The evils of Negative Gearing?

article_05082013Barely a day goes by in the media that there isn’t an article published discussing the challenges of the Australian housing market and how much prices have risen over recent years. The long held ‘Great Australian Dream’ of owning your own home is frequently trotted out to tug at the heart strings of TV viewers when trying to find a suitable scapegoat for sky high property prices. Throughout much of 2014, focus was being placed on foreign investors landing on our shores with suitcases full of money and pricing us locals out of the market. Currently the place for blame is on negative gearing. Whilst I’m happy to agree that negative gearing may have had some contribution to price rises, it’s important to take into account the huge amount for factors at play here. Although I’m no economist, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the combination of negative gearing, foreign investment, historically low interest rates, ease of finance, ongoing agent under-quoting and the sense of urgency portrayed in the media all play a role. Not to mention the fact that almost 70% of Australians choose to live in capital cities and that there is only so much land available in these relatively tiny pockets of our enormous country. Geography and demographics certainly play a role.

Of course I’m biased…but while I do think that negative gearing has an important role to play in supporting investors and in turn the housing market in Australia, I agree with statements made regarding investors only investing in property simply for the tax advantages. To me, purely investing for the benefits of negative gearing is completely the wrong approach (although plenty do it). Following here are two videos worth a watch. The first is a clip from ‘The Project’ on Network 10 which aired last night and fired me up to write about this topic. Pay careful attention to the generalised statements and overall tone of the clip, it’s enough to make you go out and push the nearest property investor under a bus. The second clip by well known Australian property investing wunderkind Nathan Birch is intriguingly entitled Negative Gearing Sucks Balls. Nathan’s explanation about negative gearing and why people get caught out by it is spot on in my view. My thoughts? Negative gearing is a useful bonus for investors but certainly not a reason in itself to invest in property. Check out the clips below and make up your own mind!

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What’s on the horizon for negative gearing?

symbol-upward-arrow-house_002So it’s federal budget night in Australia and there have been rumblings for some time now that the government might be looking to reform their negative gearing policy for property investors. The most frequent suggestion that I have heard is regarding the possibility of introducing grandfathering arrangements for current property investors whilst restricting any future negative gearing to newly constructed properties. Whilst this has the potential to save the government billions of dollars, there is still plenty of debate as to the flow-on effects that it might have. Whilst on one hand there are those stating that negative gearing has done nothing but escalate property prices for those wanting to purchase their own home (Check out the beer coasters here that encourage abolishing negative gearing), others view it as a key strategy in encouraging investment and maintaining a healthy supply of rental properties on the market. Time will tell after the budget announcement tonight and you can rest assured that whatever happens it won’t please everyone. Check out the links below to read some of the recent commentary on the potential impact on negative gearing in the 2014 budget. Stay tuned!

Negative gearing is on the chopping-block

Budget Night: What’s Going To Happen To Negative Gearing?

REIA response to Renovating Housing Policy

logoFollowing on from my post this week regarding the Grattan Institute Report on housing policy it’s not surprising that the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) has responded quickly to the recommendations in the report. Published this week on the Your Investment Property website is the following article outlining the response from the REIA. Once again it’s always fascinating to see the debate it stirs up in the comments posted after the article. You can access the original article here, or, read below.

Hands Off Negative Gearing, Warns REIA

A report issued earlier this week slamming government housing policies has provoked a strong reaction from the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), which said a recommendation to scrap negative gearing is ‘short-sighted’.

The REIA said it agrees with the Grattan Institute Renovating Housing Policy report in that a major overhaul of housing policy in Australia is needed, but disagreed with what needs to be done.

“We strongly agree with the report’s recommendations to eliminate stamp duties, however it’s essential negative gearing be retained in its current form for the purpose of property investment,” said REIA president Peter Bushby

“REIA has always supported negative gearing because it helps in the provision of rental accommodation. Negative gearing for property investment is complementary to the goals of the Government’s Housing Affordability Fund (HAF) in addressing the supply of rental accommodation.”

Bushby said removing negative gearing would show that Australians ‘haven’t learnt anything from history’.

“When negative gearing was abolished in 1985 it had disastrous consequences for the property market and for people trying to rent. Rents rose 37% across Australia and by 57% in Sydney.

“Thankfully, negative gearing was reinstated in 1987. It is far too short-sighted to link investor interest in housing to negative gearing alone. Negative gearing is only one of a range of factors that contribute to the level of investment in property. Other factors include interest rates, availability and accessibility of finance, share market performance, the unemployment rate, housing supply and consumer confidence.”

