Avoid these common tax pitfalls when investing in property

Professional property investors tend to keep good investment property documents but most of them don’t speak with their accountant until tax time.

As a result, they end up delaying their tax return trying to find the right documents to give to their accountant.

Instead of waiting until the end of the financial year, try to set aside the documents you’ll need from day one so that when tax time comes, you’ll be prepared.

Investment property spreadsheet template

You can use this investment property income & expenses spreadsheet to give your accountant the required figures.

This rent property spreadsheet template is free and simple to use.

Read below for an explanation of the information and figures that your accountant will require.

Which documents will your accountant need?

For your investment property tax, you can provide your accountant with all of your documents and let them take care of it for you.

However, most professional investors give their accountant a summary of the income and expenses for their properties to lessen their accounting fees.

This is also a good chance for you to check your cash flow position with the property and to identify expenses that are abnormally high.

Use the cash flow calculator to work out the weekly cash flow for your next investment property.

It’s important to be organised in order to maximise your investment property tax deductions.

Purchasing expenses (if applicable)

If you purchased the property this year, you’ll need to inform your accountant of the expenses associated with the purchase.

You can find most of these figures in the settlement statement provided to you by your conveyancer at the time of settlement.

Most accountants recommend that you provide a copy of the relevant pages from the contract of sale and your settlement statement to them so they can make sure no deductions are overlooked.

  • Stamp duty.
  • Misc government fees (transfer and registration of mortgage).
  • Pest, building and/or strata inspections.
  • Conveyancing fees.
  • Bank cheque fees.
  • Borrowing expenses (see loan expenses).
  • Penalty interest (if applicable).

Management expenses

At the end of the financial year, your property manager will send you an annual statement showing the total rent received as well as the total charges associated with managing your investment property.

If they are paying your rates and levies from your rent, they’ll include these expenses in their statement:

  • Property manager fees.
  • Letting fees.
  • Tribunal expenses.
  • Handling fees, postage fees and sundry expenses.

Rates & levies

If you purchased the property this financial year, don’t forget to add in or deduct any settlement adjustments for strata fees, water rates and council rates.

Otherwise, simply keep the rates notices and levy notices you receive during the year and add up the total that you have paid.

  • Council rates (four notices received each year).
  • Water rates (four notices received each year).
  • Body corporate / strata levies (four notices received each year).
  • Land tax (annual).

Loan expenses

With most lenders you’ll receive a final statement at the end of the financial year which confirms the total interest and fees charged during that year.

In many cases, you can also find these figures in internet banking.

If you purchased the property or refinanced the loan this year then you’ll need to calculate the amount of your borrowing costs as well.

  • Interest expenses.
  • Annual package fee / monthly fees.
  • Loan setup fees (if you setup your loan this financial year):
    • Application, valuation, settlement and documentation fees (if applicable).
    • Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) premium (if applicable).
    • Lenders legal fees (if applicable).
    • Brokerage fees (if applicable).

Repairs & renovations

Repairs and renovations are treated differently by the Australian Tax Office. Please give your accountant or tax agent a break down of each so they can determine how these will be assessed.

  • Repairs (e.g. plumbing and electrical).
  • Renovations.
  • Cost of construction (if you built the property this year).
  • DA fees, architect fees, surveys and compliance certificates (if developing).
  • Gardening.
  • Cleaning.
  • Pest control.

Other expenses

  • Building insurance (note: for units and townhouses the building insurance is paid by the strata corporation and therefore form part of your strata levies).
  • Landlords insurance.
  • Depreciation schedule (only needs to be provided once).
  • Stationery, telephone expenses and postage.
  • Travel to inspect your investment property.
  • Legal fees.

Income

You can find a total for the amount of rent received and water usage charged to the tenant on the annual statement from your property manager.

  • Rent income.
  • Claims on insurance policies.
  • Water usage charged to tenants.

Please note that this list is a general guide only. Please contact your accountant for a personalised list of required figures and documents for your investment property.


What additional information will your accountant need?

Your accountant will also need to know some information about your property aside from the income and expense figures.

  • The address of the property.
  • The percentage of the property that you own.
  • The date purchased (if purchased this year).
  • The date the property started earning rental income.
  • Number of days rented this year (ask your property manager).
  • Number of days used for private purposes (e.g. holiday homes).
  • Provide a list of assets purchased and sold to assist your accountant to calculate your depreciation deductions.
  • Did you redraw any funds from your loan this year?

What are your intentions with the property?

At the time you buy a property you should discuss your intentions with your accountant and ask the following questions:

  • Are you going to hold it for the long term?
  • Will it be positively geared or negatively geared?
  • Are you going to renovate, demolish, subdivide or develop?

Your investment strategy should align with your accountant’s advice.

In particular, if they recommend that you buy the property in a trust, you should speak to them at the time you buy because it’s difficult to change the ownership structure down the track.


