• Expenses deductible over a number of income years

    Attention

    Warning:

    This information may not apply to the current year. Check the content carefully to ensure it is applicable to your circumstances.

    End of attention

    There are three types of expenses you may incur for your rental property that may be claimed over a number of income years:

    • borrowing expenses
    • amounts for decline in value of depreciating assets, and
    • capital works deductions.

    Each of these categories is discussed in more detail below.

    Borrowing expenses

    These are expenses directly incurred in taking out a loan for the property. They include loan establishment fees, title search fees and costs for preparing and filing mortgage documents - including mortgage broker fees and stamp duty charged on the mortgage.

    Borrowing expenses also include other costs that the lender requires you to incur as a condition of them lending you the money for the property - such as the costs of obtaining a valuation or lender's mortgage insurance if you borrow more than a certain percentage of the purchase price of the property.

    If you take out an insurance policy that provides for your loan on the property to be paid out in the event that you die or become disabled or unemployed, the premiums are not borrowing costs. Interest expenses are not borrowing expenses.

    If your total borrowing expenses are more than $100, the deduction is spread over five years or the term of the loan, whichever is less. If the total cost is $100 or less, it is fully deductible in the first year.

    If you repay the loan early and in less than five years, you can claim a deduction for the balance of the borrowing expenses in the year of repayment.

    If you obtained the loan part way through the income year, the deduction for the first year will be apportioned according to the number of days in the year that you had the loan.

    Example

    Apportioning borrowing expenses

    In order to secure a 20-year loan of $209,000 to purchase a rental property for $170,000 and a private motor vehicle for $39,000, the Hitchmans paid a total of $1,670 in establishment fees, valuation fees and stamp duty on the loan. As the Hitchmans' borrowing expenses are more than $100, they must be apportioned over five years, or the period of the loan, whichever is the lesser. Also, because the loan was to be used for both income producing and non-income producing purposes, only the income-producing portion of the borrowing expenses is deductible. As they obtained the loan on 17 July 2003, the borrowing expense deduction for the first year would be worked out as follows:

    Borrowing expenses

    x

    number of relevant days in year
    number of days in 5 years

    =

    maximum amount for the income year

    maximum amount for the income year

    x

    rental property loan
    total borrowings

    =

    deduction for year

    Year 1 (leap year)

    $1,670

    x

     350 days 
    1,827 days

    =

    $320

    $320

    x

    $170,000
    $209,000

    =

    $260

    Their borrowing expense deductions for subsequent years would be worked out as follows:

    Borrowing expenses remaining

    x

    number of relevant days in year
    number of days in 5 years

    =

    maximum amount for the income year

    maximum amount for the income year

    x

    rental property loan
    total borrowings

    =

    deduction for year

    Year 2

    $1,350

    x

     365 days 
    1,477 days

    =

    $334

    $334

    x

    $170,000
    $209,000

    =

    $272

    Year 3

    $1,016

    x

     365 days 
    1,112 days

    =

    $334

    $334

    x

    $170,000
    $209,000

    =

    $272

    Year 4

    $682

    x

     365 days 
    747 days

    =

    $334

    $334

    x

    $170,000
    $209,000

    =

    $272

    Year 5 (leap year)

    $348

    x

     366 days 
    382 days

    =

    $334

    $334

    x

    $170,000
    $209,000

    =

    $272

    Year 6

    $14

    x

     16 days 
    16 days

    =

    $14

    $14

    x

    $170,000
    $209,000

    =

    $11

    Deduction for decline in value of depreciating assets

    You can deduct an amount in relation to a depreciating asset that you held for any period during an income year, equal to its decline in value over that period. However, your deduction is reduced to the extent you use the asset - or have it installed ready for use - for purposes other than that of producing assessable income, for example, a private purpose.

    How do you work out your deduction?

    You work out your deduction for the decline in value of a depreciating asset using either the prime cost or diminishing value method. Both methods are based on the effective life of the asset.

