Everything you need to know about negative gearing

Information verified correct on December 10th, 2016

Find out everything you need to know about negative gearing in our comprehensive guide to Australia’s unique tax concession.

Negative gearing is a perennial source of debate in Australia. Supporters claim the tax concession bolsters the housing supply, encourages investment and keeps a lid on rents while detractors say it distorts the market and prices out first home buyers.

The one thing most people seem able to agree on is that the argument over negative gearing isn’t going away anytime soon. So what is negative gearing, how does it work and why is it so controversial? Our comprehensive guide provides you all the information you need to know about one of Australia’s favourite sources of debate.

Find out the a-z of negative gearing

 

Transcript

Jake: With the election campaign in full swing, it seems one of the most heated talking points is negative gearing. It's a topic that has many divided and far more utterly confused, myself included. So I caught up with Adam Smith, finder.com.au's Home Loans Editor, to talk about the Australian property market.

Adam: Hey, Jake.

Jake: Adam, good to see you.

Adam: How you going there?

Jake: So what is negative gearing? What is this talking point even about?

Adam: Negative gearing, basically, is a tax minimization strategy that allows you to write off any losses you have on an investment on your personal income, okay? So say you own a property, and the amount that it brings in rent is less than the amount that it cost to pay the mortgage on it and to do all the maintenance, right? So, at the end of the year, you're making a loss on it. That means you negatively gear. So you can take that amount that you're losing, and you can write that amount off of your personal income when you're filing your taxes.

Jake: Why would you want to make a loss on an investment as big as a property?

Adam: Okay, the thing with that is that property as an asset class, right, it's a long-term kind of investment, okay? So what negative gearing does is it allows you to offset those short-term cash flow losses in order to see a long-term capital gain. So, hopefully, from the time you buy your property to the time you sell your property, it's increased in value significantly, right? In between those times, when you may not be making money on it, you might be losing a certain amount of money, you're able to offset that cash flow loss by deducting against your income with the idea that one day you're going to sell this thing, and you're gonna make a lot of money on it, right?

Let's say you've got a $400,000 home loan, okay? And you're paying 4 and a half percent interest only. You're not paying anything on the principle. You're just paying interest, okay? Now, you rent that place out for $400 a week. Okay, so, 400 times 52: $20,800, okay? Now, meanwhile, your home loan repayments over the course of the year amount to $18,000, okay? Then let's say on average strata costs, maintenance, things like that: $2,000. So far you're doing pretty well. Your outlay is $20,000. Your income is $20,800. So your cash flow position is positive $800, okay? But right now you're not negatively geared, okay? So now we add on depreciation. So for depreciation, the depreciation allowance on a property of that price would be $4,000. So you take that $4,000 off, and all of a sudden, you're $3,200 negatively geared, but you've still got an extra $800 in your pocket at the end of the year.

Jake: Right. Okay. We kind of hear a lot about, you know, the cashed up investor alongside negatively geared scenarios. Is that always the case or...?

Adam: Well, see, this one's a bit difficult to figure out, because we do. We hear oftentimes that negative gearing is something that really wealthy investors use. But the data actually tells us that 67% of people who are negatively geared have a taxable income below $80,000 per year.

Jake: Really?

Adam: Yeah, but here's the tricky bit in that, is the numbers can be a bit misleading, because that's $80,000 taxable income. So that after they've already deducted whatever they're going to deduct for negative gearing, okay? So suppose I'm bringing home $120,000 a year, which would put me in one of the upper income brackets, but I'm negatively geared for $40,001. And all of a sudden, you deduct that, and I fall into that below $80,000 a year tax bracket. And it also doesn't take into account, suppose you have a couple who has, between the two of them, a combined income that puts them in the kind of upper levels of socioeconomic class, but only one of them is negatively gearing on their taxes, right? All of a sudden, when we hear the figures, they're in that 80,000 and below bracket. But in reality, the picture may be very, very different. So it's hard to really know, because the numbers can be a little bit deceptive.

Jake: Okay, so I get that. It makes sense for investors.

Adam: Sure.

Jake: In terms of looking at negative gearing within the wider sort of property market, are there benefits for either potential homebuyers or renters?

Adam: Well, there's definitely a benefit for renters, in that if you make property more attractive to invest in, then you get more people investing in that who would otherwise maybe put their money somewhere else, like say shares, or term deposits, or something like that. And if they're buying investment properties, that means that there are more properties on the market to rent. So supply goes up, and if supply outweighs demand, then, of course, prices come down. So when you make property an attractive asset class to invest in, there's more supply of rental properties, and that keeps rents lower.

