Understanding the tax on investment property is essential for anyone venturing into the real estate market.
Investing in property is frequently viewed as a promising avenue for wealth accumulation. Yet, like all investments, it’s not without its challenges.
While the allure of property investment lies in its potential for significant returns, it also comes with a range of financial responsibilities.
Among these, navigating the intricate landscape of taxation stands out as a paramount concern for many investors.
The inevitable burden of taxation, if not understood and managed correctly, can erode the profitability of an investment, underscoring the importance of being well-informed in this domain.
So, here’s what you need to know.
An Overview of Rental Property Tax
When you decide to invest in a property, you must be aware of the several forms of tax that you’ll be liable to pay. The tax on investment property usually includes:
Each of these taxes plays a unique role in the overall taxation scenario of your investment property, and understanding them is key to effective financial planning.
Stamp Duty Tax: The Initial Burden
The first tax that you encounter when purchasing an investment property is the stamp duty tax. Also known as transfer duty, this tax is levied when the ownership of the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.
The amount of stamp duty payable can significantly impact your acquisition expenses, and it varies based on factors such as:
- The state or territory of the property
- The purchase price of the property
- Whether you’re a first-time buyer
In certain cases, first-time buyers may qualify for a total stamp duty exemption under government incentive schemes like the First Home Buyer Assistance Scheme.
It’s crucial to research rates, concessions, and exemptions on the relevant state revenue websites. Stamp duty can be one of the most significant acquisition expenses after the deposit, and you don’t want to be caught off guard by this cost.
Always ensure you’re up-to-date with the latest information to avoid unexpected expenses.
Land Tax: A Recurring Obligation
Land tax differs fundamentally from stamp duty in its nature and frequency. While stamp duty is a one-time charge you pay when purchasing a property, land tax is an ongoing annual expense that property owners must consider.
Generally, this tax is calculated based on the unimproved value of the land you own. To clarify, the term ‘unimproved value’ is based on the basic value of the land you own, without adding any value for things like buildings, paths, gardens, fences, or other structures. In other words, it’s like looking at the land’s worth if nothing was built or changed on it.
However, the specific rates, as well as the thresholds at which they apply, can differ significantly depending on the state or territory in which the land is located.
Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules, exemptions, and concessions, so you should familiarise yourself with the local regulations to understand your potential land tax obligations better.
Income Tax: Earnings from Investment Properties
The income you generate from your investment property is subject to income tax. So, you must include this income on your return along with any other sources of income, so you can pay tax at your marginal rate.
If your property is negatively geared, meaning the costs of owning and maintaining the property exceed the rental income, you can deduct this loss from your taxable income.
So, let’s say you own a rental property. Every month, you receive $1,500 in rent from your tenant. However, your monthly expenses for the property, including mortgage interest, property management fees, maintenance costs, and other related expenses, amount to $2,000.
This means you’re spending $500 more than you’re earning from the property each month.
Over a year, this deficit accumulates to $6,000 ($500 x 12 months). So, this property is considered negatively geared because your outgoings exceed your rental income.
When tax time comes around, you can use this $6,000 loss to reduce your taxable income. For example, if your annual salary is $70,000, you can deduct the $6,000 loss from it, making your taxable income $64,000.
Many investors choose to use negative gearing as a strategy to lower their taxable income while the property accumulates capital growth.
Pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the Profit from Sale
When you sell your investment property, if you make a profit, you’ll be liable to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT). This tax is based on the profit made from the sale and must be declared in your income tax return.
It’s not a separate tax, so it simply gets added to your existing income, and you pay CGT at your marginal tax rate.
However, there are certain exemptions and concessions available that can help reduce your CGT burden, including the following:
Main Residence (MR) exemption
If a property is your main residence, meaning you live in it most of the time, you are generally exempt from paying CGT when you sell it. The exemption acknowledges that a person’s primary home is not an investment asset but a place of residence.
Capital Gains Tax 6-Year Rule
If you move out of your main residence and rent it out, you can still claim it as your main residence for CGT purposes for up to six years. So, if you sell the property within this six-year period, you can still avail of the MR exemption and not pay CGT. If you don’t rent it out, the period can extend indefinitely.
The 50% CGT discount
If you’ve owned an investment asset for more than 12 months, you’re eligible for a 50% discount on the capital gains you’ve made when you sell it. In simple terms, you only include half of your capital gain in your assessable income.
How Deductions Can Reduce Tax
There are numerous costs associated with your rental property that you can claim as investment property tax deductions. Understanding how these deductions can reduce your tax obligations will make a significant difference to your bottom line.
You can claim a range of different expenses, including (but not limited to):
- Advertising for tenants
- Body corporate fees and charges
- Council rates
- Water charges
- Land tax
- Cleaning, gardening and lawn mowing
- Pest control, insurance, property agent’s fees and commission
- Repairs and maintenance
Keeping Records to Claim a Tax Deduction
One of the key aspects of managing tax on investment property is maintaining accurate records of all related income and expenses. Keep receipts for all outgoing expenses, such as maintenance work on the property, and ensure that your tenants provide you with receipts for any repairs or services they organise.
Knowing about taxes on investment property is a must for investors. It helps you make smart choices, get the most from your returns, and keep taxes low. If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to talk to an expert about your property taxes.
Consulting with experts applies to all aspects of property investment. So, if you need assistance with your investment mortgage, contact the Mortgage Agency today.
Are Property Taxes the Same in Every State or Territory?
No, property taxes, including rates and exemptions, can vary significantly between states and territories. It’s essential to research local regulations.
How Can I Find Out About Stamp Duty Concessions in My Area?
State revenue websites often provide updated information on rates, concessions, and exemptions for stamp duty.
Can I Deduct Mortgage Interest on My Investment Property?
Absolutely. Mortgage interest is one of the most common deductions for property investors. If you have a mortgage on your investment property, the interest you pay on that loan is typically deductible from your rental income, reducing your taxable income.