This tax time, the ATO is again closely monitoring claims in relation to rental properties. The ATO has data-matching programs in place that collect detailed information about properties and owners for income years all the way from 2018–2019 to the 2022–2023. These programs expand the rental income data collected directly from third-party sources, including sharing economy platforms, rental bond authorities and property managers.
In the 2019–2020 financial year over 1.8 million taxpayers owned rental properties and claimed $38 billion in deductions. While most taxpayers do the right thing and are able to justify their claims, the ATO notes that over 70% of the 2019–2020 returns selected for review of rental information needed adjustments.
Tip: The ATO guidance makes it clear there’s no intention to penalise property owners whose rental income or property costs have been negatively affected by COVID-19. We can help you report the right information in your return this tax time.
The most common mistake that rental property owners and holiday homeowners make is not declaring all their income, and their capital gains from selling property.
Another area of concern involves claims for interest charges on personal loans. For example, if you take out a loan to buy a rental property and rent it out at market rates, the interest on the loan is deductible. However, if you redraw money from that mortgage for personal use (eg to buy a car or pay off the mortgage of the house you’re living in), then you can’t claim interest on that part of the loan.
You should also be careful when claiming deductions for capital works. While the cost of repairs for wear and tear are immediately deductible if you’re replacing or fixing an existing item (eg a broken toilet), the cost of upgrading the property or areas of the property is considered capital works and any deductions need to be spread over a number of years.