I often get asked, “Can I claim depreciation on my very old investment property?”
The simple answer is yes, but this is where a lot of investors make a mistake.
There are two components to a depreciation schedule Quantity Surveyors prepare on your investment property.
The Building Allowance
The first component involves claiming what’s called the “Building Allowance”.
The Building Allowance relates to the structure of the building. It includes things like brickwork, concrete, windows and even the kitchen sink!
Unfortunately, this part of the claim is date dependent.
If construction of your residential property began after the 16th of September 1987 – yes you can claim the Building Allowance. If construction started prior to this date – I’m sorry – you miss out on the claim.
Plant & Equipment
However, ALL properties are eligible to have the Plant and Equipment component of the building depreciated.
Some people prefer to invest in brand-new properties while others opt for older properties that they can renovate and resell for profit. So, which is the better investment strategy? New vs old property?
Depreciating New Properties / Houses
Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of buying brand-new properties and almost-new properties. And depending on your property investment strategy, you may pick up some helpful property depreciation hints for your next property purchase.
Buying new property will help investor cash flow due to greater tax depreciation benefits. Property tax depreciation benefits are at their greatest when the property is brand-new. With brand-new property you maximise your available property tax deductions which adds a significant boost to your cash flow position.
Depreciation allowances for new properties can yield big tax breaks. Investors can claim a 2.5% depreciation allowance on the construction cost of new property. Plus you’ll also be entitled to claim the full amount of depreciation allowances on plant and equipment items, such as blinds, ovens, carpets and air-conditioners, which will all be brand new.
By way of example, the owner of a brand-new property, Melbourne, high-rise unit recently purchased for $440,000, was able to claim $12,000 in depreciation in the first year.
View the video below to learn more about how new property can lead to thousands more in depreciation deductions, when compared to older properties.
How the property depreciation changes affect buying brand new property versus second hand property.
Let’s look at this in actual finite depreciation details. If you look at depreciation Table 5.1 below, you’ll see the net effect of the cost of owning a property broken down into three examples: •a brand-new property; •a property built between 1987 and 2016; and •a property built before 1987.
At the time of writing this book in 2017, the middle column is 2016 because it’s one year prior to the current year. This highlights that the property is second-hand and you will be acquiring previously used assets if you purchase it now. If you’re reading this in 2019, the middle column will be 1987 to 2018; one year less than the current year.
The depreciation assumptions are the same for every property: each one will generate a weekly rental income of $700 over a 52-week period, which works out at $36,000 per property.
Furthermore, the interest rate is 5.5 per cent on each property on borrowings of 80 per cent of the purchase price – that’s an annual interest bill of $33,000 which is the same to illustrate the net effect on depreciation property.
Each depreciating property will have other expenses at 1.5 per cent of the purchase price, which makes $11,250 annually for each property. Now, you could argue that property built before 1987 could have higher expenses, but for ease of comparison we’ve kept the same rate.
So, it’s the same depreciating scenario for each property with the net outlay before depreciation of $7,850.
Now, here’s where things get interesting, what about the property depreciation?
In a brand-new property, the depreciation in year one is $15,000;
For the property built between 1987 and 2016, it’s $4,000 because all you claim there is the structure of the building; and
For a property built before 1987, the depreciation is $0.
Depreciation on a brand-new property
You can see that the total tax loss on the brand-new property is quite high at $22,850. If you are an investor who is paying tax at a marginal tax rate of 37.5 percent and you’re making a loss of $22,850, you will receive a tax cheque back from the ATO to the tune of $8,455 – and that’s cash in hand.
However, you have physically paid out $7,850, remember? You’ve been paying $605 a year to own that property – so the net return is $12 a week positive cash flow.
Depreciation on an old property
Next, let’s look at the property built before 1987. Again, you have physically paid out $7,850 over the year to hold the property. You can’t claim any depreciation on your investment, so the total tax loss continues to be $7,850. If you are in the 37 per cent income tax bracket, there will be a tax return of $2,905.
Given that $7,850 has been paid out and there’s a tax cheque of $2,905, it’s cost you roughly $5,000 per year to own. That’s just under $100 per week to own a property built before 1987.
Depreciation on a second-hand property built between 1987 and 2017
Using the same variables, if you bought a property built between 1987 and 2017, your annual tax loss would be $11,850, so you would receive a tax refund of $4,385 (providing you are in the 37 per cent bracket). Your cash outlay was $7,850, so your annual cash outlay is $3,465. That means your weekly cash flow is negative $66, but you’ll still eventually realise a capital gain over the medium to long term.
As you can see, there are depreciating pros and cons of buying brand-new and almost-new properties, depending on your investment strategy.
Furthermore, buying brand-new property often carries the developer’s profit, which you pay for in the purchase price. If you buy something ‘newish’ – say a five to ten-year-old property – there is a fair chance that it has been bought and resold a few times. Therefore the value is now reflected in a more realistic way on the open market.
Let’s get into the tips & tricks of property investing:
1. The higher the building, the higher the depreciation
Why? Because it has more of that plant and equipment stuff that I’m talking about and this stuff depreciates faster. It also has things like gyms, pools, etc.
