• Expenses you can claim immediately

    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

    Expenses for which you may be entitled to an immediate deduction in the year you incur the expense include:

    • advertising for tenants
    • bank charges
    • body corporate fees*
    • cleaning
    • council rates
    • electricity and gas
    • gardening and lawn mowing
    • in-house audio/video service charges
    • insurance
      • building
      • contents
      • public liability
       
    • interest on loans*
    • land tax
    • legal expenses*
    • lease costs*
      • preparation
      • registration
      • stamp duty
       
    • mortgage discharge expenses*
    • pest control
    • property agent's fees and commission
    • quantity surveyor's fees
    • repairs and maintenance*
    • secretarial and bookkeeping fees
    • security patrol fees
    • servicing costs - for example, servicing a water heater
    • stationery and postage
    • telephone calls and rental
    • tax-related expenses
    • travel and car expenses*
      • rent collection
      • inspection of property
      • maintenance of property
       
    • water charges.

    You can claim a deduction for these expenses only if you actually incur them. Deductions marked with an asterisk (*) are examined in more detail below.

    Body corporate fees and charges

    You may be able to claim a deduction for body corporate fees and charges you incur for your rental property.

    Body corporate fees and charges may be incurred to cover the cost of day-to-day administration and maintenance or they may be applied to a special purpose fund.

    Payments you make to body corporate administration funds and general purpose sinking funds are considered to be payments for the provision of services by the body corporate and you can claim a deduction for these levies at the time you incur them. However, if the body corporate requires you to make payments to a special purpose fund to pay for particular capital expenditure, these levies are not deductible. Similarly, if the body corporate levies a special contribution for major capital expenses to be paid out of the general purpose sinking fund, you will not be entitled to a deduction for this special contribution amount. This is because payments to cover the cost of capital improvements or capital repairs are not deductible - see Taxation Ruling TR 97/23-Income tax: deductions for repairs. You may be able to claim a capital works deduction for the cost of capital improvements or capital repairs once the cost has been charged to either the special purpose fund or, if a special contribution has been levied, the general purpose sinking fund.

    A general purpose sinking fund is one established to cover a variety of unspecified expenses (some of which may be capital expenses) that are likely to be incurred by the body corporate in maintaining the common property (for example, painting of the common property, repairing or replacing fixtures and fittings of the common property). A special purpose fund is one that is established to cover a specified capital improvement to the common property which is likely to be a significant expense that cannot be covered by ongoing contributions to a general purpose sinking fund.

    If the body corporate fees and charges you incur are for things like the maintenance of gardens, deductible repairs and building insurance, you cannot also claim deductions for these as part of other expenses. For example, you cannot claim a separate deduction for garden maintenance if that expense is already included in body corporate fees and charges.

    Interest

    If you take out a loan to purchase a rental property, you can claim the interest charged on that loan, or a portion of the interest, as a deduction. However, the property must be rented, or available for rental, in the income year for which you claim a deduction. If you start to use the property for private purposes, you cannot claim any interest expenses you incur after you start using the property for private purposes.

    Similarly, if you take out a loan to purchase land on which to build a rental property or to finance renovations to a property you intend to rent out, the interest on the loan will be deductible from the time you took the loan out. However, if your intention changes - for example, you decide to use the property for private purposes and you no longer intend to use it to produce rent or other income - you cannot claim the interest after your intention changes.

    While the property is rented, or available for rent, you may also claim interest charged on loans taken out:

    • to purchase depreciating assets
    • for renovations
    • for repairs.

    Banks and other lending institutions offer a range of financial products which can be used to acquire a rental property. Many of these products permit flexible repayment and redraw facilities. As a consequence, a loan might be obtained to purchase both a rental property and a private car. In cases of this type, the interest on the loan must be apportioned into deductible and non-deductible parts according to the amounts borrowed for the rental property and for private purposes. A simple example of the necessary calculation is shown in the apportionment of interest example below.

    If you have a loan account that has a fluctuating balance due to a variety of deposits and withdrawals and it is used for both private purposes and for rental property purposes, you must keep accurate records to enable you to calculate the interest that applies to the rental property portion of the loan; that is, you must separate the interest that relates to the rental property from any interest that relates to the private use of the funds.

    If you have difficulty calculating your deduction for interest, contact your recognised tax adviser or the Tax Office.

    Some rental property owners borrow money to buy a new home and then rent out their previous home. If there is an outstanding loan on the old home and the property is used to produce income, the interest outstanding on the loan, or part of the interest, will be deductible. However, an interest deduction cannot be claimed on the loan used to buy the new home because it is not used to produce income. This is so whether or not the loan for the new home is secured against the former home.

