How to maximise your tax return as an investor | Finder

How to maximise your tax return as an investor

Owning an investment property can mean tax deductions worth thousands of dollars. Make sure you don't miss out on any tax claims with this cheat sheet.

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As a property investor, you're entitled to claim many different expenses at tax time. These can be immediate deductions, and longer-term deductions relating to depreciating assets and capital works deductions, which can be claimed over a number of years.

Tax deductions checklist for property investors:

This list of deductions will help you keep track of expenses so you can maximise your tax breaks:

  • Mortgage interest on your investment loan - keep all bank statements
  • Repairs and maintenance - including gardening, pest control, repairs and tradies
  • Agent fees - such as the property management commission you pay each month
  • Administration and advertising - the fees you pay to advertise the property for rent are deductible
  • Council rates - these are payable twice a year and are fully tax deductible
  • Water charges - you'll pay these 2-4 times per year, depending on location
  • Insurance - landlords, building and content insurance polices are all deductible
  • Land tax - if applicable, you'll receive an invoice once per year

If you fail to claim all of your eligible tax deductions, you could end up paying too much tax for no good reason. There are a number of immediate deductions available to property investors, as well as items that can be depreciated over the life of the home. Australia’s taxation system offers generous concessions to investors and allows them to deduct the following:

Home loan mortgage interest

The interest on a property investment loan is fully tax deductible. For this reason, many investors choose interest-only home loans, as it keeps your mortgage repayments lower and the full cost is tax deductible. These loans allow investors to pay only the interest portion of the loan without making payments on the principal. In addition to the interest on an investment loan, any accompanying bank charges are generally also deductible.

Property repairs and maintenance

Investors can deduct any ongoing repairs and maintenance of their investment property. Maintenance is any work carried out to prevent or fix deterioration, and can include things like gardening, plumbing or pest control.

Repairs are any works carried out to restore part of the property to its original state of function.

h3>Repairs vs improvements - what's the difference?

From a taxation point of view, repairs and maintenance are deductible whereas improvements are considered capital expenditure, which means you will need to deduct them over several years. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) defines repairs as the 'replacement of renewal of a broken part' and improvements are 'landscaping, insulating and adding a room'. For instance, replacing one broken cupboard in the kitchen is a repair. Replacing ALL of the cupboards in the kitchen is a replacement.

Did you know?
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  • Using a professional such as a quantity surveyor means you'll get an accurate depreciation schedule (and their fees are tax deductible).
  • When doing renovations, make sure you keep track of everything you've thrown away and replaced - you may be able to deduct some of their value.
  • Depreciating assets that cost $300 or less are generally immediately deductible in year one, not over several years.

Agents fees, admin and advertising

Property investors can deduct many costs related to offering their property for rent. This includes any agent fees, ongoing property management fees and administrative costs. You can also deduct any outlay for advertising your property and travelling to and from the property.

Council rates and water

Council rates are payable for the council providing services like waste management to the property. Generally, council rates are slightly higher for investors than they are for owner occupiers. Water charges apply for both the supply and usage of water. All of these fees are fully tax deductible on investment properties.

Insurance

Any home and contents insurance, landlord’s insurance or other insurance related to the investment property is tax deductible.

Land tax

Land tax is payable when you own land worth a certain amount in each state or territory. For instance, the land tax threshold in your state might be $600,000, which means you may be required to pay land tax if the value of the land you own in that state exceeds that value. Note that this applies to the land value, not the overall property value, and your own home that you live in is excluded from the calculation.

Depreciation

In addition to expenses you can deduct for the tax year in which they occur, property investors can also depreciate assets within a property that decline in value over time. These include things like appliances, carpets, curtains and furniture. However, these must be items purchased by you rather than a previous owner. Investors can also depreciate building construction costs for things such as major renovations or additions.

Check out our guide on property depreciation

A note on negative gearing

Negative gearing is one of the most attractive tax benefits for property investors. The policy is a tax minimisation strategy that allows investors to deduct losses on their rental property from their personal income.

The idea behind negative gearing is to offset cash flow losses in the short term with an eye toward long-term capital gains. This doesn’t mean, however, that negatively geared property investors have to be out-of-pocket at the end of the tax year. With depreciation factored in, a property can be cashflow positive but still be negatively geared. Read our guide for an example of how you can negatively gear a property, but still generate cash flow.