    The diminishing value method assumes that the decline in value each year is a constant proportion of the remaining value and produces a progressively smaller decline over time. The formula for working out decline in value using this method is:

    Base value*

    x

    Days held**
    365

    x

            150%        
    Asset's effective life

    *For the income year in which an asset is first used or installed ready for use for any purpose, the base value is the asset's cost. For a later income year, the base value is the asset's opening adjustable value plus any amounts included in the asset's second element of cost for that year.

    **Can be 366 in a leap year.

    An asset's cost has two elements. The first element of cost is amounts you are taken to have paid to hold the asset, such as the purchase price. The second element of cost is the amount you are taken to have paid to bring the asset to its present condition (such as the cost of capital improvements to the asset). If you acquire an asset jointly, you work out your deduction for the decline in value of the asset based on your interest in the asset and not on the cost of the asset itself.

    The adjustable value of a depreciating asset is its cost less its decline in value since you first used it or installed it ready for use for any purpose, including a private purpose. The term 'adjustable value' replaces the terms 'written down value' and 'undeducted cost'.

    The prime cost method assumes that the value of a depreciating asset decreases uniformly over its effective life. The formula for working out decline in value using the prime cost method is:

    Asset's cost

    x

    Days held
    365

    x

            100%        
    Asset's effective life

    *Can be 366 in a leap year.

    The formula under the prime cost method may have to be adjusted if the cost, effective life or adjustable value of the asset is modified. For more information, see the publication Guide to depreciating assets.

    Under either method, the decline in value of an asset cannot amount to more than its base value in any income year.

    If you use a depreciating asset for more than one purpose - for example, you use the same lawn mower at both your rental property and your private residence - you are allowed only a partial deduction for the mower's decline in value, based on what percentage of the mower's total use occurred at your rental property.

    Effective life

    The effective life of a depreciating asset is how long it can be used by any entity for a taxable purpose, or for the purpose of producing exempt income:

    • having regard to the wear and tear you reasonably expect from your expected circumstances of use
    • assuming reasonable levels of maintenance, and
    • having regard to the period within which it is likely to be scrapped, sold for no more than scrap value, or abandoned.

    Effective life is expressed in years, including fractions of years. It is not rounded to the nearest whole year.

    For most depreciating assets, you can either make your own estimate of its effective life or adopt the effective life determined by the Commissioner. The sorts of information you could use to make your own estimate of effective life are listed in the Guide to depreciating assets.

    Taxation Ruling TR 2000/18 - Effective life of depreciating assets lists the Commissioner's determination of effective life for various depreciating assets. TR 2000/18 came into force on 1 January 2001.

    Because the Commissioner reviews the determinations of effective life, the determined effective life may change from the beginning of, or during, an income year. If you decide to use the effective life determined by the Commissioner you generally use the effective life that applies at the time you entered into a contract to acquire the depreciating asset.

    Some items found in a rental property are regarded as part of the setting for the rent-producing activity and are not treated as separate assets in their own right. However, a capital works deduction may be allowed for some of these items - see Capital works deductions.

    For a complete list of items found in residential rental properties and whether they are depreciating assets or eligible for a capital works deduction - see Residential rental property assets.

    Replacements

    It was the longstanding practice to treat the initial purchase of certain assets as not depreciable but to allow an immediate deduction for the cost of their replacement. The practice principally related to low-cost items that had very long or indeterminate lives, were difficult to keep track of, and were subject to frequent replacement through loss or breakage - for example, crockery, bedding and linen.

    However, the replacement basis for deductions is no longer available for assets you first use (or have installed ready for use) to produce income after 31 December 2000.

    An immediate deduction is available for depreciating assets costing $300 or less which are used predominantly in deriving non-business income (including rental income) if certain conditions are met - see the next section, Immediate deduction for depreciating assets costing $300 or less. Also, assets costing less than $1,000 may be written off through a low-value pool - see Low-value pooling below.

    Immediate deduction for depreciating assets costing $300 or less

    You can claim an immediate deduction for a depreciating asset costing $300 or less if you use the asset predominantly to produce assessable income that is not from carrying on a business - for example, rental income where your rental activities do not amount to the carrying on of a business. If you own an asset jointly with others, your interest in the asset is treated as the relevant depreciating asset - this means you may be able to claim an immediate deduction for your share of the cost of an asset you acquire jointly if your share is $300 or less (see Partners carrying on a rental property business).