Jake: So negative gearing actually can put a lid on rental prices.

Adam: It certainly can. Yeah. At least that's the theory. But the thing to remember here is that what's being proposed by the Labor Party is not to axe negative gearing all together, right? What they're proposing is to restrict it to newly constructed properties. So we hear all the time that if you get rid of negative gearing, then rents are going to skyrocket, because people aren't going to invest in property anymore, right?

Jake: Right.

Adam: What the labor party is arguing is that all those investors who were buying existing properties, because they can't negatively gear those existing properties, they're going to instead invest in newly built properties. And so if the demand for newly built properties increases, then we've got more properties being built, which is bringing more supply on the market. So they would say that that takes care of that whole problem of rental prices going up, because we've got more properties. The supply is still there, and it's outweighing the demand, keeping prices low. And the other thing that they would say is if I'm a first homebuyer, okay, every first homebuyer who enters the market takes one renter out of the market, because I was renting, but now I'm an owner-occupier, right? So what they would say is that if you take investors out of the market for existing homes, it makes it easier for first homebuyers to get in, okay? And, once again, the demand and the supply for rent evens out, because every time a first homebuyer is able to get into the market, the demand for rental properties falls by one.

Jake: So if it turns potential buyers into buyers, and it can keep a lid on property prices, what are some of the downsides to what's being proposed?

Adam: Okay, so I guess the downsides would be just like taking investors out of the market for existing houses would limit the competition first homebuyers face there, putting them into the market for newly built houses, all of a sudden, ramps up that competition. And those newly built houses, a lot of the times, are kind of in the suburban areas of the city, and they're far more affordable than these intercity existing properties. So, by and large, they tend to be good properties for first homebuyers. But if you've got a lot of investors that that's the only kind of property that you can invest in, then, all of a sudden, you've got first homebuyers competing for those properties with investors who are likely to have a lot more cash on hand.

There's a lot of fear around the idea of changing or removing negative gearing, and perception often becomes reality. Okay, so if you've got a bunch of property investors, and they're feeling nervous about changes to negative gearing, it's possible that they decide to sit tight and put their money in a different asset class. And all of a sudden, that perception kind of begins to become reality. It's they're nervous about it, and, therefore, it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the property market suffers as a result of those kind of nerves that property investors are feeling about the changes.

Jake: Right. So we accidentally got a bit philosophical, but it is a case of this being all potential changes and a bit of hysteria at the moment could actually have some sort of impact.

Adam: Yeah, but that's the thing, I guess, to remember, is that all of this is speculative, right? At the end of the day, we really don't know for sure the impact, you know. So you can have all kinds of predictions, and prognostication, and everything, but at the end of the day, until something actually happens, it's all purely speculative.

Jake: Sure. Okay. Well, dude, thank you for the chat. It's definitely opened my eyes a bit.

Adam: Yeah, it's a confusing issue, and it's one that definitely inspires a lot of passion for people.

Jake: Cool.

Adam: Cool.

Negative gearing icon 1What is negative gearing and how does it work?


Negative gearing proposed changes image

Our introductory guide introduces you to the ins and outs of this tax strategy.

Negative gearing icon 2What are the benefits of negative gearing?


Negative gearing investment property cash flow positive

A comprehensive case study demonstrates how you can make the strategy work for you.

Negative gearing 3Why negative gearing debates aren't over


arguing hands

The Federal Election may have been decided, but the argument over negative gearing will continue to rage.

Negative gearing icon 1How does Australia stack up to the rest of the world?


Negative gearing proposed changes image

Negative gearing is a fairly unique system. How does it stack up to housing tax concessions in the rest of the world?

Negative gearing icon 2Can negative gearing equal positive cash flow?


Negative gearing investment property cash flow positive

Just because you’re negatively geared, it doesn’t mean you have to lose money.

Negative gearing 3What would happen if negative gearing went away?


negative gearing strategy image

We look at the “what if” scenarios for negative gearing.

Property investing tax strategies

Negative gearing is a strategy property investors use to offset their short-term losses in the pursuit of long-term capital gains. This requires the ability to absorb some cash flow losses, but a savvy investor can structure their property investment in such a way as to maximise its tax effectiveness.

Top tax tips for property investors.

