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Tax tips for property investors

Property investors can access a wide range of tax deductions and items subject to depreciation for their rental property yet many miss out on unknown tax breaks, foregoing an average of $20,000 a year on a $1 million house.

Here are four ways to maximise your tax deductions while complying with the tax office:

Use a quantity surveyor

Registered quantity surveyors can establish the value of purchased items and building construction costs by preparing depreciation schedules to maximise an investor’s claim.

Items as diverse as kitchen equipment, bathroom fittings, outdoor furniture, air conditioning and swimming pools are all legitimate claims. A quantity surveyor will ensure valuations of the items in the building are at market value, avoiding the need to explain any valuations that are higher than expected to the ATO.

The cost of using a quantity surveyor is also tax deductible.

Apportion expenses

It is common for investors to bundle a mix of properties under one single loan, i.e. the family home and a rental property may be funded by the same mortgage and expenses apportioned accordingly. However, having separate loans can increase deductions as the non-deductible debt can be paid down or even better linked to an offset account, with the deductible loan having full interest paid and claimed.

Immediate write-offs

An immediate write-off applies to items worth less than $300 and can be claimed in the current income year. Items such as garden gnomes, kitchen cutlery and ironing boards, irons are easily forgotten and all can be written off in the first year.


Construction costs can generally be ­depreciated at 2.5 per cent each year over 40 years for residential properties built after July 1985. This entitlement passes from one owner to the next whenever the property is sold. A quantity surveyor can provide an estimate if information is not available.

Many high value household items are now deducted using the “diminishing value method”, which means the most depreciation happens in the first few years. For example, ducted heating worth $4941 would have a first-year deduction of $493, rising to $2022 over the first five years.

Adding items such as solar lights, garbage bins, garden sheds, intercom systems and closed-circuit television systems to a low-value pool can open up ways to depreciate items at a higher rate, therefore, increasing immediate returns.

Posted on 16 March '18, under Tax. No Comments.

Work-related expenses

The Australian Taxation Office is continuing to pay close attention to claims made as ‘work-related expenses’ throughout 2018.

Making incorrect claims of work-related deductions can land you in hot water with the ATO, and thus it is important you can justify these claims. In order to claim correctly, you must be able to show that:

If you are making a claim for an expense that you use for both business and privately, you may only claim the portion of the expense that was related to business.

Posted on 9 March '18, under Tax. No Comments.

Tax deductible legal expenses

While we like to think of business ventures as a platform to make money, there are also many expenses that will be incurred through running one.

Luckily, there are many tax deductions a business owner can claim when it comes to the expenses their business incurs, in particular their legal expenses. Understanding what these tax deductible expenses are and how to apply for these deductions appropriately can see you save a considerable amount of money, which can be transformed into profit.

Specific expenses incurred will or won’t be deductible depending on whether the expenditure is capital, domestic or private in nature. The following expenses are not deductible under regular legal expense deductions, due to being either capital or private in nature. Deductions can be claimed under a separate provision. These include:

The circumstances in which legal fees incurred can be easily deducted for tax purposes, provided the correct procedure is followed and appropriate criteria is met, include the following:

Tax deductions on the above listed legal expenses are a guide, and will be determined on a case by case basis, depending on the specific circumstances relating to each case.

There are also a number of situations in which legal expenses are commonly incurred and are not tax deductible, including the following:

The ATO sets out clear guidelines of the appropriate documentation needed in order to claim deductions from legal expenses. Generally, documentation needed includes:

Posted on 5 March '18, under Tax. No Comments.

The ATO targeting record keeping of small businesses

The Australian Tax Office is honing in on small businesses failing to comply with guidelines regarding appropriate record keeping.

Findings from the ATO’s Protecting Honest Business campaign indicated that one of the leading factors for small business failure is their poor record keeping practices. Small business owners are required to disclose particular information, and keep records of the following:

By law, all Australian businesses must keep these records for a period of five years. These records must be in writing, either on paper or electronically. Dedicating time each week, fortnight or month to compile all the above-listed information will prevent you incurring fines and possibly losing your business.

Posted on 23 February '18, under Tax. No Comments.

Minimising the risk of fraud

The Australian Taxation Office is urging all businesses and individuals to take care in relation to avoiding the risk of fraud.

With a focus on criminals lodging fraudulent returns in order to obtain unwarranted refunds through accessing banking information that is not their own, the ATO recommends businesses and individuals practice the following:

Discussions with staff and clients

Keep your employees and your clients about safe behaviours to protect them from being vulnerable to criminals, such as not clicking on downloads, hyperlinks or opening attachments in unsolicited emails.

Protection on devices

Ensuring the devices you use for confidential information such as transferring funds and purchasing goods and services are all up to date with protective software, such as malware detectors and firewalls. Also, ensure autofill forms are not saved or used.

Proof of identity

Before taking on new clients, ensure they provide numerous pieces of proof of identity. You should also question discrepancies before lodging their tax returns.

Internal security

Ensure all employees have access to only what they need in order to perform their role within the company. When employees cease employment, cancel their AUSkeys.

Posted on 16 February '18, under Tax. No Comments.