    Example

    Apportionment of interest

    The Hitchmans decide to use their bank's 'Mortgage breaker' account to take out a loan of $209,000 from which $170,000 is to be used to buy a rental property and $39,000 is to be used to purchase a private car. The bank officer advises them that they will need to work out each year how much of their interest payments is tax deductible. The officer gives them the following whole year example based on a loan interest rate of 6.75% per annum, and assuming that the property is rented from 1 July.

    Interest for year 1 = $209,000 x 6.75% = $14,108

    Apportionment of interest payment related to rental property:

    Total interest expense

    x

    rental property loan
    total borrowings

    =

    Deductible interest

    $14,108

    x

    $170,000
    $209,000

    =

    $11,475

    If you prepay interest it may not be deductible all at once. Read the section Prepaid expenses.

    Note - Thin capitalisation

    If you are an Australian resident and you (or any associate entities) have certain overseas interests, or you are a foreign resident, thin capitalisation rules may apply if your debt deductions, such as interest (combined with those of your associate entities), for 2003-04 are more than $250,000. See the publication Guide to thin capitalisation, complete the thin capitalisation schedule attached to the guide and, if required under the thin capitalisation rules, only claim a reduced amount.

    For more information about the deductibility of interest, see the following taxation rulings and determination:

    If you need help to calculate your interest deduction, contact your recognised tax adviser or the Tax Office.

    Lease document expenses

    The costs of preparing and registering a lease and the cost of stamp duty on a lease are deductible to the extent that you have used, or will use, the property to produce income. This includes any such costs associated with an assignment or surrender of a lease.

    For example, freehold title cannot be obtained for properties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) - they are commonly acquired under a 99-year crown lease. Therefore, stamp duty, preparation and registration costs you incur on the lease of an ACT property are deductible to the extent that you use the property as a rental property.

    Legal expenses

    Some legal expenses incurred in producing your rental income are deductible - for instance, the cost of evicting a non-paying tenant.

    Most legal expenses, however, are of a capital nature and are therefore not deductible. These include costs of:

    • purchasing or selling your property
    • resisting land resumption, and
    • defending your title to the property.

    Non-deductible legal expenses may, however, form part of the cost base of your property for capital gains tax purposes. For more information see the publication Guide to capital gains tax. See also Capital gains tax.

    Example

    Deductible legal expenses

    In September 2003, the Hitchmans' tenants moved out owing four weeks rent. The Hitchmans retained the bond money and took the tenants to court to terminate the lease and recover the balance of the rent. The legal expenses they incurred doing this are fully deductible. The Hitchmans were seeking to recover assessable rental income, and they wished to continue earning income from the property. The Hitchmans must include the retained bond money and the recovered rent in their assessable income in the year of receipt.

    Mortgage discharge expenses

    Mortgage discharge expenses are the costs involved in discharging a mortgage other than payments of principal and interest. These costs are deductible in the year they are incurred to the extent that you took out the mortgage as security for the repayment of money you borrowed to use to produce assessable income.

    For example, if you used a property to produce rental income for half the time you held it and as a holiday home for the other half of the time, 50% of the costs of discharging the mortgage are deductible.

    Mortgage discharge expenses may also include penalty interest payments. Penalty interest payments are amounts paid to a lender, such as a bank, to agree to accept early repayment of a loan - including a loan on a rental property. The amounts are commonly calculated by reference to the number of months that interest payments would have been made had the premature repayment not been made.

    Penalty interest payments relating to a rental property are deductible:

    • if the loan moneys borrowed are secured by a mortgage over the property and the payment effects the discharge of the mortgage, or
    • if payment is made in order to rid the taxpayer of a recurring obligation to pay interest on the loan.

    Repairs

    Expenditure for repairs you make to the property may be deductible. However, the repairs must relate directly to wear and tear or other damage that occurred as a result of your renting out the property.

    Repairs generally involve a replacement or renewal of a worn out or broken part - for example, replacing some guttering damaged in a storm or part of a fence that was damaged by a falling tree branch.

    However, the following expenses are capital, or of a capital nature, and are not deductible:

    • replacement of an entire structure or unit of property (such as a complete fence or building, a stove, kitchen cupboards or refrigerator)
    • improvements, renovations, extensions and alterations
    • initial repairs - for example, in remedying defects, damage or deterioration that existed at the date you acquired the property.

    You may be able to claim capital works deductions for these expenses - for more information, read the section Capital works deductions. Expenses of a capital nature may form part of the cost base of the property for capital gains tax purposes (see the publication Guide to capital gains tax) - but not generally to the extent that capital works deductions have been or can be claimed for them (see Cost base adjustments for capital works deductions).