    There are two additional tests that must be met before an immediate deduction can be claimed:

    • the asset must not be part of a set of assets that you start to hold in the same income year where the total cost of the set is more than $300, and
    • the total cost of the asset and any other identical, or substantially identical, assets that you start to hold in an income year must not be more than $300.

    Example

    Immediate deduction

    In November 2003, Terry purchased a toaster for his rental property at a cost of $70. He can claim an immediate deduction as he uses the toaster to produce assessable income, but not from carrying on a business.

    Example

    No immediate deduction

    Paula is buying a set of four identical dining room chairs costing $90 each for her rental property. She cannot claim an immediate deduction for any of these because they are identical and the total cost is more than $300.

    For further information about immediate deductions for depreciating assets costing $300 or less, refer to the publication Guide to depreciating assets.

    Low-value pooling

    You can allocate low-cost assets and low-value assets relating to your rental activity to a low-value pool. A low-cost asset is a depreciating asset whose cost at the end of the year in which it is first used, or installed ready for use, for a taxable purpose is less than $1,000. A low-value asset is a depreciating asset that is not a low-cost asset but:

    • which has an opening adjustable value of less than $1,000, and
    • for which you have worked out any available deductions for decline in value under the diminishing value method.

    If you acquire an asset jointly and the cost of your interest in the asset or the opening adjustable value of your interest is less than $1,000, you can allocate your interest in the asset to your low-value pool.

    Once you choose to create a low-value pool and allocate a low-cost asset to it, you must pool all other low-cost assets you start to hold in that income year and in later income years. However, this rule does not apply to low-value assets. You can decide whether to allocate low-value assets to the pool on an asset-by-asset basis.

    Once you have allocated an asset to the pool, it remains in the pool.

    Once an asset is allocated to a low-value pool it is not necessary to work out its adjustable value or decline in value separately. Only one annual calculation for the decline in value for all of the depreciating assets in the pool is required.

    The deduction for the decline in value of depreciating assets in a low-value pool is worked out using a diminishing value rate of 37.5%.

    The deduction for low-cost assets you allocate to the pool during the income year is worked out at a rate of 18.75%, or half the pool rate. Halving the rate recognises that assets may be allocated to the pool throughout the income year and eliminates the need to make separate calculations for each asset based on the date it was allocated to the pool.

    When you allocate an asset to the pool, you must make a reasonable estimate of how much of your use of it is for producing assessable income (the asset's 'taxable use percentage'). Only the taxable use percentage of the asset's cost or opening adjustable value is written off through the low-value pool.

    For further information about low-value pooling, including how to treat assets used only partly to produce assessable income and how to treat the disposal of assets from a low-value pool, refer to the Guide to depreciating assets.

    If you are an individual who owns or has co-ownership of a rental property, you claim your low-value pool deduction for rental assets at TaxPack question D6 (not question 20 of the TaxPack 2004 supplement).

    What happens if you no longer hold or use a depreciating asset?

    If you cease to hold or to use a depreciating asset, a balancing adjustment event will occur. If there is a balancing adjustment event, you need to work out a balancing adjustment amount to include in your assessable income or to claim as a deduction.

    A balancing adjustment event occurs for a depreciating asset if:

    • you stop holding it - for example, if the asset is sold, lost or destroyed
    • you stop using it and expect never to use it again
    • you stop having it installed ready for use and you expect never to install it ready for use again
    • you have not used it and decide never to use it, or
    • a change occurs in the holding or interests in an asset which was or is to become a partnership asset.

    The balancing adjustment amount is worked out by comparing the asset's termination value (such as the proceeds from the sale of the asset) and its adjustable value at the time of the balancing adjustment event. If the termination value is greater than the adjustable value, the excess is included in your assessable income. (If you are an individual who owns or has co-ownership of a rental property, you show such assessable amounts at TaxPack supplement question 22 Other income - not question 20.)

    If the termination value is less than the adjustable value, you can deduct the difference.