ATO cracking down on developers avoiding GST

This year, the Australian Taxation Office has placed a greater focus on property developers and are particularly watching company directors with a history of GST obligations avoidance.

As of May 2017, the Government announced new requirements on those purchasing newly constructed residential properties or new subdivisions to remit the GST directly to the ATO as part of the settlement process. The ATO has placed a strong emphasis on making sure this occurs legitimately, ensuring property developers do not get away with failing to meet their GST obligations.

These proposed requirements were addressed in consultation in November 2017 and are to be implemented as of 1 July 2018. The impending changes will mean that developers no longer have a three-month period to remit GST; hence they no longer have time to be dishonest and avoid GST evasion through phoenixing.

For contracts already entered into, there will be a two-year transitional period, allowing developers involved in these contracts a grace period to adjust to the extensive reforms. Contracts entered into prior to 1 July 2018 will not be affected by these reforms, provided they are settled prior to 1 July 2020.

Posted on 6 February '18, under Tax. No Comments.

ATO reforms on deductible gift recipients

The Government has announced a reform of the Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status to strengthen governance arrangements, reduce administrative complexity and ensure trust and confidence in the sector.

The reforms are as follows:

Posted on 2 February '18, under Tax. No Comments.

FBT issues that raise ATO attention

With the FBT year-end just around the corner, it is a good time to review your FBT compliance to avoid raising attention from the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

The ATO is currently targeting the following rules for FBT:

Motor vehicles
Situations where an employer-provided motor vehicle is used or available for private travel for staff. This is a fringe benefit and must be declared on the FBT return (if lodgment is required). However, there are some circumstances where this is exempt; be sure to check before lodgement.

Employee contributions
The ATO focus on employee contributions that have been paid by an employee to an employer and are declared on both the FBT return and employer’s income tax return to ensure they are correctly reported.

Employer rebate
A taxpayer must be a rebatable employer to claim a FBT rebate, the ATO will check the taxpayer’s eligibility as some employers incorrectly claim for this rebate.

Living-away-from-home (LAFHA) allowance
Common errors with the LAFHA allowance include claiming reductions for ineligible employees, failing to obtain declarations from employees, claiming a reduction in the taxable value of the LAFHA benefit for exempt accommodation and food in invalid circumstances and failing to substantiate expenses relating to accommodation and food or drink.

Employers who provide fringe benefits must lodge a FBT return unless the taxable value of all benefits has been reduced to nil.

Car parking valuation
Common errors include market valuations that are significantly less than the fees charged for parking within a one km radius of the premises on which the car is parked, the use of rates paid where the parking facility is not readily identifiable as a commercial parking station, rates charged for monthly parking on properties purchased for future development that do not have any car park infrastructure, and insufficient evidence to support the rates used as the lowest fee charged for all day parking by a commercial parking station.

Posted on 24 January '18, under Tax. No Comments.

FBT parking exemptions for small businesses

It is quite common for small businesses to provide their staff with car parking benefits, however, many business owners may not take into account the effect parking has for fringe benefits tax (FBT) purposes.

Fortunately, if you are a small business, car parking benefits are exempt if you meet all of the following conditions:

– the parking is not provided in a commercial car park
– you are not a government body, a listed public company, or a subsidiary of a listed public company
– either your gross total income for the last income year before the relevant fringe benefits tax (FBT) year was less than $10 million, or you were a small business for the last income year before the relevant FBT year.

Where an employer reimburses an employee’s car parking fees, i.e., if they park at a commercial car park, this will subject the employer to FBT.

Posted on 17 January '18, under Tax. No Comments.

ATO targeting mischaracterised lifestyle assets and private pursuits

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is targeting privately owned and wealthy groups that display specific behaviours and characteristics in relation to their tax affairs and lifestyle.

A large focus is currently on lifestyle assets and private pursuits that generate deductions or are mischaracterised as business activities. The ATO is also looking at those assets and pursuits which are incorrectly accounted for in terms of Division 7A or Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT).

Activities that attract the Tax Office’s attention include:
– private aircraft ownership or activities
– art ownership and dealings
– car or motorbike racing activities
– luxury and charter boat activities
– enthusiast or luxury motor vehicles
– grape growing and other farming pursuits
– horse breeding, racing and training activities
– holiday homes and luxury accommodation provision
– sporting clubs and other activities involving the participation of principals or associates of principals of private groups.

The ATO is addressing the following tax risks:

Income tax
– Entities claiming deductions from ownership lifestyle assets or private pursuits against other income derived by the entity but not carrying on a business.
– Individuals disposing of assets and not declaring the revenue or capital gains on those disposals.
– Entities incorrectly apportioning deductions where assets have been used privately or periods not available for rent or hire.
– Division 7A – individuals purchasing assets through their business entities but applying assets to the personal enjoyment of a shareholder or associate of a private company giving rise to a deemed dividend.

– Individuals purchasing assets through their business entities but applying those assets to the personal enjoyment of an employee or associate giving rise to a FBT liability.

– The purchasing of assets or expenditures concerning private pursuits for personal use through their business or related entities and claiming input tax credits they are not entitled to claim.

– SMSF’s acquiring assets but applying them to the benefit of the fund’s trustee or beneficiaries.

Posted on 11 January '18, under Tax. No Comments.

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