(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).
2. Old properties depreciate too
You’ve already paid something for it. So while you can’t claim the structure of the building, you may be able to claim the ovens, the dishwashers, the blinds, etc. because the plant and equipment is based upon what you pay for it and the effective life of each item can be a benefit. That means that if the carpets is going to last two years, you may be able to claim it over for 50% each year.
And at Washington Brown we are so confident that we actually guarantee our results. So if we can’t get you at least twice our fee in the first year, we won’t charge you!
3. Buy items that actually cost you under $300
For instance, if was going to buy a microwave, I wouldn’t buy one that costs $330 because I would have to claim it at 20% per annum. However, I’d buy one at $295 because I would be able to claim it immediately.
4. Sometimes furnishing your property can actually result in a greater depreciation deduction
Why? Because the furniture depreciates rather quickly compared to bricks and concrete. So putting things like dining tables, bedding and all that stuff into a furnished property can actually accelerate your claim to the point that if you were to buy $20,000 worth of furniture, you could possibly get a $10,000 deduction year 1 alone! But you’ve got to be smart about this. You can’t furnish all properties as it really depends on the location. This tip does not apply to all properties.
5. The actual construction cost must be used
Now that’s not a tip, that’s in the law. But what we found lately is that there are a lot of properties out there that are actually being sold close to their construction cost – certainly in some areas.
For instance, a property is sold at the original selling price of $95,000 in 2004. Our client just paid $45,000 for it. The original construction was $52,000. Now, I don’t know any other way that you can get a deduction greater than what you pay for something.
6. Utilise the residual value write-off
If you were to renovate a property that was built after 1985, you should get a quantity surveyor out before you do the renovation so that we can put some values onto items that you are about to remove and you can get a written down value of those items and claim it immediately as a tax deduction.
So if you remove the kitchen, the light fittings, the shelf screens, etc., all that stuff can be written off if your property was built after 1985.
For instance, you bought a property that was built in 1989 and in that property there was a kitchen that was originally installed and you now wish to upgrade it. If you were to demolish now halfway through its effective life, you could get a $10,000 immediate tax deduction for it! However, just remember that the property needs to be income producing before you rip it out.
So the tip here is to get a quantity surveyor out before you renovate a post-1985 property.
7. Always use an expert
Quantity surveyors have been recognised by the Australian Taxation Office to estimate construction costs where the costs are not known. Accountants and valuers for instance, are not allowed to estimate costs unlike quantity surveyors and not all quantity surveyors specialise in this service, Washington Brown certainly does.
Also, as far as I know, a depreciation report is the only tax deduction that can be subjective and open to interpretation skill. Every other tax deduction is based on what you pay for it.
8. You get more depreciation on a new property
Now let’s have a look at the difference between the depreciation of a new property versus that of a four-year old property. It’s very similar to the effective lives of the property, that in fact, you’ll be surprised. Now, most of the deduction within a property is actually related to the building allowance. However, you’ll definitely get more depreciation on a new property compared to a pre 1985 property.
9. Use the Washington Brown Depreciation Calculator
Now, this is a good tip. You can go online and check the depreciation available on your own property using our calculator, the first calculator that uses live data! You can check new versus old properties, get an accurate depreciation assessment, and the great news is that it’s free!
Now, here are some bonus tips:
Bonus tip #1: Don’t use a builder’s depreciation schedule
Builders are good at building. They miss out items and they sometimes don’t understand the design and council costs can be included. Let a quantity surveyor do the depreciation schedule for you.
Bonus tip #2: The type of materials is a huge factor
If you renovate, you might want to consider the type of materials you are going to use. For instance, carpets depreciate over 10 years but the floor tiling will depreciate over 40 so it can add up.
As another example, various types of partitioning may yield varying depreciation allowances. Some depreciate a lot quicker than others.
Moreover, we have air-conditioners and fans as examples too where the depreciation differs…
The types of materials used may vary and in turn, may change the depreciation allowance you can claim. So it pays to consider the item you’re about to install.
Bonus tip #3: You can claim renovation even if you haven’t done the work
If you buy property that was built in 1900 for instance, but was renovated in 1990 not even by you, you can still claim depreciation. You can claim the renovation cost even if you didn’t do the renovation
Bonus tip #4: Get Mobile
Our iPhone app is downloadable from the iTunes store for free, enabling you to get numbers at the tip of your fingers! This great app also works on the iPad.
If you want to crunch the numbers yourself, you need to input the 5 information below:
The year it was built
State of the finish within the property
Then, click calculate and Bingo! You can compare the depreciation deductions between the diminishing value method and the prime cost method!
And if you’re happy with the results, simply get a quote from us and give us a call and we can discuss the property over the phone. It’s all in the power of your hands!
Here are five things for you to take away today:
Old properties depreciate too
You don’t have to buy new to claim renovation
Renovation helps your cash flow
If you’re about to renovate a property that was built after 1985, get us out before you do so