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.
While a property investor’s major goal is likely to be capital growth, they’ll also be looking for solid rental yields to help them hold onto their asset.
To achieve the best possible rental return, you’ll need to maximise the appeal of your property to potential tenants. But what do tenants want? Generally they’ll want a home in a good location, close to employment, amenity and public transport. These are all things you should consider when you’re buying.
But you should also drill down to who the tenants in the particular area are, and what they desire from the property itself. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do they want? Would they like an outdoor area? Will they value nice window coverings?
If you already own a property there are several things you can do to increase the weekly rent and maximise your rental yield. Many of these are simple enhancements that won’t require a huge outlay of funds.
It’s often better to focus on increasing your income rather than cutting back on expenses by, for example, being lax in your maintenance of the property. Keeping your tenants happy will pay off in the long run, as you’ll likely have fewer vacancies and your tenants will be more willing to pay a higher rent.
While you can also consider self-managing to cut back on costs, this can backfire if it’s not done properly, costing you even more out of your own pocket.
So what can you do to increase your income? We’ve put together the below list to give you some rental yield tips. Just remember, whatever you do will depend upon what your tenants want – and are willing to pay more for.
And don’t forget to maximise your deductions for depreciation, which can further boost your rental yield.
Make your rental property pet-friendly
Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. More than half the Australian population own an animal.
The reality is, however, that it can be difficult for tenants to find properties that a) allow pets and b) are suitable for pets. So it makes sense that if you allow pets in your property you’ll not only widen the potential rental pool, but you’ll also be able to command a higher rental rate. Some property managers estimate you could charge an extra $20 or $30 a week if you allow pets.
While pets can cause damage there are ways you can mitigate any potential problems. Such as having a relevant clause in the rental contract, having a vigilant property manager to regularly inspect the property, and covering yourself with appropriate insurance.
Provide modern technology
Ensure your property is well and truly in the 21st century by providing up-to date technology that every tenant expects – and demands – in a home now.
This includes having a strong internet connection, a strong mobile phone signal, adequate power points and even the ability to install pay TV.
Ceiling fans may be adequate in some circumstances, but most tenants dealing with an Australian summer will want air conditioning. Nowadays, most will be willing to pay a premium for it.
Heating can be just as important as cooling. Make sure you get a reverse-cycle air conditioner if you’re installing one and put it in the areas where it will have the greatest impact.
Offer added extras
Providing your tenants with added extras that make your property more comfortable to live in, such as a dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, clothesline or even flyscreens, can lead to an increase in rent.
Remember you’ll be responsible for maintaining and repairing any appliances, so only install something that you’re sure will be beneficial.
Furnish your property
While this will require an outlay of funds at the beginning, it could pay off in the end with a boost in your rental income and yield.
Whether or not this works, however, will depend on the market in which you’re renting your property. It’s usually best suited to inner-city areas. So, while it won’t be for everyone, it can work very well for short-term renters, such as executive rentals or student accommodation.
If you furnish your property well, with modern furniture, it can add hundreds of dollars per week to the rent.
Make it safe and secure
You don’t need to go overboard with high-tech alarms or CCTV, but make sure your property is safe and secure, with doors and windows that lock properly.
Consider adding security screens, or if you want to go a step further you could invest in swipe card security measures. Privacy is also key.
Add some off-street parking
Public transport infrastructure is improving in many places, but people still like to drive their cars.
Your property should have at least one parking space, and if you have a second – even in the form of a shade-sail carport – it will be more in demand.
Having off-street parking in inner city areas will command the greatest premium, as this is where it’s most limited.
Create more storage
Creating an extra storage space can lead to higher demand for your property and higher rents.
Built-in wardrobes are very important, but renters may also like an outdoor shed or a cupboard under the stairs. Creating storage is fairly easy to do and will likely require only a small outlay of capital.
Presentation is important, so undertaking renovations can be a great way to improve your yield.
If your budget is small you can just do some minor cosmetic work such as painting or changing floor coverings, or even fixtures and fittings in the bathroom and kitchen.