Where to find missing figures

What if you’re missing some statements?

You can get almost all of the information you need by calling:

  • The council.
  • Your bank (or us if we are your mortgage broker).
  • Your conveyancer.
  • Your property manager.

If you’re really stuck then just pick up the phone!


Good record keeping is essential!

If you’re going to build a sizeable property portfolio, keeping good records is critical to making tax time a breeze.

If your portfolio grows to more than five properties and you don’t keep your statements well organised, you may find that your accountant charges you more for the extra work.

At the very least, put all of your statements and receipts in a folder ready for tax time.

However, it’s recommended that you have a filing system that allows you to separate the expenses and income for each property.


Deducting your investment loan expenses

The interest and borrowing costs for your investment loan will be treated differently by the tax office.

In most cases, the interest is deducted when it’s paid and the borrowing costs are written off over several years.

For this reason, it’s important to give a breakdown of each to your accountant rather than a total of the costs for the home loan.

Please be careful as many investors miss out on deducting their full borrowing costs because the fees associated with a mortgage are often charged at different times during the loan setup process.

If you want us as your mortgage broker than please call us on 1300 899 743 and we can assist you to confirm the total cost of getting an investment loan.


Seek financial advice

Ultimately, you should speak to your accountant for specific financial advice that can take your personal situation and needs into account.

Your accountant may require additional documents or information not included in this list.

  • I. D.

    I stumbled upon your website while searching for info on investment property tax docs. I’m considering buying another investment property too and I’ll need a 90% LVR loan at least. If I do decide to proceed with it, can you guys help me with that?

  • Hi there, we’d need to know more about your current situation as well as the property you may be buying. If you’re still currently paying off a mortgage, serviceability (whether or not you can meet mortgage repayments) can be an issue. You can send in your details to us at info@homeloanexperts.com.au or speak with one of our expert mortgage brokers by calling 1300 889 743.

  • Pittard

    This is a great read and I’ve got everything ready as per the info here. What I’d like now is a little help in planning my next investment property. Do you have a page on getting estimated IP cashflow figures?

  • Hey Pitard,

    Thanks for your comment. You can check out the investment property cashflow calculator to accurately predict the weekly cashflow position of your next investment property and find out if it will be positively or negatively geared. The guide on how to use it is on the page itself. Here’s the link to the calculator:
    https://www.homeloanexperts.com.au/investment-loans/investment-property-calculator/

  • Peppin

    Tips here helped me prep accordingly for tax but my tenant now has missed a payment and I don’t know how long to give him time. Any tips on this?

  • Hello Peppin,

    If they’ve never missed rent in the past and they’ve kept the property in really good condition, it may be that they’re just in short-term financial hardship at the moment. Regarding the time, you have to cautious in so far as allowing rent default to extend past the 30 day mark as tenant’s security bonds usually only covers up to 4 weeks worth of rent or up to $700 depending on what state you live in.

    To reduce your loss once you decide to take further action, you should do so no later than the one month mark. Anything past 30 days and you may have to take further legal action which can often cost you more than the rent you stand to recoup. This is, however, a simple guide so it’s recommended that you discuss this with your property manager / accountant. You can check out the tenant in arrears page for more info:
    https://www.homeloanexperts.com.au/investment-loans/tenant-in-arrears/

  • Fleming

    Aside from the building, what else can I claim depreciation on?

  • You can generally claim depreciation for plant, equipment, machinery and even furnishings, and normally claim a small percentage of the cost of the building and fixed structures on the property over time. You can read more here:
    https://www.homeloanexperts.com.au/investment-loans/depreciation-for-an-investment-property/

  • Rover

    Hi, can you help me calculate my borrowing power in regards to an investment property?

  • Hi Rover,

    Most lenders use the same basic formula when calculating your borrowing power:

    Gross income – tax – existing commitments – new commitments – living expenses – buffer = monthly surplus

    Some lenders take into account your rental income, as well as negative gearing and other tax benefits, when assessing your borrowing power. Please check out the investment property borrowing power page if you’d like to learn more:
    https://www.homeloanexperts.com.au/investment-loans/property-borrowing-power/

    For a more clearer explanation, you can also discuss things directly with one of us by calling 1300 889 743.

  • L Seymour

    Hi, if I refinance a loan for an investment property to increase the amount borrowed to the initial purchase price or the current value, can I still claim the interest as a tax deduction?

  • Hi Lisa
    If you increase the loan then the increase portion would only be tax deductible if it was used for investment purposes.
    It doesnt matter what the security is. Only the purpose of the loan.

  • Moo

    Hi
    I purchased an investment property in 2015 however I don’t think my accountant claimed on Purchasing costs? Can this be claimed this financial year?

  • Hi Moo,
    You can lodge an amendment to your 2015 tax return and that would be fine. Note that some purchasing costs are written off over several years or are added to the cost base when calculating capital gains later. It’s best to talk to your accountant about this.