Rental property expenses deductions:

What you can claim:

You can claim expenses relating to your rental property
but only for the period your property was rented or available
for rent; for example, advertised for rent.

Expenses could include:

advertising for tenants

bank charges

body corporate fees and charges

borrowing expenses (over 5 year period if it is over $100)

cleaning

council rates

decline in value of depreciating assets

gardening and lawn mowing

insurance

interest expenses

land tax

pest control

property agent fees and commissions

repairs and maintenance

stationery and postage

travel undertaken to inspect or maintain the property or to collect the rent

water charges.

If part of your property is used to earn rent, you can claim expenses relating to only that part of the property. You will need to work out a reasonable basis to apportion the claim. As a general guide, apportionment should be made on a “floor-area basis”, that is, by reference to the floor area of that part of the residence solely occupied by the tenant, together with a reasonable figure for tenant access to the general living areas, including garage and outdoor areas if applicable.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

  • Construction costs – Certain types of construction costs, including extensions, alterations and structural improvements, can be claimed as capital works deductions. However, the purchase cost of the land on which a rental property is constructed cannot be claimed. Instead, the land forms part of the cost base for capital gains tax purposes.

Deductions can be claimed for the decline in value of some types of depreciating assets in residential rental properties – for example, curtains, blinds, dishwashers, refrigerators, stoves, television sets and hot water systems. However, construction costs are not depreciating assets.

  • Interest – If you use a loan facility for both investing and private purposes – for example, to purchase or renovate a rental property and to buy a motor boat – you cannot claim the interest expense on the private portion of the loan (the motor boat). A common mistake is to claim a deduction for interest on the private portion of the loan.
  • Conveyancing expenses – Conveyancing expenses incurred on the purchase and sale of your property are not deductible. Instead, these form part of the cost base for capital gains tax purposes. Stamp duties, property valuation costs, building and pest inspection costs are also capital in nature and are not deductible. They are added onto the cost base of the property.

·         Travel expenses – A common mistake is to claim a deduction for the cost of travel when the main purpose of the trip is to have a holiday and the inspection of the property is incidental to that.   Where travel related to your rental property is combined with a holiday or other private activities, you may need to apportion the expenses. You may be able to claim local expenses that are directly related to the property inspection and a proportion of accommodation expenses. A common mistake is to claim a deduction for the cost of travel when the main purpose of the trip is to have a holiday and the inspection of the property is incidental to that.

  • Apportionment of rental expenses

In some situations, rental expenses may need to be apportioned. For example, if your holiday home is used by you, your friends or your relatives free of charge for part of the year, you are not entitled to a deduction for costs incurred during those periods. It is also important that you have a clear intention to rent the property. If you made no attempt to advertise the property, or you set the rent so high it is unlikely a tenant could be found, we would find that you had no intention of renting your property and your rental claims would not be allowed. Some common mistakes are: claiming deductions for any expenses relating to your private use of the property or claiming deductions for a property that is not genuinely available for rent.

·         Deductible borrowing expenses: The correct way to claim borrowing expenses of more than $100 is to spread the deduction over five years, or over the term of the loan, whichever is less. If your borrowing expenses are $100 or less, you can claim the full amount in the income year they are incurred. If you claim your borrowing expenses as a deduction, you cannot include them in your cost base for capital gains tax purposes when you dispose of the property.

A common mistake is to claim all deductible borrowing expenses in the first year they are incurred.

Ownership interests: A common mistake occurs when a property is purchased by a husband and wife as co-owners and the income and expenses are not split in line with their legal interest in the property. If you purchase a rental property as a co-owner and are not carrying on a rental property business, you must divide the income and expenses for the rental property in line with your legal interest in the property. This is despite any written or oral agreement between co-owners stating otherwise.

Record Keeping

You need to keep proper records in order to make a claim, even if you use a tax agent to prepare your tax return or you do it yourself. You must keep records of:

    • the rental income you receive and the deductible expenses you pay – keep these records for five (5) years from 31 October or, if you lodge later, for five years from the date your tax return is lodged.
    • your ownership of the property and all the costs of purchasing/acquiring it and selling/disposing of it – keep these records for five years from the date you sell/dispose of your rental property.As capital gains tax may apply if you sell your rental property, we recommend you keep records of every transaction over the period of ownership of the property. This would include contracts of purchase and sale, and conveyance and loan documentation.

Capital Gain Tax

Keeping these records will help you work out your capital gain or loss correctly and ensure you do not pay more tax than you need to.

·         If you have an overall property loss

If your total rental expenses exceed your gross rental income, you have incurred a net rental property loss. This is often referred to as negative gearing. You will need to show the total net rental property loss at label IT6 on your tax return. The amount of the loss is included in your adjusted taxable income and may be used in calculating various tax obligations, tax offsets and entitlement to other tax related concessions.