    Refer to the Guide to depreciating assets for further information about balancing adjustments.

    Purchase and valuation of second-hand assets

    If you purchase a second-hand asset you can generally claim a deduction based on the cost of the asset to you.

    Where you purchase a rental property, the most objective means of establishing your cost of depreciating assets acquired with the property is to have their value, as agreed between the contracting parties, specified in the sale agreement. If separate values for depreciating assets are not included in the sale agreement for your rental property when you purchase it, you may be required to demonstrate the basis of your valuation.

    Generally, independent valuations that establish reasonable values for depreciating assets satisfy Tax Office requirements. In the absence of an independent valuation, you may need to demonstrate that your estimate provided a reasonable value. Considerations would include the market value of the asset compared to the total purchase price of the property.

    Working out your deductions for decline in value of depreciating assets

    An example of how to do this calculation is on the next page. The Guide to depreciating assets contains two worksheets (Worksheet 1 - depreciating assets and Worksheet 2 - low-value pool) that you can use to work out your deductions for decline in value of depreciating assets.

    Capital works deductions

    You can deduct certain kinds of construction expenditure. In the case of residential rental properties, the deductions would generally be spread over a period of 25 or 40 years. These are referred to as capital works deductions. Your total capital works deductions cannot exceed the construction expenditure. No deduction is available until the construction is complete.

    Deductions based on construction expenditure apply to capital works such as:

    • a building or an extension - for example, adding a room, garage, patio or pergola
    • alterations - such as removing or adding an internal wall, or
    • structural improvements to the property - for example, adding a gazebo, carport, sealed driveway, retaining wall or fence.

    Landscaping is not a structural improvement.

    Deductions can be claimed only for the period during the year that the property is rented or is available for rent.

    If you can claim capital works deductions, the construction expenditure on which those deductions are based cannot be taken into account in working out any other types of deductions to be claimed, such as deductions for decline in value of depreciating assets.

    Amount of deduction

    The amount of the deduction you can claim depends on the type of construction and the date construction started.

    Table 1 shows you the types of rental property construction that qualify. If the type of construction you own (or own jointly) does not appear next to the relevant 'date construction started' in the table, no deduction can be claimed. If the type of construction qualifies, Table 2 shows the rate of deduction available.

    Example
    Working out decline in value deductions

    In this example, the Hitchmans bought a property part way through the year - on 20 July 2003. In the purchase contract, depreciating assets sold with the property were assigned separate values that represented their arm's length values at the time. The amounts shown in the contract can be used by the Hitchmans to work out the cost of their individual interests in the assets. They can each claim deductions for decline in value for 347 days out of the 365 in the 2003-04 income year. (Note: When calculating decline in value deductions, the number of days in the year is not increased to reflect leap years.) If the Hitchmans use the assets wholly to produce rental income, the deduction for each asset using the diminishing value method is worked out as shown below:

    Description

    Cost of the interest in the asset

    Base value

    No. of days held divided by 365

    150% divided by effective life (yrs)

    Deduction for decline in value

    Adjustable value at end of 2003-04 income year

    Furniture

    $2,000

    $2,000

    347
    365

    150%
    13 1/3

    $213

    $1,787

    Carpets

    $1,200

    $1,200

    347
    365

    150%
    10  

    $171

    $1,029

    Curtains

    $1,000

    $1,000

    347
    365

    150%
    6 2/3

    $213

    $787*

    Totals

    $4,200

    $4,200

       

    $597

    $3,603

    *As the adjustable value of the curtains at the end of the 2003-04 income year is less than $1,000, either or both of the Hitchmans can choose to transfer their interest in the curtains to their low-value pool for the following year (2004-05).

    Example

    Decline in value deductions - low-value pool

    In the 2003-04 income year the Hitchmans' daughter Leonie, who owns a rental property in Adelaide, allocated some depreciating assets she acquired in that year to a low-value pool. The low-value pool already comprised various low-value assets. Leonie expects to use the assets solely to produce rental income.