Bushby said the ‘myth’ that negative gearing is a plaything of the well-heeled also needs to be dispelled. He claims the majority of taxpayers with negatively geared property earn less than $80,000 per annum.

“Findings in the Renovating Housing Policy report are important and let’s hope they assist in kick-starting a debate on housing policy. With the new government, expectations that industry will be involved in finding workable solutions to these old issues are high.”

http://www.yourinvestmentpropertymag.com.au/article/hands-off-negative-gearing-warns-reia-180767.aspx

Renovating Housing Policy

mza_8623053361525323846.170x170-75The Grattan Institute was formed in 2008 as an ‘independent think tank’ intended to develop public policy for Australia. This week there has been a lot of media commentary about a publication by the institute addressing housing policy in Australia. Renovating Housing Policy was published on October 20th and states:

This report looks at our complex housing system as a whole. By quantifying the major government outlays on the private housing system, it reveals the cumulative impact of housing policies both on individual choices of where and how to live, and on productivity and inequality in our cities.

The initial part of the report examines some fascinating trends and demographics related to home ownership in Australia, there is interesting data presented on the change in home ownership rates over the last 100 years as well as examination of current ownership rates by age as well as earnings. It then continues on to look at renting in Australia and it is from here that the information presented starts to become increasingly relevant to property investors. There is also significant focus within the report looking at the different government support provided to property owners versus those who rent a home. The report states that support for residential property investors costs $6.8 billion a year,or about $4,500 per year for each investor household. If you want to skip to the really interesting part though I’d suggest heading straight to page 36 where the recommendations commence. There are three main recommendations looking at stamp duty and property tax, reform of tax incentives for property investment and also reform of the private rental sector.

Whilst I certainly don’t agree with all of the proposals there appears to be some strong evidence available to support the statements being put forward. What I have found interesting is the way that it has been portrayed in a range of media and particularly the comments that have been posted by readers. I’d be eager to hear people’s thoughts on this as it would have a significant impact on property investors should these recommendations be put into practice. Don’t be afraid to comment below! Click here to read the article.

You can also check out some of the following media articles, don’t forget to check the reader’s comments, it’s certainly stirred up some debate!

The Age property section – Domain

ABC News

The Herald Sun

Business Spectator

Your Investment Property Magazine

Tax time help

The start of July can begin a confusing time for property investors in Australia with the end of the financial year, particularly if you’re new to being an investor and this is your first tax return with an investment property involved. As with all things to do with investing you’ll find that every man and his dog will have advice for you on what you can and cannot claim and how to squeeze every cent out of your tax return. Whilst this advice can often be good, and I’d encourage everyone to try and learn from the experience of others, the ultimate decision of what you can claim against your tax return lies with the friendly folk at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

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Whilst I was sitting in front of the computer recently pulling together the figures for this year’s tax return I happened to stumble across the 2013 guide for rental property owners published by the ATO. It’s a fairly big document but I found it to be a really useful guide and it had some great lists and examples of what you can claim and how you go about it. It also covers things that you would need to consider should you end up selling an investment time at any stage such as Capital Gains Tax.

Let me know what you think!

The mysteries of depreciation

One of the things that has taken me a long time to understand when it comes to investing is property depreciation and how it works with your income and particularly around tax time. I just sat through a webinar this evening (note my previous post about being willing to learn and becoming a student again) and it reminded me how challenging it was for me to get my head around it but also how beneficial it was once I knew about being able to utilise property depreciation to claim ‘non-cash’ deductions on your investment property come tax time.

In a nutshell it basically means that the cost of the property itself (both the building and the fixtures inside it) decrease in value over time, essentially it’s talking about wear and tear over the years. In Australia (I’m not sure about other countries) the tax office allows for legitimate deductions taking into account this decrease in value of the property and it’s fixtures each year. In the webinar it was stated that as much as 80% of investors are not claiming as much as they could be on these non-cash deductions each year. I certainly realised this a few years ago when I had a full depreciation schedule done on one of my properties. I was pretty pleased when the report outlined the amount that I could claim. The thing is however that you need to get a qualified quantity surveyor to prepare the report as that is all the tax office will accept. You’ll need to spend some time looking around to find the right person to do this for you. Don’t hesitate to compare and ask several surveyors about what they can do and the costs associated.

I’d certainly encourage all investors new or old to learn more about depreciation and how it can apply to your own circumstances, it can make an amazing difference to what you can claim against your investments and potentially a nice improvement on your tax return. The YouTube video below is from an Australian company (the ones that conducted the webinar) and I’d say is worth a look. This company is just one of many and I’d encourage you to look around and find one that suits your own needs.