Is it a repair or an improvement? Getting it wrong could cost you.

Is it a repair to your investment property or an improvement?

And does it really matter?folder tools repair

Well…yes it does.

Expenses that relate to repairs and maintenance of a rental property will usually be deductible when they are incurred.

However any work that is considered an improvement, such as installing a new kitchen, will not be deductible and instead deemed to be a capital item that may be subject to depreciation over a period of time.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • A repair is the replacement or renewal of a worn out or dilapidated part of something, but not the entirety. For example, if some part of the carpet needs to be replaced that would be a repair, but if you replaced the entire carpet throughout the house, that would be an improvement and not immediately deductible (but may be depreciable).
  • An item of expenditure is considered to be a repair when it brings something back to its operational efficiency, but does not significantly improve it. For example, a few light fittings may need replacing. Normally this would be considered a repair, but if you put in expensive chandeliers, it would be considered an improvement and not a repair.
  • Initial repairs after you buy a property will often be considered capital improvements. The ATO considers that these repairs would have been factored into the purchase price and therefore are considered capital in nature.
    renovate house repair

So if you’ve just purchased an investment property it may make sense not to conduct any repair work for some time, unless it is of course necessary for safety issues.

Now there’s no fixed time specified by the law, but if you were to claim a large amount of repairs in your tax return the first year you purchased a property, it could  arouse the interest of the Australian Taxation Office.

And you don’t want that do you?

If you are uncertain if the works you carry out are a repair on an improvement I suggest you consult your accountant.

Want more of this type of information?

Kate Forbes


Kate Forbes is a National Director Property Strategy at Metropole. She has 15 years of investment experience in financial markets in two continents, is qualified in multiple disciplines and is also a chartered financial analyst (CFA).

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