Well, the dust has finally settled on the new legislation regarding the changes to depreciation that will apply to second-hand residential properties.
In this article we will dig deep into some of the questions we have commonly been asked since the 9th of May 2017, when the changes were announced in the Federal Budget.
Before we get into the nitty gritty let’s begin with a quick recap.
Property investors who acquire a second-hand residential property after May 10, 2017, that contain “previously used” depreciating assets, will no longer be able to claim depreciation on those assets. Depreciating assets, in this case, refers to things like ovens, dishwashers, blinds, etc.
As you already know, in 2017, the rule book on depreciation changed massively.
The Federal Government successfully voted on new legislation to change the way depreciation works, representing the biggest move in the industry that I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been a quantity surveyor for over 25 years!
The changes were effective as at 9 May 2017 at 7.30pm, when the federal budget was handed down. As you can imagine, they have huge implications for property investors and more importantly, the property equation, which we’ll go into later.
So, how have things changed exactly?
The best way to understand it is to break the changes down into nine simple key points:
- If you acquire a second-hand residential property from 10 May 2017, which contains ‘previously used’ depreciating assets, you will no longer be able to claim depreciation on those assets. This refers to the plant and equipment portion of a depreciation schedule, including: Ovens, Dishwashers, Lights, Air-conditioners. Televisions, Carpets, Lounge suites, Blinds, Common property plant and equipment items.
- However, the building allowance, or claims on the structure of the building, has not changed at all. You will still need a depreciation schedule to calculate these deductions, which typically accounts for 85% of the overall construction cost. The structure includes things like brickwork and concrete so there’s no change to that.
- Acquirers of brand-new property will carry on claiming depreciation in exactly the same way as they have done so to-date – for both plant and equipment and structure. This is great news for the property industry, because a lot of developers rely on depreciation as part of their marketing strategy to attract investors. The government resisted making changes to depreciation on brand-new property because it did not want to halt construction, which would have impacted upon the supply of new property. A downturn in the construction industry would also have a knock-on effect – if tradies are out of work, they aren’t paying tax!
- If you renovate a house while living in it, then sell the property to an investor, the assets will be deemed to have been previously used and the new owner cannot claim depreciation on the plant and equipment.
- The proposed changes do not apply if you buy the property in a corporate tax entity, super fund (note self-managed super funds do not apply here) or a large unit trust. In other words, you can still buy a second-hand property in a company name and claim depreciation on it. You can buy a second-hand property in a super fund – as long as it’s a large one – and a large trust can buy a property as long as it has 300 members or more, and claim depreciation on that property.
- The proposed changes only relate to residential property. Commercial, industrial, retail and other non-residential properties are not affected, so you can still buy a second-hand office or similar and continue to claim the second-hand carpet, exactly as you could before. You can’t do this for residential property, as I’ve explained above.
- If you engage a builder to build a brand-new house, or do the work yourself and it remains an investment property, you will still be able to claim depreciation on both the structure and the plant and equipment items. This is because it’s brand new, and was brand new when you put in that oven. Therefore, you can still claim it because the costs are known.
- If you engage a builder to renovate a property – or you do the work yourself – and it is also being used as an investment property, you will still be able to claim depreciation on it when you have finished the renovations. As above, this is because the assets you install are brand new, therefore you can still claim. But if you bought a property renovated by someone else and they lived in it for six months or a year and then sold it – you can’t claim depreciation on the oven and dishwasher, etc. in the future, because they have now been previously used. See the difference?
- While investors purchasing second-hand property can now no longer claim depreciation on the existing plant and equipment, they will have the benefit of paying less capital gains tax when they sell the property. How? Well, when they replace or remove an item of plant & equipment they would have been able to claim in depreciation under the previous legislation, the opening value of the asset can be claimed as a capital loss.
In my opinion, it seems like a lot of work to get the same result. The new rules have just moved depreciation from one line of the budget to another!
The good news is that the new legislation is ‘grandfathered’. That means that for everyone out there with an existing depreciation schedule, you can continue to claim exactly as you have been doing. So, if you bought a property prior to the budget – 9 May 2017 – nothing has changed. And if you have bought an investment prior to this date, and you don’t have a depreciation schedule, there’s never been a better time to get one! You might not get these allowances again.
One final point on grandfathering; if you bought a property prior to the budget and it is owner-occupied, and then you move out after 1 July 2017 – you will not be able to claim depreciation on the plant and equipment in that property.
Those items will be deemed to be previously used and caught in the net of the changing legislation – even though you acquired the property prior to the budget. So, these changes are kind of ‘half grandfathered’ if you ask me.
You will, however, still be able to claim the building allowance in this scenario if the property was built after 1987.
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