Capital gains tax

Another important piece of the negative gearing puzzle is the capital gains tax (CGT) concession. This allows investors who have held their property for at least 12 months an exemption on 50% of their CGT bill. Coupled with negative gearing, the CGT discount makes property an extremely tax-effective investment strategy.

Minimising your CGT bill

Getting your foot on the property investment ladder

While property might be a tax-effective and attractive asset class for investment, first-time investors can feel intimidated by the perceived difficulty of buying their first property. Before you wade into the world of property investment, there are some important strategies to keep in mind.

Property investment strategies

Compare investor home loans

Rates last updated December 10th, 2016
$
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment
3.89% 3.89% $0 $0 p.a. 80% Go to site More info
NAB Choice Package Fixed Rate Home Loan - 3 Years (Investor)
Lock in your interest rate on your investment purchase for 3 years and enjoy the benefits of a package home loan. 250,000 Velocity Frequent Flyer point offer, conditions apply.
3.89% 4.95% $0 $395 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
Greater Bank Ultimate Home Loan - Discounted 5 Year Fixed ($150K+ Investor)
A discounted 5 years fixed rate with a redraw facility and no application fee.
4.09% 4.55% $0 $375 p.a. 85% Go to site More info
ClickLoans The Online Investor Home Loan - LVR <70%
An investment home loan with competitive rate and 100% offset account.
3.79% 3.79% $0 $0 p.a. 70% Go to site More info
Greater Bank Great Rate Home Loan - Discounted 1 Year Fixed ($150K+ Investor)
Lock in your interest rate for 1 year and pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.79% 4.38% $0 $0 p.a. 85% Go to site More info
Greater Bank Ultimate Home Loan - Discounted 1 Year Fixed ($150K+ Investor)
Lock in your interest rate for 1 year when you borrow over $150000 for your investment property.
3.59% 4.55% $0 $375 p.a. 85% Go to site More info
CUA Kick Start Variable Home Loan - 2 Years Introductory (New Investment Only)
Enjoy a 2 year introductory rate with CUA Kickstart Variable Home Loan.
3.69% 4.28% $600 $0 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
State Custodians Line Of Credit Loan Spring Special - LVR  <=80% (Investor)
Access the equity in order to further your investment opportunities.
3.99% 4.32% $0 $299 p.a. 80% Go to site More info
Switzer Investment Loan
An investment loan with no application or ongoing fees, and your very own lending service manager.
4.09% 4.09% $0 $0 p.a. 80% Go to site More info
Australian Unity Wealth Builder Investor Package Home Loan - Variable
An investment loan with no ongoing fees and borrow up to 90% LVR.
4.19% 4.22% $600 $0 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
NAB Base Variable Rate Home Loan - Investor (P&I)
A no frills home loan for an investor who doesn't want any bells and whistles. 250,000 Velocity Frequent Flyer point offer, conditions apply.
4.25% 4.29% $0 $0 p.a. 95% Go to site More info
UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate - Standard Variable Rate (Investor with Investor Offer Interest Only)
Pay interest only repayments with this special offer for investors.
4.24% 4.24% $0 $0 p.a. 80% Go to site More info
Bank Australia Basic Home Loan - Investment Variable
An investment loan with $0 ongoing fees and borrow up to 95% LVR.
4.54% 4.58% $595 $0 p.a. 80% Go to site More info
NAB Tailored Fixed Rate Home Loan - 2 Years Fixed (Investor)
Lock in your investment fixed rate for two years. 250,000 Velocity Frequent Flyer point offer, conditions apply.
4.00% 5.27% $600 $8 monthly ($96 p.a.) 90% Go to site More info
Bankwest Complete Home Loan Package Fixed - 2 Year Fixed Rate LVR <90% (Investors)
Fix the rate on your investment property for 2 years with this competitive home loan package.
4.05% 4.73% $0 $395 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
IMB Essentials Home Loan - LVR <=90 (Investor Only)
A competitive home loan for investors.
4.09% 4.09% $0 $0 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
NAB Tailored Fixed Rate Home Loan - 3 Years Fixed (Investor)
A 3 year fixed rate for your next investment purchase. 250,000 Velocity Frequent Flyer point offer, conditions apply.
3.99% 5.15% $600 $8 monthly ($96 p.a.) 90% Go to site More info
NAB Choice Package Variable Rate Home Loan - $250k to $749,999  P&I (Investor)
An investment loan offered by NAB with $0 application and monthly service fee and $0 annual credit card fees. Enjoy an interest rate discount for variable rate home loans.
4.55% 4.94% $0 $395 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate - Standard Variable Rate (Investor)
Get your next investment with this standard variable home loan.
4.46% 4.39% $0 $0 p.a. 80% Go to site More info
NAB Choice Package Variable Rate Home Loan - Up to $250K P&I (Investor)
An investment package loan with $0 application and monthly service fee and $0 annual credit card fees.
4.80% 5.19% $0 $395 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
UBank UHomeLoan - 5 Year Fixed Rate (Investor)
Lock in a 5 year fixed rate on your investment loan and pay no ongoing fees.
4.27% 4.35% $395 $0 p.a. 80% Go to site More info
NAB Choice Package Fixed Rate Home Loan - 4 Years (Investor)
4 years fixed package with $0 application fee and borrow up to 95% LVR.
3.99% 4.91% $0 $395 p.a. 90% Go to site More info
ING DIRECT Fixed Rate Home Loan - 3 Year Fixed Rate (Investors)
Enjoy a competitive 3 years fixed rate with $0 ongoing fee.
3.99% 4.43% $499 $0 p.a. 95% More info
Commonwealth Bank Wealth Package Fixed Home Loan - 2 Year Fixed (Investor)
Enjoy a 2 years fixed rate with great discount and savings with $0 upfront establishment fees and $0 annual credit card fees - all for an annual package fee of $395.
4.19% 5.25% $0 $395 p.a. 95% More info
Westpac Rocket Investment Loan - Principal and Interest
Use Westpac's variable home loan to purchase your next investment property.
5.56% 5.70% $600 $8 monthly ($96 p.a.) 95% More info
St.George Portfolio Home Loan With Advantage Package - $500k to $749k (Special Discount)
Pay no application fee when you package your equity loan with St.George's Advantage Package.
4.79% $0 $395 p.a. 90% More info
Westpac Flexi First Option Investment Loan  - 3 Years Introductory Special Offer P&I
A special discounted variable interest rate for you next investment purchase.
4.19% 4.56% $0 $0 p.a. 95% More info

