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Examples and consequences on missed planning opportunities
Tom and Kylie are retired and are receiving full age pension from Centrelink. To utilize the benefit on downsizer contribution to super, they sold their main residence and bought an apartment as their new main residence. However, since age pension is asset tested and only main residence is exempt from the asset, they testing assets has increased after selling their first main residence. Now they are not eligible to receive age pension anymore. Loss per year $40,238 based on 2022 rate.
Ryan and Olivia decided to establish a family trust to purchase a rental property. Since Ryan’s mom Emma is going to finance major part of the purchase, Ryan and Olivia decided to make Emma the Appointor and Trustee Director as a good gesture. After the trust is set up and the property was purchased, Emma applied for age pension and was rejected. Due to her position in the family trust, she is technically controlling the trust asset and Centrelink need to include the property as a part of her asset test. The family amended the trust deed to remove Emma’s name from the key positions. After this, Emma still need to wait for 5 years to be able to apply again. Loss pension in total for 5 years: $133,445 based on 2022 rate.
James and Ava run their family business in a family trust. James’ father Henry is receiving full government pension. The family trust only contribute minimum profit to Henry so that it does not impact on his pension. Last year the family trust sold a big commercial property earning multi millions of dollars of capital gain. The family didn’t know that they could save $178,978 on tax if they allocated more gain to Henry. The tax saving is a lot more than Henry’s aged pension. Loss on possible tax saving $152,289.
John is a plumber. He decided to run his business as a sole trader business. After causing some major damage to a building, he was sued by the owner. Unfortunately, the damage was not covered by his insurance policy. John lost all his properties and personal assets and had to claim bankruptcy to get out from the case. If John has used a company structure for his business, or moved his personal assets to a protector trust, he could be better protected. Now he is penniless and has to start from the beginning again. Loss incurred: all John’s personal assets.
Sophia has a Will to pass all her assets to her two daughters. Out of kindness, she has allowed a homeless guy Mike to live in her basement for a few year before she passed away. Mike claimed that they were in a de facto relationship and challenged the Will. He was successful and received a major part of the estate distribution. Lose incurred: about $500,000.
We will not bore you with more examples. In every area of our Power Planning services, unless you understand all your choices, you could be missing key opportunities that could lead to you losing more than what we have listed in the above examples. Most of the losses can be easily avoided if you are proactive and set up the right structures and utilize correct strategies.
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Are you considering buying a property? Do you know you could miss opportunities to save thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars if you don’t plan well before the purchase?
Below are a few key considerations:
1. How should you set up your loan structure? If you don’t have a loan offset account for a rental property, after you make extra payments directly to the loan account, you can only claim interest deduction on the remaining balance of the loan. For tax purposes, this deductible balance can’t be changed even if you redraw the overpaid amount later. A good loan structure could also help you to stabilize interest rate and speed up loan repayment by combining a standard variable loan (with an offset account) and a fix rates account.
2. Timing of renovation. You might want to do a renovation right after you have bought the rental property. But do you know for any genuine repair & maintenance included in the renovation, you can claim an outright deduction against the rental income when the property is available for rental? If the work is done before the date when the property is available for rental, you can only claim the deduction against future capital gain when the property is sold. Depend on when you are going to sell, it could take years or up to decades before you can claim the deduction.
3. How should you split ownership? You might want to share the property ownership with a family member. For tax purposes, the percentage of ownership is based on the legal title, regardless of who is paying more on the mortgage. If the property will give you a tax profit, you might want to allocate more
ownership to the low-income earner to utilize the lower marginal tax rate. If it is giving you a tax loss, you might want to allocate more ownership to the high-income earner to utilize the loss. The goal is for the family to pay minimum tax together.
4. Should you use a family trust to purchase the property? There are many pros and cons related to a family trust. The advantages include tax savings on rental profit or capital gain, asset protection and succession planning on family wealth. However, family trust can’t distribute losses. All losses are trapped in the trust to be used to offset future trust profit. Therefore, you can’t utilize any rental loss in a trust to offset other income such as salary & wages. Family trusts also attract high accounting fees on initial setup and annual fees on financial statements and tax returns. State governments also charge much higher land tax on family trusts.
5. Will the income level change in future years for different owners? You might want to forecast the possible income for different owners to understand total tax payment / savings related to the property. This could also impact on your decision making on point 3 and 4 above.
6. Understand when you can treat your property as main residence to receive an exemption on capital gains tax. When eligible, even if you have received rental income, you could still treat your rental property as main residence and receive the exemption. To be eligible, you will need to treat it as your main residence at the beginning. Please check out this ATO link: Treating former home as main residence.
7. Decide whether you need to purchase a depreciation report. Most taxpayers don’t know that the depreciation on the building will need to be added back to calculate capital gains tax when the property is sold. When the property is held for more than 12 months, after applying the capital gains tax discount of 50%, it will effectively cut the tax rate by half at the time of sales. This makes depreciation deductions desirable for high income earners. However, for low-income earners it might not be ideal to claim depreciation as a rental deduction since they could be paying more on capital gains tax in the future. It could get more complicated if the property is under joint ownership between high and low income earners.
8. You might want to consider Centrelink payments for future or existing owners. Most Centrelink payments are income and asset tested. Before attaching a rental property to a family member who is receiving, or plan to receive government benefits, you might want to check the testing thresholds first to see if the Centrelink payment will be impacted. This is also applicable when you are making distributions from a family trust to different family members.
9. Have you considered using your SMSF (selfmanaged super fund) to make the purchase of a rental property? There are a lot of tax saving opportunities with a SMSF since the income tax rate is only 15%. And the capital gains tax rate is effectively only 10% after factoring in the 1/3 discount. The major downside with a SMSF is normally you can’t get the money out until you retire or on compassionate grounds (SMSF does have more flexibilities compared to normal retail super fund. But the choices are still very limited). It could be expensive to set up and operate a SMSF too. There are also strict legal requirements on the trustees. Penalties on incompliance could be severe. Tax law around SMSF is very complicated too. You will need to find a good tax accountant specialized in SMSF to help you to understand the structure, also do a cost-benefit analysis before setting it up.
10. Consider internal ownership changes. For your existing rental properties, you can also consider whether you should transfer the ownership between family members, or between different business structures (this is not applicable for SMSF). You might want to do this when the income level changes with family members, or rental property changes between tax profit and loss. Before the change, you need to consider the cost of transfer including capital gains tax, stamp duty, conveyancer fees, etc. Again, a cost-benefit analysis is a must before the change.
Last but not the least, did you combine all the above strategies and compare your choices? If you haven’t yet, how would you know that you have picked the best strategy to minimize your taxes? We can help you to factor in all considerations, compare different scenarios, also present you with a Property Prepurchase Report with all our findings to help you to make a decision. Contact us today to book in a consultation with an experienced tax accountant!
This is general advice only and does not consider your financial circumstances, needs and objectives. Before making any decision based on this document, you should assess your own circumstances or seek advice from your financial adviser and seek tax advice from your accountant.
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