With the government's shock introduction of laws slashing interest deductions on existing rental properties, where can you as an investor put your money? What will get you the best return while still maximizing tax deductions? We present 9 strategies:
SUMMARY OF CHANGES
Changes announced in April 2021 by the government:
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT ME?
At present, when you receive rents, you can offset expenses against that rental income to reduce the taxable profit. A big part of this is interest paid on the rental mortgage/s.
If the expenses are more than the income (a "loss"), the Ring Fencing laws mean the loss can't offset non-rental income, and the loss instead is carried forward to the next year. If you have two or more rentals, the loss from one property can offset the profit from another (depending on how your affairs are structured).
However, under these new laws, the interest deduction will (over 4 years) be reduced, then finally removed. Rental properties will make more profit, and for almost everyone: there will be a lot of tax to pay.
And of course, if you can't claim the expenses on interest, but still have to pay it... where does the money come from? You have to raise the rent.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Q: So what can I claim?
A: You can claim all the usual costs e.g. property management, repairs & maintenance, rates, insurance, legal etc. Re interest: It depends on timing. The following chart shows how much you can claim, depending on when you "acquired" the property:
Q: How do I work out the tax impact?
A: The calculator below will help you work out the taxable income. The exact tax depends on many things e.g. owned personally or via a trust or LTC? How much wages you receive etc etc. Note that this calculator assumes you already own/have "acquired" the investment property/ies.
Q: My rental was a new build. Does it still qualify as a new build under these laws?
A: Probably not.
Q: Is short-stay accommodation caught by the new interest deductibility limitations?
A: It would appear that mixed-use-assets (MUAs) - which are holiday homes partly used personally and which are vacant for at least 62 days in a year - are not caught by these new rules, but IRD specify this (at 2.33) "the Government considers it important that where a residential property could be used to provide long-term rental accommodation, the income tax treatment is the same whether the property is used to provide long-term rental accommodation or short-stay accommodation. Any income tax advantage provided for properties used for short-stay accommodation could reduce effective housing supply." In other words, it would seem that yes, it is caught. Just remember that this is all "draft" at this stage, so not actual law.
Q: When did I "acquire" my rental property?
A: For tax purposes, a property is generally acquired on the date a binding sale and purchase agreement is entered into (even if some conditions still need to be met). More info here. Note that for the purposes of the changes outlined here, a property acquired on or after 27 March 2021 will be treated as having been acquired before 27 March 2021, if the purchase was the result of an offer the purchaser made on or before 23 March 2021 that cannot be withdrawn before 27 March 2021.
Q: My property sale will be taxable due to the Bright-Line Test (BLT). Can I claim the interest costs in that scenario?
A: No one knows. IRD say "The Government will consult on the detail of these proposals. Consultation will cover an exemption for new builds acquired as a residential investment property, and whether all people who are taxed on the sale of a property (for example under the bright-line tests) should be able to deduct their interest expense at the time of the sale."
Q: How do the "main home" changes work?
A: Actually, it reminds us a bit of how CGT works in Aussie. There is a great explanation at Stuff together with an example. (Thanks Stuff.co.nz!)
Your lawyer has possibly mis-advised you - although in good faith. Why do we say that? Well, here's a quick checklist before you start panicking:
The gist of it
Previously, the country's lawyers had advised people to gift no more than $54,000 per couple per year so that they wouldn't be accused of excessive gifting when it came time to be assessed for a residential care subsidy. If your assets come under certain figures the Govt. will subsidise your rest-home care. People generally gradually and cautiously gift their house to their trust so that anything they do doesn't stray into excess.
BUT! A recent series of court decisions, upheld all the way to the Court of Appeal, has now said
Gifts of more than $27,000 per year, per application made before the five year gifting period, may be added into the assessment. For couples, gifting is $27,000 in total – not per person.
See this page on the WINZ website for more info
What does this mean for you?
Here's what the Law Society of NZ said:*
The result of the High Court’s decision is that many people who have undertaken a gifting programme to a family trust may now unexpectedly find themselves ineligible for the residential care subsidy. This will come as an unwelcome shock to many. It will also likely cause many members of the profession concern at the prospect of claims from disgruntled clients for previous advice on gifting programmes.
The long and the short of it is that if you have already gifted more than $27,000 per annum to your trust, then this may now viewed by MSD as excessive gifting. (NB: If you have mirror trusts then you may be able to get away with $27,000 per trust per year). If you acted on legal advice, then I suggest you approach your lawyer about making a claim against them. The NZ Law Society makes this comment to lawyers:
Lawyers may wish to consider whether there is a need to notify professional indemnity insurers in respect of the risk of potential claims for previous gifting advice. Some brokers are encouraging practitioners to notify insurers of the risk of potential claims. Practitioners are encouraged to check their particular circumstances with their broker/insurer.
Note that lawyers throughout NZ advised people based on the then-understanding of $54,000 per couple per year, and so acted in good faith. But, at the end of the day, the advice has been misleading, as this recent judgement has shown. It's not pleasant for anyone.
Yes, but didn't the IRD change the law or something? What you might be referring to was the repeal of gift duty. What happened was that the Government passed a law change, meaning that you could gift your entire house to your trust, without incurring gift duty. Previously there was a limit of $54,000 per couple per year. Anything above that had gift duty applied to it. BUT (and here's the key point), the MSD's view of excessive gifting didn't change. If anything, it has tightened up, as explained above.
Residential Care Subsidy (WINZ)
FAMILY TRUST ACCOUNTING - WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
TRUST LAW CHANGES NEW ZEALAND
What to know more? Call us on 0800 890 132 or email us.
* Note that the quoted blog post from the NZ Law Society is dated Jun 21, 2013, which was before the Appeal Court had made its ruling. This Court ruling confirmed MSD's view, as stated above.
See our three-video series:
SHAM TRUSTS: COULD YOUR FAMILY TRUST BE A SHAM?
COMMON RENTAL OWNERSHIP STRUCTURES
WHICH OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE SHOULD I USE FOR MY RENTAL PROPERTY?
And the following blog articles:FAMILY TRUSTS: BASIC CONCEPTS
FAMILY TRUST ACCOUNTING - WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FAMILY TRUSTS
Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Accounting for your rental residential investment property; specialised property tax advice. Buy me a coffee!