Find out What Capital Works Are and How You Can Claim Them
Not all people buy an investment property in Australia and leave it just the way it is. Many invest in improvements, so they can charge more rent to tenants. Buying a property and making improvements to it is one of the best investment property tips for beginners in its own right. But did you know there are plenty of tax deductions in Australia that you can claim for the extra features you build?
It all comes down to capital works. Also known as Division 43 of the Income Tax Assessment Act (ITAA), capital works relates to the work and materials you spent money on to build the house.
Such costs include the following:
- The materials you use in construction, such as timber and tiles
- New extensions, such as a garage
- The construction of internal walls
- Excavation of new foundations for your construction work
- Improvements to the property’s structure, such as a new carport or fencing for the garden
- Renovations to the bathroom and kitchen
Beyond these practical costs, you can also claim tax deductions in Australia for some of the fees associated with construction. For example, you can claim for the fees you pay to surveyors, architects, and engineers. Additionally, you could also claim for the money you spent on acquiring building permits for the work.
Can I Claim Capital Works?
It depends on your situation. Your building needs to generate income, which means it must be an investment property in Australia. If the building has produced income within one financial year of your claim, you can claim tax deductions as part of Division 43 of the ITAA.
As for your own status, it can vary. You could be an individual investor or member of a trust. Companies can also claim for capital works, as can the managers of superannuation funds.
How Do I Calculate My Capital Works Deductions?
The first thing to remember is that any valuations you have for the work are not relevant. Your capital works tax deductions in Australia must relate to the actual construction costs.
There are two rates may apply to your capital works – 2.5% and 4%. Which of these is relevant to your work depends on several factors. These include when you started construction, how you use the capital work, and the type of work undertaken. Furthermore, you have to take the amount of time the capital work generated an income for during the last financial year into account.
It’s best to speak to a professional to find out which rates apply to your capital work. Making claims you’re not entitled to could land you in trouble.
How Do I Make a Claim?
You can make claims for tax deductions in Australia on any capital works for a maximum of 40 years after the construction completion date. However, you’ll also have to provide several details in your claim, which include the following:
- Information about the type of capital work undertaken
- The start and end dates for construction
- Information about who did the work
- The actual cost of construction, which is not the same as any valuations or purchase prices you have
- Information about how the capital work generated an income for you during the last financial year
Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine the actual construction costs. You may have lost some receipts along the way, which means you need an estimate. This must come from a quantity surveyor, or an independent third-party who holds similar qualifications to a quantity surveyor.
The estimate your quantity surveyor produces will consist of a schedule for all the capital works undertaken. It also creates a forecast for the tax deductions in Australia that you can claim on the work. Take this schedule and use it to complete your tax returns. Also, bear in mind that the estimate cannot come from a real estate agent or accountant. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will refuse your claims if your estimate comes from the wrong source.
How Does Capital Gains Tax Relate to Capital Works?
Any capital works that you claim must be taken into account if you decide to sell the property. You will use them to figure out your capital gains or losses.
You must deduct your capital works claims from the base cost of the home. The amount of these deductions will affect the amount of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) you pay. If the deductions result in you making a loss on the property, you may not have to pay any CGT.
There are many myths floating around when it comes to tax depreciation. Especially regarding what property investors are entitled to claim.
Below are some of the most common myths I have heard during my time as a qualified Quantity Surveyor.
NOTE: Information below regarding plant and equipment items may only apply to properties purchased prior to May 9, 2017 – Read about the Budget changes here).
Myth 1: The Commissioner’s effective life ruling must be used for all assets, no exceptions.
Truth: The Commissioner of Taxation’s ruling only applies to new depreciable assets.
In 2015, the commissioner wrote in the ruling that the effective life for new internal window blinds is 10 years. He does not mention that the effective life for second hand internal window blinds is 10 years also. So, if you have purchased a 5-year-old building with 5-year-old internal window blinds, you are not able to depreciate the blinds using a 10-year effective life.
A quantity surveyors role is to maximise depreciation deductions for the client. In order to do this, they must assess the effective life of second hand assets. And not just assume all of the assets in the property are brand new assets.
Also, it is important to note that if an asset is not listed in the depreciation schedule, it does not mean you are not able to claim for that asset. If it is a depreciable asset, you are able to claim it!
If an asset is purchased after the completion of the report, or you did not provide the information to the quantity surveyor, your accountant is able to include the asset for you.
Myth 2: If the assets in the property are destroyed I am able to claim the balance of the depreciation.
Truth: Some of this myth is partly true. The Division 43 capital works states that where a taxpayer’s capital works are destroyed, a deduction is permitted under the Undeducted Construction Expenditure rule.
However, if they receive an amount under a different insurance policy for the destruction of the assets, they are required by law to reduce the Undeducted Construction Expenditure by that amount.
Under Division 40, if a taxpayer ceases to own a depreciating asset (either sold or destroyed the item), or does not use a depreciating asset (no use for it any longer), a balancing adjustment will occur.
A balancing adjustment amount can be calculated by comparing the asset’s termination value (sale proceeds) and its adjustable value (written down value). If the termination value is greater, you include the excess in your assessable income. However, if the termination value is less, you deduct the difference.
Myth 3: Once the depreciable asset is found, you can claim depreciation on it.
Truth: Through past experiences, I have learnt that most investment home owners use their properties at some point during the year. This, however, creates incorrect figures in their tax depreciation schedule.
The purpose of a depreciation schedule is to inform a taxpayer on what they can include in their tax return. Without considering whether or not there has been private use of the property, or figuring out how to adjust the depreciation amounts to the correct sum, is at best misleading and at worse illegal.
Myth 4: All costs in acquiring a rental property should be able to be depreciated in one way or another.
Truth: This has mostly been covered by Myth 1 already. But this is the most common myth so I am going to explain it in more depth.
I have found that QSs are continually finding any asset to attach any and all costs to in order to claim a deduction, without properly following the laws.
For example, an investment property owner’s fence is damaged and the owner spends money on the repairs. The QS sees the cost the owner has spent and includes that whole sum in their depreciation schedule, depreciating it over 40 years at 2.5%. This is wrong.
A repair should be claimed at 100% in the year in which it was incurred.
Myth 5: Once I have spent money on a asset or a capital work I am able to claim it.
Truth: Under Division 40, you are only able to start depreciating an asset once it has been “used or installed ready for use”. Not as soon as you have paid for the asset.
For capital works under Division 43, you can claim deductions only once construction has been completed.
Myth 6: If I am unable to find the depreciable asset in the Commissioner’s yearly ruling, I cannot depreciate it.
Truth: The intention for the Comissioner’s ruling is to estimate the effective lives of assets. Not to decide what is a depreciable asset.
A depreciable asset is defined as an asset with a limited effective life. Therefore they are expected to decline in value over time.
Myth 7: Your assets are always deducted at 2.5%.
Truth: The rate at which assets are deducted is almost always 2.5%. However, there is one time you can get 4%.
However, there are times when a 4% deduction is applicable.
For example, a 4% rate will apply on an income-producing use of a building regarding an industrial manner.