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Depreciation Claims on Investment Property

what is tax depreciation for investment properties

Investment Property Depreciation – What You Need to Know

If you’ve recently purchased an investment property, or you’ve been thinking of purchasing one, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of deductions that can be made against the tax you pay. One of these deductions is depreciation of both the property and the contents inside the property.

But what exactly is depreciation? And how does it help come tax time?

Depreciation is essentially a deduction on your tax that allows you, as an investor, to offset the decline in value in both the property and items that are permanent fixtures within the property – ovens, dishwashers, carpets, blinds, air conditioners, and so on. One of the biggest benefits of depreciation is that it is a “non-cash deduction”. This means that unlike other deductible costs associated with owning an investment property, there are no ongoing costs to depreciation; you don’t need to spend anything to get the deduction.

It is important to keep in mind that every item has a lifespan that the ATO says it should last before needing to be replaced. This then creates the length of time that the depreciation will be spread over.

New Builds, Renovations, and Older Homes

One of the biggest questions around depreciation is who can claim. Does the property need to be of a certain age before you can start claiming depreciation or is there an age where you can’t claim depreciation?

Essentially property depreciation can be claimed on a building of any age. If the property was built after July 1985, you can claim deductions on both the building and the fixtures, while if the property was built prior to that date, you can only claim on the fixtures. It is certainly worthwhile having a depreciation schedule produced – saving on your tax is still a saving after all.

So what about claiming on a renovated property? This one is a little more work as you will need to know how much was spent on the renovations (and you do have an obligation to the ATO to provide this information). If renovations were completed by a previous owner of the property, you can still claim. If the cost of the renovations is unknown, you will need to engage a quantity surveyor to make an estimation of the cost of renovations.

Claiming Depreciation on Your Investment 

There are two ways that depreciation can be claimed on an investment property: capital works and depreciating assets.

Capital works depreciation looks at the construction costs involved in building the property. We mentioned above that every item that is depreciated has a lifespan. In the case of a new build, depreciation is spread over 40 years as the ATO has ruled that a building lasts 40 years before it needs to be replaced.

Depreciating assets are those with a limited effective life that decline in value over time. In an investment property, this includes items such as light fittings, ovens, cooktops, carpets, furnishings. The ATO has listed all the items you can claim and how long you can claim them for; for example, a carpet is estimated to last 10 years, a cooktop 12 years, and a split system air conditioner 10 years.

It’s important to know when these items were purchased where possible as the depreciation lifespan is different in some categories depending on the purchase date.

How to Claim Depreciation

There are two options when claiming depreciation – the prime cost method and the diminishing value method. It is of course advisable to speak to an accountant about which option best suits your situation.

The prime cost method essentially provides you with an equal tax deduction for each year of the effective life of the item.

The diminishing value method allows you to make higher claims in the first few years after purchase and then smaller claims as the item gets older.

What is a Depreciation Schedule?

 Simply put, a depreciation schedule is a report outlining all the depreciation deductions that can be made relating to your investment property. It is a good idea to engage a quantity surveyor to put together the report for you. Quantity surveyors assess the value of the construction work and put together a report for you.

When you own an investment property, it’s essential that you are getting all the tax deductions you are entitled to. Depreciation is an important factor that many property investors forget about and therefore miss out on deductions that could save them in tax. Talk to your property manager or accountant about having a tax depreciation schedule completed on your investment property.

If you’ve never had a property depreciation schedule completed, or you want to discuss how one can help you, reach out to the team at Thank You Real Estate, and we can assist.

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Appreciating the True Value of Good Property Management

At Thank You Real Estate, we educate the landlords to understand the true value of good property manager.

Cameron has lived in Western Sydney his whole life, so when he bought his first investment property, he chose a nearby suburb that he was familiar with. Within a few years, he was able to access the equity in his first investment property and buy a second investment property, also in Western Sydney. Cameron worked really hard to build up his property investment portfolio, so naturally, he wanted to protect it. He knew he didn’t have time to manage the property himself, but he wasn’t sure if paying a property manager was worth the cost. He’d heard that fees can vary greatly between agencies – should he just go with the lowest fee? Would that be the best choice for his investment?

If Cameron’s story sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a common one. Property owners naturally want to see the greatest possible returns on their investment properties. But sadly, many people think that this can be achieved by choosing the cheapest property management option. By focusing solely on price they’re misunderstanding the main crux of what it means to have an investment property managed and, as a result, they’re unable to get an accurate comparison of like for like.

Getting the Right Information

In Cameron’s case, he realised that he needed more information. It wasn’t enough to just compare ‘Price A’ with ‘Price B’. Doing so would be like comparing a second-hand Hyundai with a brand-new Mercedes. So, Cameron started asking questions. In doing so, he was able to determine who was offering transparent, high-value service at a reasonable price…and who was disguising bad property management behind a smokescreen of “discounted” fees.

Property Management Fees 

When comparing property management fees, Cameron looked for prices that were reasonable and market competitive. He asked what services were included and what kind of industry experience the property manager had. He realised that, while there’s nothing wrong with fair negotiations, a property manager that is reasonably compensated would be working harder for his investment than one with little financial incentive. And he started to appreciate that below-average pricing = below-average service.

How to Identify High-Quality Property Management

The more research Cameron did, the more easily he was able to identify high-quality property management. He started to look at:

  • Quality: Does the agent understand what quality service is? Are they dedicated to achieving the best possible result, not just the quickest or easiest result?
  • Skill: Does the agent have both the capacity and the skill necessary to achieve an above-average market rate for your investment property? Do they have a timeline that they work to when finding and evaluating a new tenant?
  • Strategy: Does the agent have a strategy in place to prevent a tenant from going into rent arrears or do they rely on stressful hearings at the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)? Do they look for long-term tenants, understanding that a 12-month lease means a 50% reduction in fees for the investor when compared with a 6-month lease?
  • Documentation: Do they pay meticulous attention when completing and filing the necessary paperwork? Do they understand the importance of accurate documentation, realising that incorrect paperwork could seriously jeopardise your valuable asset?

Fortunately, Cameron’s story has a happy ending. By taking the time to compare property management companies he was able to weed out the agencies with hidden fees and poor management strategies. He found a property manager who he felt comfortable with and who agreed to manage his investment property at a fair and reasonable rate. An agent who delivered high-quality service, had exceptional skills, a well-planned strategy and a thorough documentation process. As a result, both of Cameron’s investment properties have had lower vacancy rates, long-term tenants and rent that is always paid on time.

Thank You Real Estate offer boutique property management services to Sydney investors. Our experienced property managers are committed to providing exceptional service at a fair price, always working hard to ensure your investment is delivering the highest possible return.