Frequently asked questions about negative gearing

What’s the difference between negative and positive gearing?

Unlike negative gearing, which is explained earlier in this article, positive gearing is when the income from your investment is greater than the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining it. Positively geared investments may attract additional income tax.

Can negative gearing help fund your retirement?

Yes, if you’ve got the financial means to make negative gearing work for you, it can certainly be an effective strategy to help you build wealth for your retirement.

Should negative gearing be abolished?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. While some economists claim negative gearing destabilises the economy, inflates housing prices and causes the government to lose a lot of revenue, others say it can benefit the economy by increasing demand for housing and that this increased demand also leads to an increase in supply.

Should negative gearing be restricted to new dwellings?

Once again, the answer to this question depends on who you speak to. However, there is an argument that restricting negative gearing to new dwellings only would help increase housing supply, just as restricting the First Home Owners Grant to new homes has done in recent years. Changes to the Federal Government’s negative gearing policy regularly come up whenever tax changes are mentioned, but only time will tell what changes are in store for this particular investment strategy.

How do I know if negative gearing is the right investment strategy for me?

The best approach is to discuss your financial situation and investment needs with an experienced financial planner or adviser. You will then be able to develop an investment strategy that is tailored to suit your requirements.
Back to top
Back to top

Read more on this topic

Ask a Question

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Disclaimer: At finder.com.au we provide factual information and general advice. Before you make any decision about a product read the Product Disclosure Statement and consider your own circumstances to decide whether it is appropriate for you.
Rates and fees mentioned in comments are correct at the time of publication.
By submitting this question you agree to the finder.com.au privacy policy, receive follow up emails related to finder.com.au and to create a user account where further replies to your questions will be sent.

2 Responses to Everything you need to know about negative gearing

  1. Default Gravatar
    Raghu | April 26, 2016

    Hi,
    In the situation when I can’t find a tenant for my investment property and the property is left vacant for an extended period, Are the repayments made during this period tax deductible?

    Thanks,
    Raghu

    • Staff
      Belinda | April 26, 2016

      Hi Raghu,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      You can still claim expenses for your investment property, such as the interest on loans, as long as the property is genuinely available for rent.

      According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), if a property is genuinely available for rent, it must be advertised to potential tenants and tenants must be reasonably likely to rent the property.
      For more details, please speak with a tax accountant or visit the ATO website.

      All the best,
      Belinda

Ask a question
feedback