You can, of course, also do more major renovations. Such as a complete overhaul of rooms, or even adding a bathroom, bedroom or an internal laundry.
Many tenants will also pay more for an outdoor space where they can entertain. You could also consider adding a veranda or deck, but this will come at a hefty cost.
Just make sure you’ve done the calculations and you know you’ll be getting your money’s worth by not only attracting more tenants, but by adequately increasing the rent.
Charge market rent
Perhaps surprisingly, there are plenty of landlords renting their properties below market. If you’re not charging market rent, raise it, and review it regularly. A good property manager can help with this.
Add another dwelling
Adding a second dwelling, such as a granny flat, that can be rented separately can increase your rental income.
This will only suitable in areas that allow it of course and it can come with its own complications, as it may be harder to find tenants, and rent on the main house can also decrease.
Install solar panels
This can lead to a decrease in a tenant’s electricity bills, and consequently they might be willing to pay more rent. The installation costs are significant, however, adding up to $3000 or $4000, so you’ll need to ensure you can recoup this – and more – in increased rent.
Consider arrangements outside of a long-term lease
Renting the property by the room can maximise your rental return, as can holiday letting or doing short-term leases.
Beware of the possible drawbacks though, as there can be higher vacancies and more wear and tear; any rental increase will need to make up for this.
Ahhhhhhhh, housing affordability. That old chestnut. It’s a topic that’s been hotly debated a million times over! And will no doubt continue to be for many years to come.
The general consensus is that property in Australia is unaffordable. The results of a recent survey seemed to confirm this, with the proportion of adults who own their own home falling from 57% in 2002 to 51.7% in 2014.
So, is home ownership falling because Australians simply can’t afford to buy properties due to hugely elevated prices, or is it due to other factors?
Property prices have significantly grown
It’s certainly true that property prices have significantly risen in Australia over recent decades.
The median dwelling price for the combined capital cities is currently sitting over $500,000, according to CoreLogic. But prices of course range widely between the capitals. Hobart is the cheapest at around $300,000 and Sydney being the most expensive at nearly $800,000.
This decade so far prices have risen across the board by 35%, and over the previous decade they rose by around 140% according to CoreLogic figures.
But since the beginning of 2010, it’s been the two major capitals of Sydney and Melbourne that have seen the majority of growth. Prices are increasing by around 60 and 40 per cent respectively (as at May this year). The other capital city markets have seen either little growth or have fallen in value, so theoretically, in some places affordability is actually improving.
This is especially the case when you consider interest rates; in this regard 2016 actually presents quite a good time to buy with the cash rate now sitting at a record low of 1.5%; very different from the double-digit interest rates investors experienced decades ago.
We, of course, also need to consider incomes in relation to price growth. Depending on who you ask, there can be a case to say housing has or hasn’t become more unaffordable. It’s clear, however, that house prices have risen faster than incomes, making it harder to save for a deposit.
Priorities are changing
While property prices have clearly risen, it’s also the case that priorities for more recent generations have changed.
Once upon a time – not that long ago really – youngsters left school and got a job, with their primary objective being to save for a deposit to buy a home.
Nowadays, however, younger generations seem to have different priorities. They often leave school with the intention of travelling abroad for a gap year (or two or three). Or if they go straight into a job they’re not necessarily saving, but buying the latest gadgets; in our modern society it’s about instant gratification.
So does that have an impact on affordability?
It makes sense that it likely impacts on the ability to save for a deposit.
We need to consider which is the cause and which is the effect, however. Some – including a Sydney real estate identity recently – argue that this generation is simply too selfish to make the necessary sacrifices, such as cutting back on commodities such as widescreen televisions and designer clothes, to save and get a foothold in the market.
But on the flipside others argue that priorities have changed simply because it’s impossible to save the huge deposit required for property these days. So younger generations are instead deciding to spend their money on something else because property is out of their reach.
But are the expectations of younger generations now just too high? When they complain about property being unaffordable, is that because they want to buy a flash pad in inner Sydney as their first home, rather than buying something further from the city in a price bracket they can actually afford? Essentially, many want to buy what would traditionally be their last property – often what their parents have worked their way up to – first.
