back then, the outstanding rate of interest was close to 5.5%. It’s now close to 4.5%. That’s a drop of 18.2%.
I can currently get a 5-year fixed rate of 4.59% from NAB and there are many others…
If you reduce the amount investors have claimed in interest by 18% – there goes those negative gearing losses even allowing for CPI increases of other deductibles.
In order to get Labor’s forecast of $32Bn in savings over 10 years, Treasury must have predicted some significant increase in interest rates from years 6-10 right?
But let’s face it….Treasury can get it wrong – remember its forecast for iron ore prices? It was totally optimistic.
Stinky Reason #2 – Negatively Gearing new property only is risky business…
“Roll Up Roll Up”…I can hear the spruiker cry…
By allowing only new properties to be negatively geared….you are creating a “green light” situation for every spruiker to come out of hiding and promote new property to unsuspecting mum and dad investors.
Selling new property is far less regulated and commissions are rife. Time and time again I get offers to sell property to my database and receive a 10% commission on the purchase price. But I don’t.
Whilst I’d love the 10% my father lost all his super from the dodgy side of the property market and the last thing I’d want is for someone else to go through that experience.
Tip – Have you noticed spuikers generally only sell new property?
That said, not all people selling new stock are bad – currently most are good…but this type of policy might attract less scrupulous spruikers after a quick buck or two.
Stinky Reason #3 – The Reverse effect
I get it – Labor’s policy aims to increase home affordability particularly for first home buyers.
Yes. Australia is expensive on the world stage – BUT could stopping negative gearing actually inflate prices?
How? Well the first thing I thought when the policy was released was “no point selling any properties I currently negatively gear – I’m hanging on!”
According to those ABS stats I previously mentioned – there’s close to 3 Million properties that might not be sold if everyone thinks like me!
Now, I’m no Warren Buffet but I do remember one thing from economics…price is a factor of supply and demand and if you take away the supply….prices tend to head north.
Stinky Reason #4 – The elephant in the room
This stinky reason is a surprising one, and in all my research I haven’t seen any mention of it.
Whilst the Government may, in the long term, claw back some revenue if this policy is implemented, if property transactions decline, the States are going to be significantly impacted by way of stamp duty collection.
If investors hold onto stock…the building industry won’t be able to magically increase supply to make up the difference.
And if you have far less transactions, you have far less real estate agents, conveyancers, buyers agents, brokers etc paying income tax.
Stinky Reason #5 – Slippery Slope
Labor has also proposes to cut negative gearing on new share investments. This leads to a whole bunch of questions such as:
- By shares are we talking listed only or unlisted?
- How are super funds treated? Family trusts?
And back to property…
- What if I buy a commercial or industrial building? If bought in my own name it appears I can still negatively gear it. However, if that same building is part of a listed trust, then I guess I can’t. Please explain??
- Is “property” treated as land + building and plant and equipment separated? Because that’s how the CGT calculation is calculated.
I could go on…
Stinky Reason #6 – The Renovators
“New property” is not all about starting from scratch.
Don’t underestimate the amount of people who like buying and upgrading property. This has a multiplier effect in that money is being injected back into the economy through the employment of trades and the purchasing of goods and services etc.
Now I’m not going buy into the debate over whether negative gearing is for the “rich” or for the working class. I would’ve thought it was pretty obvious that those with higher incomes benefit more from negative gearing.
And I don’t buy the argument, from the Real Estate Institute of NSW, that rents will suddenly go up because negative gearing is taken away. Rent is a factor of supply and demand – not what it costs an individual to hold a property.
What I worry about is the risk/reward ratio. I think at this point of the economic cycle (China’s downturn, mining slump, drop in commodity prices and a property boom in most major capital cities around the world)… this policy is potentially playing with fire for very little reward.
I agree there are certain elements that need to be fixed to make the system fairer and here’s my thoughts on that.
PS – If you think I’m writing this article as a staunch Liberal Voter…you are wrong. I was brought up to vote Labor. In fact, my father ran for the seat of Lowe in 1975 against Billy McMahon! I’m currently politically agnostic (my father would be turning in his grave) – but times have changed!