Scrapping negative gearing would have consequences far beyond an investor’s tax return

Scrapping negative gearing would have consequences far beyond an investor's tax return

Negative gearing is a form of financial leverage where the gross income generated by an investment is less than the cost of owning and managing the investment, including interest charged on the borrowings. The negative cash flow is then offset against personal incomes. 

Doesn’t negative gearing just help the rich get richer?

According to 2011-12 ATO statistics, there were 12,736,030 individual taxpayers in Australia and 1,897,668 (14.9%) of them owned one or more investment properties. 73% of property investors own one property and only 4% of investors own four or more properties. For a property to be negative geared there must be a significant debt against it (they don’t own it outright).

In other words, an overwhelming majority of investors are ordinary mums and dads; they are attempting to fund their own retirement, as opposed to being a burden on Australia’s taxation system via government-funded pension.

Doesn’t negative gearing reduce the amount of revenue available to governments each year?

A report produced by REIA in August 2014, mentioned that a total of $7,860 million in losses were claimed by Australian property investors in 2011-12. The ATO also charged extra taxes on the $5,939 million worth of investment property profits.

Should changes ever be made to negative gearing and results in fewer property transactions each year, governments would stand to lose a lot more tax revenue from stamp duties, infrastructure charges, land tax, construction industry payroll taxes, and more. The existing $71 billion (and growing) spent each year on tax-payer funded pensions and allowances will increase significantly. 

What impact would the removal of negative gearing have on Australia’s housing supply?

According to 2011 Census data, Australia has 9,117,003 residential properties and we are adding approximately 160,000 more each year. Negative gearing is a tax-policy linked to property – other policies include stamp duty, first home buyer incentives, tax rebates and incentives to purchase new property, land tax, and capital gains tax.

Tightening of any of these policies will directly influence consumer behaviour and become a disincentive to buying and holding property. As we’ve seen already with ‘new home building grants’, the introduction and removal of tax policies directly affects the construction industry (Australia’s biggest industry by direct and indirect jobs).

What about Australia’s social housing problem?

75% of residential properties in Australia are occupied by the owner. Of the remaining 25% that are rented only 5% are provided by governments. Governments can’t afford to fund social housing (some governments have actually been selling off parcels of properties in order to raise money for other reasons).

The National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) is government admission of our social housing shortfall which governments can’t fund so they developed a policy designed to encourage others to do it for them. Removal of negative gearing would be a gross contradiction to this.

How might the removal of negative gearing affect Australia’s welfare system?

Australia’s financial literacy crisis is in our DNA – only 4% of people are financially independent by age 65. The federal government have said that we can’t support our ageing population with our unsustainable reliance on tax-payer pensions. They have touted the possibility of the superannuation age increasing to 70. Stripping back incentives which encourage investment would only compound this country’s problem.

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