One question investors often ask about claiming depreciation on a rental property is ‘how will these claims affect Capital Gains Tax (CGT) when the property is sold?’
CGT can be a complex topic for investors to understand, particularly as the answer to the above question can really depend on the scenario of the individual property investor.
Introduced on the 20th of September 1985, CGT is basically the tax payable on the difference between what it cost you to purchase an asset and the amount you received when you disposed of it.
In the case of an investment property, this is the difference between the original purchase price of the property including any capital buying costs and the price the property is sold for plus any selling costs.
When you sell an asset such as a property, this triggers what is called a ‘CGT event’ and the owner will either make a capital gain or loss on the property.
When an investor has been claiming property depreciation, the cost base could be altered, therefore changing the capital gain or loss.
To help explain the implications of property depreciation on CGT, here are six facts investors should be aware of.
1. What is property depreciation?
Property depreciation is the wear and tear of a building and the plant and equipment items within it.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) allows owners of income producing properties to claim this depreciation as a deduction in their annual tax return, meaning they pay less tax.
Property depreciation is made up of two main parts; capital works deductions and plant and equipment depreciation.
2. How do capital works deductions affect CGT?
Capital works deductions are available for the wear and tear on the structure of the building.
Examples of items which can be claimed include bricks, walls, floors, roofs, windows, tiles and electrical cabling.
The capital works deductions will reduce the cost base of the property which will add to the capital gain and therefore increase the amount of CGT applicable for the owner of the property.
3. How does plant and equipment depreciation affect CGT?
Depreciation deductions can be claimed for the mechanical and easily removable plant and equipment assets contained within an investment property.
When a property is sold, a gain or loss is calculated separately on these items.
This is because often these assets will have been updated, removed or replaced over time.
This means that the original assets contained in a property at the time of purchase can be very different to the assets contained in the property at the time of sale.
If an investor were to increase the value of plant and equipment during the time the property is owned (for example by replacing the carpets or completing a renovation) this could increase the cost base of these assets and may therefore reduce the CGT when the owner sells the property.
If the value of assets in the property when sold is less than when purchased the cost base will be reduced, therefore increasing the amount of CGT.
4. What CGT exemptions apply for a principal place of residence?
Properties which are owned by someone who resides, occupies or lives in the property as their home are exempt from CGT so long as the dwelling is used mainly for residential accommodation and is located on land under two hectares in size.
If the owner of a primary place of residence chooses to move out of their home and rent it out, a CGT exemption is available for up to six years after they have moved out so long as they don’t own another primary place of residence.
If the owner moves back into their investment property, then moves out and rents the property again, a new six year period will commence from the time they last moved out of the property.
There is currently no limit to the number of times a property owner can do this so long as each absence is less than six years.
Only one property can be classed as a primary place of residence and therefore exempt from CGT at any one time with the exception of the following rules which apply if both properties are treated as the owner’s primary place of residence within a six month period:
- The old property was the owner’s primary place of residence for a continuous period of at least three months in the twelve months before they sold it
- An owner did not use the property to provide an assessable income in any part of the twelve months when it was not their primary place of residence
- The new property becomes the property owner’s primary place of residence
5. Are property investor’s eligible for a discount?
A 50% exemption on CGT is available to individuals or small business owners who hold an investment property for more than twelve months from the signing date of the contract before selling the property.
6. Is it still worthwhile claiming property depreciation if it will later add to the capital gain?
The short answer is yes.
During the term of ownership, capital works and plant and equipment can be claimed as a deduction at the investor’s marginal tax rate.
These deductions will reduce tax liabilities, therefore generating additional cash flow for the investor each year.
When a property is sold, if the owner has held the property in their name for more than twelve months, the owner will be eligible for the 50% exemption.
This means that only 50% of the capital works deductions during ownership will carry through to the ‘CGT event’, making it far better for a property investor to claim the capital works deductions and take advantage of the additional cash flow during ownership.
Depreciation claims also provide an opportunity for the property owner to invest further or reduce loan liabilities.
When considering selling an investment property, it is recommended that investor’s seek advice from their Accountant about the implications of CGT and the exemptions available.
A specialist Quantity Surveyor can also provide advice on the depreciation deductions for any investment property.