Add to all this the fact that renting has also become more socially acceptable. The Great Australian Dream perhaps fading a little, and we have a little more insight into the affordability debate.
Consider your options
It’s clear that the debate around housing affordability isn’t clear-cut; there are many aspects to consider. As the debate continues to rage, demands for reform or government measures to curb price growth will persist.
While Australian property prices have risen and are unlikely to fall (despite claims from doomsayers), leading many to feel as though it’s impossible to break into markets such as Sydney, there are always more affordable opportunities within each capital city if you care to look. Consider buying further from the city, or a unit instead of a house. Scale down your expectations and buy where and what you can actually afford.
And if you don’t want to scale down your expectations, become a ‘rentvestor’. This means you choose to rent where you want to live and invest where you can afford to buy.
For investors, it’s of course better to buy where there’s more potential for growth. Chances are that’s in an area that hasn’t already seen huge growth. Yet where there are lower prices with more room to move.
Nowadays, with all the technology that is readily available the best depreciation reports have the ability to be downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet or even to be imported into accounting software packages.
Our reports at Washington Brown give you these figures at your fingertips.
This means when you receive your depreciation report you can extract the numbers into your own spreadsheets or, better still, your accountant can load them straight into their software package.
This will save your accountant time (as they won’t be required to enter the data manually) which you would expect would save YOU money in accounting fees.
So, when should you split your depreciation report:
If you have purchased a property with a friend or family member, your depreciation schedule should be separated into individual reports that reflect how much you each own of that property.
This will not only save you money in terms of accounting fees – but can save your hard-earned dollars as the table below shows.
Comparison of combined and separate report:
Because the television costs over $300 it can’t be written off immediately. Read our article about items being immediately written off under $300 here. By splitting the report, the television price now reflects the investors’ individual ownership. This enables each investor to claim the television as an immediate deduction.
Every one exchanges and settles a property on different days. However, the end of the financial year only occurs once.
Your report should calculate exactly how much you can claim for building allowance depreciation, based upon the number of days you have owned the property in that financial year.
For instance, if you settled on June 30, you should only be claiming 1 / 365 of any value attached to, say, the oven or the carpet (see this post on small items and low-value pooling for exceptions to this rule). Some reports don’t do this calculation for you. This will cost you money in terms of accounting fees.
One thing I’d like to point out on the timing of your depreciation report is that you should get it sooner rather than later. Don’t wait for the end of financial year deadline when everyone is scrambling to get a report. If you have settled on a property late in the year (say around November or December), order a depreciation report right away so you can avoid the June rush. In some circumstances, you are also able to request monthly deductions, rather than wait until the end of the financial year, and having the depreciation numbers included in your tax variation will assist you.
More and more Australians are investing in property overseas due to the Australian dollar being high and some countries’ economies being much weaker than Australia’s and showing a down turn in their property markets.
But can you still claim depreciation if your investment property is not in Australia?
The answer is yes, you can depreciate an overseas investment property… but there are a few key differences. The first main difference is in regards to claiming the building allowance. With Australian properties you’re entitled to claim 2.5% 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 1990.
So if you want to maximise your deprecation benefits on an overseas property, look for a newer property built in the last decade or two.
Internal items of plant and equipment, such as carpets, ovens, lights and blinds, can also be depreciated as they would be in an Australian investment property. There is a very useful publication you can download from the Australian tax office website, “Tax Smart Investing: What Australians Investing in Overseas property need to know”.
(UPDATE: Deductions for plant and equipment items may only apply to commercial properties, brand new properties, if you bought the property prior to May 9, 2017, or some other exceptions – Read about the Budget changes here).
The main barrier to depreciating an overseas property is working out the construction costs, along with the expense of flying a quantity surveyor overseas to prepare your depreciation report. Washington Brown has a number of affiliations around the world and we regularly inspect properties in London, New Zealand, Asia, Europe and the States.
If you need a quote for a depreciation schedule overseas – please click here
Here’s a quick video I made on the topic – I hope you enjoy!