Capital gains tax

Capital gains tax (CGT) is tax paid on the sale of any asset on which you’ve made a profit, including property. While CGT will only affect your tax bill when the property is sold, it’s helpful to understand how CGT is calculated so you can minimise your bill when you do decide to sell.

CGT on an investment property is calculated based on the sale price of the property minus what’s known as your cost base. The cost base of the property is the original purchase price, plus any expenses. Expenses for CGT purchases can include things like stamp duty and major renovations.

Note that you don't pay CGT on the sale of your own owner occupied property. In order to minimise the amount you pay in CGT, it’s important to keep very detailed records of all expenses related to your investment property. To learn how to minimise your CGT bill, read our guide to CGT on property.

If you’ve held the investment property longer than 12 months, you will also be eligible for a 50% discount on the capital gains tax.

Compare loans for property investment

Data updated regularly
$
years
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp. Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment
Athena Variable Home  Loan
2.54%
2.54%
$0
$0 p.a.
60%
$596.91
Investors with large 40% deposits or equity can get this low variable rate. A competitive option for investors looking to refinance.
UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate
2.74%
2.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$612.67
Get a discounted, low-fee investor loan from a convenient online lender. 20% deposit required.
Suncorp Home Package Plus Fixed
2.28%
3.15%
$0
$375 p.a.
80%
$576.78
Lock in a low fixed rate loan for three years and get the annual package fee waived in the first year. Available for borrowers with 10% deposits.
homeloans.com.au Low Rate Home Loan with Offset
2.39%
2.41%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$585.25
This investment loan keeps fees low, has a sharp interest rate and comes with a 100% offset account. This loan is not available for construction.
Newcastle Permanent Building Society Fixed Rate Home Loan
2.38%
3.72%
$595
$0 p.a.
90%
$584.48
$2,000 refinance cashback
Competitive fixed rate for home buyers.Available with a 10% deposit.$2,000 cashback for eligible refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more.
loans.com.au Smart Booster Discount Variable Home Loan
1.99%
2.71%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$554.81
If you have an owner occupier loan with loans.com.au you can also get this very low rate variable mortgage for your investment property. Principal and interest repayments. Add an offset account for an additional 0.10% on your interest rate.
Athena Variable Home  Loan
2.64%
2.59%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$604.76
A competitive investor variable rate that falls as you build equity.
Well Home Loans Balanced Fixed Home Loan
2.29%
2.29%
$250
$0 p.a.
90%
$577.55
A competitive 3 year investor rate with principal and interest repayments. Optional offset account with a $10 monthly fee. Not available for construction purposes.
UBank UHomeLoan Fixed
2.14%
2.71%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
$566.11
Investors can enjoy flexible repayments and an easy application process with this pioneering online lender.
ME Flexible Home Loan With Member Package
2.98%
3.43%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
$631.88
Package loan for investors making principal-and-interest repayments. Low fees and 20% deposit required.
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4 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    SarahlyJanuary 3, 2017

    I went to overseas and rented out my residential property in year 2007, and I came back and live in year 2015. If I want to sell this property, can you please tell me how I should calculate the capital gain taxes.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MayJanuary 3, 2017Staff

      Hi Sarahly,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      The capital gains tax (CGT) is generally determined on how long you were living in your previous main residence and, if applicable, how long the residence was rented out for. If you are no longer treating your previous home as your main residence, then the CGT will be based on the valuation of the home when you first lived there, or you first began to rent it out. We’d recommend that you speak with an accountant to learn more.

      Cheers,
      May

      Default Gravatar
      SarahlyJanuary 3, 2017

      Thanks May,

      thank you so much for your reply. I was an non-resident for tax purpose from year 2007 to year 2015, and I rented out my residential property. I returned Australia in year 2015, and become a resident, and live in my residential home.

      Can you please tell me if I am entitle to have the 50% capital gains tax discount for the rented period during my living aboard in overseas from year 2007 to year 2015.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MayJanuary 6, 2017Staff

      Hi Sarahly,

      Thanks for getting back and sorry for the delay.

      If your intention was to rent it out, but you have changed your mind and lived in it, in that case, basically, the CGT you have to pay will be computed based on comparing the number of days you lived in the property to the number of days you rented the property. For the computation and for a more comprehensive advice whether you will be eligible for the partial CGT or not, best to reach out a tax accountant.

      Regards,
      May

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