    Example

    Repairs prior to renting out the property

    The Hitchmans needed to do some repairs to their newly acquired rental property before the first tenants moved in. They paid an interior decorator to repaint dirty walls, replace broken light fittings and repair doors on two bedrooms. They also discovered white ants in some of the floor boards. This required white ant treatment and replacement of some of the boards.

    These expenses were incurred to make the property suitable for rental and did not arise from the Hitchmans' use of the property to generate assessable rental income. The expenses are capital in nature and the Hitchmans are not able to claim a deduction for these expenses.

    Repairs to a rental property will generally be deductible if:

    • the property continues to be rented on an ongoing basis
    • the property remains available for rental but there is a short period when the property is unoccupied - for example, where unseasonable weather causes cancellations of bookings or advertising is unsuccessful in attracting tenants.

    If you no longer rent the property, the cost of repairs may still be deductible provided:

    • the need for the repairs is related to the period in which the property was used by you to produce income, and
    • the property was income-producing during the income year in which you incurred the cost of repairs.

    Example

    Repairs when the property is no longer rented out

    After the last tenants moved out in September 2003, the Hitchmans discovered that the stove didn't work, kitchen tiles were cracked and the toilet window was broken. They also discovered a hole in a bedroom wall that had been covered with a poster. In October 2003 the Hitchmans paid for this damage to be repaired so they could sell the property.

    As the tenants were no longer in the property, the Hitchmans were not using the property to produce assessable income. However, they could still claim a deduction for repairs to the property because the repairs related to the period when their tenants were living in the property and the repairs were completed before the end of the income year in which the property ceased to be used to produce income.

    Examples of repairs for which you can claim deductions are:

    • replacing broken windows
    • maintaining plumbing
    • repairing electrical appliances.

    Examples of improvements for which you cannot claim deductions are:

    • landscaping
    • insulating the house
    • adding on another room.

    For more information, see the publications Guide to capital gains tax and Taxation Ruling TR 97/23 - Deductions for repairs. See also Capital gains tax.

    Travel expenses

    If you travel to inspect or maintain your property or collect the rent, you may be able to claim the costs of travelling as a deduction. You are allowed a full deduction where the sole purpose of the trip relates to the rental property. However, in other circumstances you may not be able to claim a deduction or you may be entitled to only a partial deduction.

    If you fly to inspect your rental property, stay overnight, and return home on the following day, all of the airfare and accommodation expenses would generally be allowed as a deduction.

    Example

    Travel and vehicle expenses

    Although their local rental property was managed by a property agent, Mr Hitchman decided to inspect the property three months after the tenants moved in. During the income year Mr Hitchman also made a number of visits to the property in order to carry out minor repairs. Mr Hitchman travelled 162 kilometres during the course of these visits. On the basis of a cents per kilometre rate of 61 cents for his 2.6 litre car - see TaxPack 2004 or visit www.ato.gov.au for the appropriate rates - Mr Hitchman can claim the following deduction:

    Distance travelled x rate per km = deductible amount

    162 km x 61 cents per km = $98

    On his way to golf each Saturday, Mr Hitchman drove past the property to 'keep an eye on things'. These motor vehicle expenses are not deductible as they are incidental to the private purpose of the journey.

    Apportionment of travel expenses

    Where travel related to your rental property is combined with a holiday or other private activities, you may need to apportion the expenses.

    If you travel to inspect your rental property and combine this with a holiday, you need to take into account the reasons for your trip. If the main purpose of your trip is to have a holiday and the inspection of the property is incidental to that main purpose, you cannot claim a deduction for the cost of the travel. However, you may be able to claim local expenses directly related to the property inspection and a proportion of accommodation expenses.

    Example

    Apportioning travel expenses

    The Hitchmans also owned another rental property in a resort town on the north coast of Queensland. They spent $1,000 on airfares and $1,500 on accommodation when they travelled from their home in Perth to the resort town, mainly for the purpose of holidaying, but also to inspect the property. They also spent $50 on taxi fares for the return trip from the hotel to the rental property. The Hitchmans spent one day on matters relating to the rental property and nine days swimming and sightseeing.

    No deduction can be claimed for any part of the $1,000 airfares.

    The Hitchmans can claim a deduction for the $50 taxi fare.

    A deduction for 10% of the accommodation expenses (10% of $1,500 - that is, $150) would be considered reasonable in the circumstances. The total travel expenses the Hitchmans can claim are therefore $200 ($50 taxi fare and $150 accommodation). Accordingly, Mr and Mrs Hitchman can each claim a deduction of $100.

    Last modified: 04 Dec 2006QC 27520