What a load of Scrap!

Whenever I am delivering a presentation or conducting a webinar, I always make sure to leave time for a 30 min Q&A session at the end.

In most Q&A sessions, the topic that by-far receives the most queries has to do with the concept of “scrapping” in relation to property tax depreciation.

Claiming the Residual Value on items that are about to removed can significantly increase your tax depreciation deductions. The problem is that many investors who renovate miss out on this due to a lack of awareness.

It’s important to understand the basics of property depreciation before diving into the subject of scrapping so, let’s have a quick re-cap into what property depreciation is all about.

What is Property Depreciation?

Just like you claim wear and tear on a car purchased for income producing purposes, you can also claim the depreciation of your investment property against your taxable income. Depreciation Calculator

There are two types of depreciation allowances available: depreciation on Plant and Equipment Assets and the Capital Works deductions.

Whilst both of these costs can be offset against your assessable income, the property must be used for income-generating purposes. It is also important to note that to be eligible to claim on the Capital Works component, a residential property needs to have been built after the 18th of July 1985.

So what is scrapping and why is it a hot topic for property investors?

Put simply, scrapping is the ability to claim deductions on items within your investment property that you are about to throw away.

Engaging a qualified Quantity Surveying firm will ensure that you do not miss out on claiming any eligible residual value of these items as a depreciation deduction. This value can be claimed immediately in whole, once the items have been removed.

The reason it’s such a hot topic is due to the fact that these deductions can often add up to thousands of dollars.

There is one major caveat though. In order to claim the residual value on these items, your rental property must be producing an assessable income prior to the disposal.

There is no clear guideline on how long the property needs to be rented out for though, just that is was producing an assessable income.

scrapping schedule

There are two ways we can assess the scrapping allowances of an investment property.

Option 1 – Only depreciable assets can be scrapped

(This means the building was built before 1985 and no residual capital works deductions are available)

For Division 40 depreciable assets, if a taxpayer ceases to hold a depreciating asset (sold or destroyed) or ceases to use a depreciating asset (doesn’t need it anymore) a “balancing adjustment” will occur.

You work out the balancing adjustment amount by comparing the asset’s termination value (sales proceeds) and its adjustable value.

If the termination value is greater, you include the excess in your assessable income but if the termination value is less, you deduct the difference.

These deductions can add up quickly. Even if only in relation to depreciable assets.

Let’s crunch some numbers:

Joan Smith settles on a property for $650,000 on Oct 15 2015, the property had a long term tenant in place, who had agreed to stay for another 6 months. The property was 19.5 years old when she settled on it. Depreciation Quote Schedule

Washington Brown inspected the property on Oct 15 2015 and assigned the following values to the depreciable assets listed

below:

Oven $  625, Carpets $ 1536, Blinds $  885, Range Hood $  475 & Dishwasher $  558

Joan decides, voluntarily, to upgrade the apartment so that she can attract a higher quality tenant. At the end of the lease, when the tenant moved out, Joan replaced the items above.

Joan can claim the full depreciable amount of $4079 in her 2015/2016 tax return for these items that she is removing.

In addition, Joan has spent $8,555 replacing the items above, she can now start to claim these new items based upon their individual depreciation rate.

Option 2 – Depreciable Assets and & Capital Works deduction can be scrapped.

If you start moving walls or replacing kitchens in buildings built after 1987: your claim has the potential to be huge!

And let’s face it, it’s not that unusual to want to update a 20 year old kitchen.

Now let’s crunch the numbers on a situation where Joan renovated the kitchen and bathroom as well:

Capital Work item Cost in  1995 Residual Value in 2015
Kitchen Cupboards $7,750 $3,875
Kitchen Benchtop $2,500 $1,250
Plumbing Bathroom & Kitchen $6,375 $3,188
Electrical Bathroom & Kitchen $4,750 $2,375
Tiling Kitchen & Bathroom $8,750 $4,375
Ceilings $850 $425
Render $655 $328

The items above have been depreciated at 2.5% per annum for 20 years. That equates to 50% left of the value that can be claimed as an immediate deduction when removed in 2016.

That’s the tidy sum of $15,816.00 as an immediate tax depreciation deduction!

One thing that needs to be considered when calculating the amount of deductions available, is whether you or another person was not allowed a deduction for capital works.

“It’s complicated” but here the method statement from the Income Tax Assessment ACT:

The amount of the balancing deduction

Method statement

Step 1.    Calculate the amount (if any) by which the * undeducted construction expenditure for the part of * your area that was destroyed exceeds the amounts you have received or have a right to receive for the destruction of that part.

Step 2.    Reduce the amount at Step 1 if one or more of these happened to that part of * your area:

           (a) Step 2 or 4 in section 43- 210, or Step 2 or 3 in section 43- 215, applied to you or another person for it;

          (b) you were, or another person was, not allowed a deduction for it under this Division;

           (c) a deduction for it was not allowed or was reduced (for you or another person) under former Division 10C or 10D of Part III of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 .

          The reduction under this step must be reasonable.”

So in simple terms, you need to take into account any periods where Capital Works deductions could not be claimed and reduce that amount from any residual value left.

The last line is interesting, “The reduction under this step must be reasonable”.

 

I say interesting, because there are so many variables and not a lot of rulings to go by. But in my opinions here are some reasonable examples:

 

  1. It would be reasonable to assume that if you purchased an industrial or commercial property, Capital Works deductions were available the whole time. So no allowance for non use would be required.
  2. It would be reasonable to assume that if you purchased a serviced apartment, Capital Works deductions were available the whole time. So no allowance for non use would be required.
  3. It would be reasonable to assume that if you purchased a unit in a ski resort, it was used, perhaps, for 2 weeks of the year for private use by the previous owner and you would need to factor that in.
  4. It would be reasonable to assume that if you purchased a holiday house, in area where holiday lettings are common and that you saw the property listed on AIRBNB prior to your purchase and the holiday period was blocked out – then you should factor 2 weeks of private use per year into the equation.
  5. Now the tricky one, you buy an average unit with a tenant in place. Who knows, it may have changed 5 times since it was new. I think it would be unreasonable for you to have to find out the full history of the unit. Privacy laws are very strict now, particularly in Victoria. So in that case, I would personally assume it was an investment property the whole time – but that’s me!!

One final thing you need to factor in, just to make life more complicated, is whether any amounts were received by way of insurance.

The termination value or residual value needs to include the amount received under an insurance policy.

So, if it is insured, there is often nothing to deduct when the asset is lost or destroyed.

As you have probably gathered by now, claiming the residual value on depreciating assets and capital works deductions “is complicated”.

 

I would recommend speaking with your accountant or financial advisor prior to engaging a Quantity Surveyor to carry out a scrapping schedule. If you are going to proceed with this type of report, it is advantageous to have the quantity surveyor visit the property prior to you starting renovations.