     

    Taxable use percentage of cost or opening adjustable value

    Low-value pool rate

    Deduction for decline in value in 2003-04

    Low-value assets:

    Various

    $1,679

    37.5%

    $630

    Low-cost assets:

    Television set (purchased 11/11/2003)

    Gas heater (purchased 28/2/2004)

    $747

    $303

       

    Total low-cost assets

    $1,050

    18.75%

    $197

    Total deduction for decline in value for year ended 30 June 2004

       

    $827

    Closing pool value at 30 June 2004

    Low-value assets:

    1,679 - 630

    = $1,049

    Low-cost assets:

    1,050 - 197

    = $853

    = $1,902

    Table 1

    Date construction started

    Type of construction for which deduction can be claimed

    Before 22 August 1979

    None

    22 August 1979 to 19 July 1982

    Certain buildings* intended to be used on completion to provide short-term accommodation to travellers.**

    20 July 1982 to 17 July 1985

    Certain buildings* intended to be used on completion to provide short-term accommodation to travellers.**

    Building intended to be used on completion for non-residential purposes (eg a shop or office).

    18 July 1985 to 26 February 1992

    Any building intended to be used on completion for residential purposes or to produce income.

    27 February 1992 to 18 August 1992

    Certain buildings* intended to be used on completion to provide short-term accommodation to travellers.**

    Any other building intended to be used on completion for residential purposes or to produce income.

    Structural improvements intended to be used on completion for residential purposes or to produce income

    19 August 1992 to 30 June 1997

    Certain buildings* intended to be used on completion to provide short-term accommodation to travellers.**

    Any other building intended to be used on completion for residential purposes or to produce income.

    Structural improvements intended to be used on completion for residential purposes or to produce income.

    Environment protection earthworks** intended to be used on completion for residential purposes or to produce income.

    After 30 June 1997

    Any capital works used to produce income (even if, on completion, it was not intended that they be used for that purpose).

    * 'Certain buildings' are apartment buildings in which you own or lease at least 10 apartments, units or flats; or a hotel, motel or guest house that has at least 10 bedrooms.

    ** For more information, contact the Tax Office on 13 24 78.

    Table 2

    Date construction started

    Rate of deduction per income year

    Before 22 August 1979

    nil

    22 August 1979 to 21 August 1984

    2.5%

    22 August 1984 to 15 September 1987

    4%

    After 15 September 1987

    2.5%

    Note: Where construction of a building to provide short-term accommodation for travellers commenced after 26 February 1992, the rate of deduction was increased to 4%.

    With regard to an apartment building, the 4% rate only applies to apartments, units or flats if you own or lease 10 or more of them in the building.

    The deduction can be claimed for 25 years from the date construction was completed in the case of a 4% deduction, and for 40 years from the date construction was completed in the case of a 2.5% deduction. If the construction was completed part of the way through the income year, you can claim a pro-rata deduction for that part.

    Construction expenditure that can be claimed

    Construction expenditure is the actual cost of constructing the building or extension. A deduction is allowed for expenditure incurred in the construction of a building if you are an owner-builder or you contract a builder to construct the building on your land. This includes the component of your payments that represents the profit made by individual tradespeople, builders and architects.

    Some costs that may be included in construction expenditure are:

    • preliminary expenses such as architects' fees, engineering fees and the cost of foundation excavations
    • payments to carpenters, bricklayers and other tradespeople for construction of the building
    • payments for the construction of retaining walls, fences and in-ground swimming pools.

    Some costs that are not included in construction expenditure are:

    • the cost of the land on which the rental property is built
    • expenditure on clearing the land prior to construction
    • earthworks that are permanent, can be economically maintained and are not integral to the installation or construction of a structure
    • expenditure on landscaping.

    If you purchase your property from a speculative builder, the component of your payment that represents the builder's profit margin cannot be claimed as a capital works deduction.

    Some construction expenditure may form part of the cost base of the property for capital gains tax purposes. For more information, see the publication Guide to capital gains tax.

    Changes in building ownership

    Where ownership of the building changes, the right to claim any undeducted construction expenditure for capital works passes to the new owner. A new owner should confirm that the building was constructed during one of the appropriate periods outlined on the previous page. To be able to claim the deduction, the new owner must continue to use the building to produce income.

