• Depreciation and capital expenses and allowances

    You generally can't deduct spending on capital assets immediately; instead you claim the cost over time, reflecting the asset's depreciation (or decline in value).

    This applies if you use depreciating assets to earn assessable income, including:

    • small and large businesses
    • rental property investors
    • employees (for equipment and tools they provide at their own expense for use in their work).

    A depreciating asset is one that has a limited effective life and can reasonably be expected to decline in value over the time it's used. Land, trading stock and some intangible assets are not depreciating assets.

    General depreciation rules

    To calculate your depreciation deduction for most assets you apply the general depreciation rules (unless you're eligible to use simpler depreciation for small business). These rules set out the amounts (capital allowances) that can be claimed based on the asset's effective life.

    Under the general depreciation rules, an immediate write-off applies to:

    • items costing up to $100 used to earn business income (but note the higher immediate write-off limit for small businesses below)
    • items costing up to $300 used to earn income other than from a business (such as employee-provided tools and equipment).

    Simplified depreciation rules

    Small businesses can choose to use the simplified depreciation rules.

    These rules allow you to immediately deduct the business portion of assets costing less than $20,000 each (the current instant asset write-off threshold), that were bought and used, or installed ready for use from 7.30pm (AEST) on 12 May 2015 until 30 June 2017.

    If you choose to use the simplified depreciation rules, you must:

    • use them to work out deductions for all your depreciating assets except those specifically excluded, and
    • apply the entire set of rules, not just individual elements (such as the instant asset write-off).

    Other depreciation rules

    Different rules apply to:

    • capital works, which are written off over a longer period than other depreciating assets.
    • other business capital expenses such as the cost of setting up or ceasing a business, and project-related expenses.

    Depreciation deductions are generally available only to the legal owner of the asset. However, hire purchase arrangements are generally treated as a notional sale of goods, in which case the hirer rather than the legal owner is entitled to the deduction. Depreciation deductions for partnership assets are claimed by the partnership not the individual partners.

    The cost of an asset for depreciation purposes includes the amount you paid for it as well as any additional costs you incur in transporting and installing the asset, and repairing it immediately after you acquire it.

    Depreciation deductions are limited to the extent to which you use an asset to earn income. For example, if you use an asset 60% for business purposes and 40% for private purposes you can only claim 60% of its total depreciation for the year.

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    Last modified: 22 May 2017QC 17053