Revealed, the ATO’s Targeting Property Investors

By December 14, 2018 No Comments

The Tax Office has set out its list of targets with property investors right at the top, as about two million Australians now claim deductions for rental income at tax time.

About $45 billion in rental expenses were lodged to the ATO last financial year, pushing property investors’ compliance with tax laws to the top of the Tax Office’s agenda.

“It’s one of our main focus areas,” assistant commissioner at the ATO Karen Foat advised.

There are some key danger zones the ATO has got its eye on this financial year which investors should be aware of, particularly given the significantly increased likelihood of being caught out

As well as publicly available data, the ATO has access to data from a range of third parties – like banks and financial institutions – as well as information on rental bond data.

“We have and continue to have a large range of data to identify people who are failing to meet their tax obligations,” said Ms Foat.

Short-term rentals

Australian property investors are increasingly capitalising on the rise of the short-term rental market, popularised through the likes of Airbnb. Investors can demand a premium per week and be flexible with when their property is vacant.

However, the Tax Office has spied taxpayers who are not properly declaring their short-term rental income, and it’s a focus area for the regulator this financial year.  “There is no such thing as a rental hobby. All income from renting out all or part of a property needs to be declared as rental income,” said Ms Foat.

Holiday homes

In order for a taxpayer to claim expenses on a holiday home, it needs to be genuinely available for rent, which is a key factor some property investors skip over.

“If you’ve refused tenants on an unreasonable basis [for example] then it starts to look a bit more like a private asset. If you’re waiting for the conditions to be just right for you rather than it being an investment property, it’s the same thing,” said Ms Foat.

Property investors should also be careful to separate personal use expenses from those they declare to the Tax Office.

“You also need to apportion your claims in relation to a holiday home. You can’t claim expenses for more than what you’ve charged, if you’ve rented the place out on mate’s rates,” said Ms Foat

“The thing that we’re concerned about there is creating an artificial situation – negative gearing that isn’t genuine,” she said.

Loan calculations

“We are concerned by taxpayers claiming interest where a part of the loan was used for private purposes,” said Ms Foat.

“So, they might first take out the loan to buy an investment property. But later they’ll refinance, go and buy a boat or go on holiday,” she said.

“You need to only be claiming the portion of the interest [that’s] related to the rental property itself,” she said.

Claiming immediate deduction

Taxpayers are entitled to claim the cost of repairs and maintenance immediately, but there are other adjustments to a property which are classified as ‘capital works’ and can only be claimed over a number of years.

“For example, if the guttering on your property is damaged in a storm, and you replace the part that is damaged, you can deduct that immediately,” said Ms Foat.

“However, if you replace the whole guttering, that’s a capital works, it’s a structural improvement. And you can claim that at a rate of 2.5 per cent for 40 years,” she said.

These issues can become complicated and a tax strategy review as it pertains to your investment properties is essential.  To ensure you are claiming compliantly and not missing out on deductions you were unaware of, call me today to set up a conversation.

Steve Purcell is located at our head office and is the licensee of Launch Properties. He holds a PSBA License, is a licensed Auctioneer and holds a Master’s Degree in Business. Steve brings an extraordinary depth of hands on experience to the role, including twenty years in commercial and residential construction, followed by ten years in residential Real Estate sales and property development. This unique blend enables Steve to provide advice on selected developers, to ensure they are providing functional, quality assets with high quality finishes to mitigate potential sector risks to our clients. Become a client of Steve’s and get access to RP Data suburb reports, market valuations and advocacy options.

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