Combining your interest-only loan with an offset account for maximum effect

An interest-only loan with an offset account offers you serious flexibility, provided you know what you're doing.

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If you want to minimise your taxable income and lower your monthly repayments, then you may want to set up an interest-only home loan with a linked offset account. Interest-only home loans with an offset facility can be attractive for investors because they allow you to build up savings while managing your debt, maximises your tax deductions and giving you flexibility in the future.

It’s strongly advised that you seek advice from a savvy mortgage broker and a tax accountant to make sure you understand the tax implications involved.

How does an interest-only loan with an offset work?

Offset accounts

An offset account works in a similar way to a transaction account; however, it reduces the interest payable on your mortgage by the amount held in the account. That is, the account effectively reduces or offsets the amount of interest you pay on your home loan.

For instance, if you had a mortgage of $450,000 and you had $25,000 in your offset account, you would only owe the bank $425,000. When the lender calculates your daily interest, you’d only be charged on the $425,000 owing, instead of the $450,000.

Interest-only loans

With an interest-only loan, you will only pay the interest portion of the loan and thus your periodic repayments will be lower compared to a principal and interest loan. When you make extra repayments into the linked offset account, this gives you increased flexibility with your finance strategy. Maintaining your savings in an offset account acts as a safety net should your situation change in future, such as if you wanted to purchase an investment property.

Learn more about how interest-only home loans work

What are the benefits of using an offset account on an interest-only loan?

Opening an offset account on an interest-only loan has several benefits for investors, including:

  • Lower repayments. As mentioned above, as you will only be paying the interest portion of the loan, your periodic repayments will be lower, freeing up your cash for other investments.
  • Tax deduction. You can claim a tax deduction for interest paid on your property if it is clear that the purpose of the loan is for investment. To claim the interest as a tax deduction, you should focus on reducing the interest payable on the non-deductible debt.
  • Separation of debt. With an interest-only home loan, you can keep the original debt separate. You can then put savings into an offset account against any debt that's not tax deductible. This means you can move your savings to whichever debt is not tax deductible, which helps separate your debt.
  • Contingency buffer. An interest-only mortgage with an offset facility effectively provides you with a contingency buffer to cover unexpected costs or a lifestyle change.

When does it make sense to use an offset account with an interest-only loan?

This strategy makes the most sense for investors, or home owners who may be buying a new home or turning their current property into a property investment.

Turning your home into an investment property

It's likely that the first home you buy may not be the ultimate principal place of residence (PPR), and thus you may decide to turn your PPR into an investment property.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) states that once you pay off your debt, you can't withdraw on the debt to get a tax deduction unless it's for investment reasons. If you moved out of a house and decided to convert it into an investment, the tax deductible amount will be lower compared to the original loan amount.

If there's a possibility that you may turn your existing home into an investment, then having an interest-only home loan and making extra repayments into an offset account can be useful. This is because you are effectively building up a cash buffer which you can use in the future to help purchase another property.

As you may not have fully repaid your existing mortgage, this will allow you to reap the benefits of higher tax deductions on this debt.

Buying a home in the future

It's likely that you may purchase another home in the future and this debt will be non-deductible as it's your primary place of residence. If you're thinking of buying a home in the future, you'll need cash or equity to cover the deposit (as a bare minimum). If you have this cash sitting in an offset account, you can access it as you need it and also get the tax benefit.

If there's a chance that you may purchase a residential property in the future, you want to ensure that you have as little interest payable as possible as it will be non-deductible. You should therefore work towards building up your savings in an offset account as you can use this towards buying a home further down the track. This allows you to minimise your non-deductible debt while maintaining the same level of tax-deductible debt.

How can I go about setting up this structure?

Before you take out an interest-only loan with an offset account, you need to work with a savvy mortgage broker, financial planner or tax specialist to evaluate your financial position. Identify the amount that you can afford to put into the offset account each month and discuss your investment strategy with them to see whether this structure will allow you to meet your investment goals.

If you make additional repayments during the interest-only period, and you can cover the extra repayments when the loan reverts back to principal and interest, then an interest-only loan with an offset could be a good structure to consider.

Example: Andrew's home loan and tax situation

Case study interest only loans and offset accountsAndrew purchased a two-bedroom apartment and took out a $450,000 mortgage. The loan was set up as principal and interest (P&I) and Andrew worked to pay off his debt as soon as possible. He lives in the house, and it's his principal place of residence (PPR).

Six years pass and Andrew has managed to get his loan down to $250,000. However, Andrew has now decided that he would like to buy a bigger house, and maintain his two-bedroom apartment as an investment property.

As Andrew has $250,000 owing, when the property becomes an investment, he can only claim interest on a $250,000 loan even though the property value has appreciated over time, and is now worth around $600,000.

Andrew wanted to use the equity from his first property to help purchase his next one. However, the equity that he can access from his two-bedroom apartment won’t be tax deductible because it’s being used to purchase a primary place of residence (PPR).