    Estimating construction costs

    Where a new owner is unable to determine precisely the construction expenditure associated with a building, an estimate provided by an appropriately qualified person may be used. Appropriately qualified people include:

    • a clerk of works, such as a project organiser for major building projects
    • a supervising architect who approves payments at stages of projects
    • a builder who is experienced in estimating construction costs of similar building projects
    • a quantity surveyor.

    Unless they are otherwise qualified, valuers, real estate agents, accountants and solicitors generally have neither the relevant qualifications nor the experience to make such an estimate.

    Example

    Estimating capital works deductions

    The Perth property acquired by the Hitchmans on 20 July 2003 was constructed in August 1991. At the time they acquired the property it also contained the following structural improvements.

    Item

    Construction date

    Retaining wall

    September 1991

    Concrete driveway

    January 1992

    In-ground swimming pool

    July 1992

    Protective fencing around the pool

    August 1992

    Timber decking around the pool

    September 1992

    In a letter to the Hitchmans, a supervising architect estimated the construction cost of the rental property for capital works deduction purposes at $115,800. This includes the cost of the house, the in-ground swimming pool, the protective fencing and the timber decking. Although the retaining wall and the concrete driveway are structural improvements, they were constructed before 27 February 1992. Therefore, they do not form part of the construction cost for the purposes of the capital works deduction and were not included in the $115,800 estimate.

    The Hitchmans can claim a capital works deduction of 2.5% per annum of the construction costs. As they did not acquire the property until 20 July 2003, they can claim the deduction for the 347 days from 20 July 2003 to 30 June 2004. The maximum deduction for 2003-04 would be worked out as follows:

    Construction cost x rate x portion of year = deductible amount

    $115,800

    x

    2.5%

    x

    347
    365

    =

    $2,752

    The cost of obtaining an appropriately qualified person's estimate of construction costs of a rental property is deductible in the year it is incurred. You make your claim for the expense, or your share of the expense if you jointly incurred it, at TaxPack question D10Cost of managing tax affairs.

    For more information about construction expenditure and capital works deductions, see Taxation Ruling TR 97/25 - Property development: deduction for capital expenditure on construction of income producing capital works, including buildings and structural improvements.

    Cost base adjustments for capital works deductions

    In working out a capital gain in respect of a rental property, capital works deductions you claimed, or were entitled to claim, may need to be excluded from the cost base and reduced cost base.

    You must exclude from the cost base of a CGT asset (including a building, structure or other capital improvement to land that is treated as a separate asset for CGT purposes*) the amount of capital works deductions you claimed or were entitled to claim in respect of the asset if:

    • you acquired the asset after 7.30pm (by legal time in the ACT) on 13 May 1997, or
    • you acquired the asset before that time and the expenditure that gave rise to the capital works deductions was incurred after 30 June 1999.
    Reduced cost base

    The amount of the capital works deductions you claimed or were entitled to claim for expenditure you incurred in respect of an asset is excluded from the reduced cost base.

    Example

    Capital works deduction

    Zoran acquired a rental property on 1 July 1997 for $200,000. Before disposing of the property on 30 June 2004, he had claimed $10,000 in capital works deductions.

    At the time of disposal, the cost base of the property was $210,250. Zoran must reduce the cost base of the property by $10,000 to $200,250.

    Limited recourse debt arrangements

    If construction expenditure is financed in whole or in part by a limited recourse debt arrangement that ends after 27 February 1998 and part of the principal debt remains unpaid at the time it ends, an adjustment to assessable income is required. The adjustment is equal to the excess of the total amount of the capital works deductions allowed over the total amount that would have been deductible if based on actual outlays. If you are not sure how to work out your adjustment to assessable income, contact your recognised tax adviser or the Tax Office.

    For information on when a building, structure or other capital improvement to land is treated as a CGT asset separate from the land, see chapter 1 and the section Major capital improvements to a dwelling acquired before 20 September 1985 of the Guide to capital gains tax.

    Last modified: 04 Dec 2006QC 27520