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Tax Payers Fork Out as Investors Fill Pockets

15 April 2015
Almost 30,000 people have five or more homes negatively geared for tax offsets, costing the nation up to $5 billion a year in lost revenue.
 
ATO figures show 15,264 landlords own at least six investment properties, which they claim run at a loss. Another 14,555 own five.
 
Negative gearing sees owners able to claim as tax deductions all costs associated with that property, including mortgage interest — so they aim to ensure that the costs are greater than the rental income.
 
The revelations that average Australians are subsidising more than 30,000 investors with five or more homes is likely to spark a fierce debate ahead of next month’s federal Budget, as the Government tries to boost revenue.
 
Some 80 per cent of negatively geared landlords — around 900,000 — are middle-income earners, and most have just one negatively geared investment property.
 
With almost 10 per cent of all taxpayers claiming negatively geared properties, Treasurer Joe Hockey is reluctant to make any changes, despite his recent tax paper flagging it as an area for debate.
 
The total of investors with multiple homes negatively geared was obtained by the Property Council using 2011 ATO data — the most recent available. Current figures show Australia currently has 1.27 million negatively geared landlords.
 
Around 300,000 Victorian landlords have a negatively geared property.
 
Mr Hockey said his tax discussion paper debunked myths about the wealth of owners of such properties.
 
“Around half a million (negatively geared) are in the middle tax bracket of 32.5 per cent,’’ he said.
 
It is the third-most popular savings scheme, behind buying the family home and super.
 
Treasury does not keep figures that show how much potential revenue is lost each year through negative gearing.
 
But Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Saul Eslake researched it three years ago and concluded it cost between $4 billion and $5 billion a year in the short term.
 
Mr Eslake, a long-time critic of negative gearing, said it was pushing up house prices and making it more difficult for first-home buyers to get into the market.
He also criticised a further perk introduced by John Howard in 1999, that a landlord who profits on the sale of the property pays capital gains tax on only half of that profit.
 
But he warned that the Government had no appetite to change it given the large number of Australians who enjoyed its benefits.
“The political arithmetic is against it,” he said. “The most the Government could do is ‘grandfather’ it, and say those with their snouts in the trough can keep them in there but no more snouts can go in.’’
 
Treasury said it did not keep a breakdown of how many taxpayers owned how many properties, and instead provided tax brackets and a total number of those who filed a negative tax return on their investment properties, which totalled 1.266 million last year, including 294,345 in Victoria.
 
The Property Council has analysed ATO data from 2010-11, not included in the recent statistics.
 
Chief executive Ken Morrison said the data showed around 80 per cent, or just fewer than 890,000 negatively geared property owners, earned around $80,000 or less.
 
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