As a result, Andrew has minimised his tax deductible debt and increased his non-deductible debt which is not a good tax outcome.

What’s the solution?

If Andrew had taken out an interest-only mortgage with an offset account, he could have resolved this problem.

Instead of paying down the principal portion of the loan, Andrew could have put his additional savings (that would otherwise be principal repayments) into the offset account. This would have helped Andrew minimise the interest payable on the outstanding loan amount.

When he converts his property into an investment, Andrew could withdraw funds from his offset account and use the funds as a deposit for his next property purchase. Andrew would have increased his deductible debt and minimised his non-deductible debt.

Compare interest only investor loans

Many of the loans in this table come with offset accounts. To filter by offset only click on the advanced search button at the top of the table.

$
years
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp. Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment
UBank UHomeLoan Fixed
2.09%
2.71% p.a.
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$562.33
Limited time offer.
Investors can enjoy flexible repayments and an easy application process with this pioneering online lender. Apply by 30 June 2021 and settle within 90 days to get this low rate.
homeloans.com.au Low Rate Home Loan with Offset
2.59%
2.42% p.a.
$0
$0 p.a.
60%
$600.83
This competitive variable rate loan is for investors who want interest-only repayments. You will need a 40% deposit.
UBank UHomeLoan Fixed
2.64%
2.73% p.a.
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$604.76
Forget about rate rises for 5 years and minimise repayments on your investment mortgage.
homeloans.com.au Low Rate Home Loan with Offset
2.69%
2.52% p.a.
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$608.71
A competitive rate with no application or ongoing fee. This loan is not available for construction.
UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate
2.6%
2.65% p.a.
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$601.61
Pay interest only repayments with this special offer for investors.
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6 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    GraemeApril 12, 2016

    Hi,

    With the offset account how much would be recommended amount to deposit, to how much you have borrowed.

    Regards

      Default Gravatar
      BelindaApril 12, 2016

      Hi Graeme,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      Typically, the more money you deposit in your offset account, the more you could save on interest payments for your home loan, which will likely make your home loan term shorter. Say for example, if you had a mortgage of $450,000 and you had $25,000 in your offset account, you would only owe the bank $425,000. When the lender calculates your daily interest, you’d only be charged on the $425,000 owing, instead of the $450,000.

      I recommend getting in touch with a licensed mortgage broker. A broker can help you understand your financial position and they can leverage their panel of networks to find a lender that’s more inclined to review your application. You may also consider speaking with an accountantto make sure you understand the tax implications involved.

      Thanks,
      Belinda

    Default Gravatar
    DeanMarch 5, 2016

    Hi,

    From what I have seen, most Interest only loans run for 5yrs.
    So assuming you take a 5yr interest only loan do you then have to refinance every 5 years to keep it interest only or are there lenders that offer longer periods?

    Cheers

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MarcMarch 7, 2016Staff

      Hi Dean,
      thanks for the question.

      In recent years interest only options for many loans have been reduced to 5 years. In the past some lenders offered 10 – 15 year terms.

      This means that today, borrowers wanting to make interest only payments for longer than 5 years will have to consult their lender to see if they can get another interest only term, or consider refinancing.

      I hope this helps,
      Marc.

    Default Gravatar
    ALEXFebruary 29, 2016

    Hello,

    From what I’ve seen ‘interest only loan’ interest rates are slightly higher than ‘principal and interest loans’.

    As an example a ‘principal and interest loan’ will have the rate of 4%. A portion (lets say 3%) is the interest payment and a portion (the remaining 1%) pays down the debt.

    While the ‘interest only loan’ will have a rate of 4.5%. Where 4.5% is the interest payment with nothing going toward paying down the debt unless you make additional payments.

    If the borrowers main objective is to pay down the debt as quickly as possible can you please explain why a ‘principal and interest loan’ wouldn’t be better than an ‘interest only loan’ with or without an offset account.

    Thanks
    Alex

    PS: It would be great if you could email me your response as well as publishing it for others.

      Default Gravatar
      BelindaMarch 1, 2016

      Hi Alex,

      That’s a great question.

      Every borrower faces the decision to opt for a principal and interest or an interest-only loan and the suitability of each depends on your financial discipline and your investment objective.

      The premise of this article is to explore how investors can benefit from using an interest-only home loan with an offset account. The strategy is that some investors can increase their tax-deductible debt by only paying the interest portion of a home loan (this would not be achieved to the same extent with a principal and interest loan, although you make a valid point about a potentially higher interest rate with an interest-only loan, but this depends on the product and the lender).

      By making regular deposits into an offset account with an interest-only loan, investors can focus on reducing the interest payable and benefit from significant tax savings. This is especially true if you decide to move out of your principal place of residence (PPR) and convert it into an investment property later on.

      If you need personal advice, please get in touch with a tax specialist.

      Kind regards,
      Belinda

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