25 April 2024

Pocock says tax concessions for landlords can be reformed and still protect existing investments

| Chris Johnson
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David Pocock

Senator David Pocock, along with fellow crossbencher Jacqui Lambie, has called for tax reform on investment property concessions. Photo: Supplied.

ACT independent senator David Pocock has teamed up with fellow crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie to press the government on housing policy, saying tax concessions on investment properties should be reformed.

The pair commissioned the Parliamentary Budget Office to model how such tax reforms could affect housing affordability, and say it would not only boost it but also deliver $60 billion to the national budget over a decade.

Describing it as the most sophisticated modelling published to date, the senators said it provides for a range of options and behavioural assumptions.

One big plus, they say, is that the research shows it is possible to protect people’s existing investments while moving to a model that uses tax concessions to incentivise new supply.

“The housing crisis is so widespread and so severe we need governments pulling every available lever to increase housing supply and affordability,” Senator Pocock said.

“Tax reform on its own won’t solve the housing crisis but it can be a powerful tool to drive new supply and should be on the table for sensible debate.”

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The PBO modelling involved five distinct combinations of changes to negative gearing and the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) discount.

All five involved some degree of ‘grandfathering’ or exempting existing property investors from proposed changes.

“I think most Australians would agree that we need to fix the housing crisis and negative gearing is part of the problem,” Senator Lambie said.

“But protecting the mum and dad investors and retirees who have invested in housing must also be part of the solution.

“Because this Labor Government got their arses kicked in the 2019 election, they won’t talk about fixing negative gearing.

“Senator Pocock and I have done the work and I hope the Treasurer and the Prime Minister will be brave and take this opportunity to consider these sensible reforms.”

The most modest reform option modelled has the CGT discount grandfathered for existing rentals and halved for newly built homes.

It would retain negative gearing on a landlord’s first rental property, and save the federal budget $16 billion by 2033-34.

The senators say this saving could be redirected to invest in the supply of social and affordable housing.

Other reforms modelled could save up to $60 billion over the same period.

The main behavioural impacts of tax reforms factored into the PBO projections are the likely disposal of some rental properties by existing property investors and a reduced number of potential investors acquiring homes for this purpose.

With more rental properties being sold and fewer aspiring property investors among potential buyers during this adjustment period, the senators say first home buyer acquisitions would likely increase and push up the home ownership rate from its currently depressed level.

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The crossbenchers have also pointed to other research to back their position.

Earlier calculations by the Grattan Institute projected that abolishing negative gearing and halving the CGT discount would leave prices two per cent lower than what they would otherwise have been.

Research undertaken by NSW Treasury showed that in modelling the impact of abolishing negative gearing and halving the capital gains tax discount for landlord investors would increase the owner-occupied share of the private dwelling stock by 4.7 per cent effectively returning home ownership in Australia to 1990s levels.

Polling commissioned by Per Capita in late 2022 for its 2023 report ‘Australian Housing Monitor’ also found that 56 per cent of people surveyed agreed that ‘governments should remove tax deductions for housing investors and use the money to build more public and community housing’.

Even among Liberal Party voters 48 per cent supported, and only 23 per cent opposed, removing tax deductions for housing investors with the funds being used for more social housing.

For its part, the Federal Government has established the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) to provide a sustainable funding source aimed at increasing the supply of social and affordable housing.

The government says disbursements from the HAFF will help support 20,000 new social housing dwellings, 4000 of which will be allocated to women and children impacted by family and domestic violence and older women at risk of homelessness.

It also aims to provide 10,000 new affordable housing dwellings, including for frontline workers.

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Preface: Yes, all existing concessions to existing investments should be grandfathered, if only to prevent a housing crash.

Why should capital gains receive a tax discount in any scenario? Is income from investments somehow holier than income from working?

As for negative gearing, it’s there to encourage investment in stuff that is productive for the economy. Existing houses have already been built. Investment in them is purely speculative, providing no additional value. (The same could be said for shares).

New dwellings, and business startups, should be encouraged with negative gearing.

Legitimate costs of providing a rental, eg repairs, agents’ fees, etc should be deductable from income in either case (property bought existing or built by investor).

I don’t claim that such changes would be entirely free of market effects, but they’re basically the same as what Shorten took to the 2019 election, and independent modellers found a likely small initial drop in the market (<5% from memory) followed by a resumption in growth that would be slower than it would have been otherwise.

In other words, a gradual market correction making housing more affordable, without too much pain for existing owners.

devils_advocate3:14 pm 26 Apr 24

Daily reminder that:
1) only permanent residents are allowed to buy and retain existing residential properties
2) temporary residents on a path to permanency must divest themselves of existing residences within set timeframes if they for some reason don’t achieve permanency
3) foreign investors with no residency status can acquire NEW dwellings only (never lived in) including off-the-plan, and in fact often provide the critical mass for new developments. Developers are normally allowed to sell up to half the dwellings to foreign residents in pre-sales. They do this to bankroll the project.

IMPORTANTLY: In this way, foreign investors PROMOTE new supply, and actually help the affordability problem.

Or allow owner occupiers to negatively gear as well. The current policies give investors an unfair advantage over new entrants to the property market

Capital Retro8:29 am 26 Apr 24

In the USA mortgage interest is tax-deductible for owner-occupiers.

And before Whitlam socialized medical care, heath fund and chemist cost were tax deductible in Australia. School fees too!

Matthew Scott9:12 am 26 Apr 24

How would that work? A negatively geared house is one where the costs are greater than the income received, so the owner makes a loss. The loss amount can then be used to reduce the owner’s taxable income. An owner occupied receives no income from their home. Are you suggesting that you should be able to claim all interest paid, rates and maintenance costs be counted as a loss and thus claimable against your taxable income?

Hest Lars, the deal includes CGT on your home, at no less than a compensatory rate, and land rent on potential value of earnings from the asset?

Capital Retro, ah, the good old days, when tax deduction benefits flowed more to the richer, rather than “socialised” medicine where society actually benefits from having more people healthy and productive, fewer on any private or public support. I take it you have, as a matter of principle, never accepted a socialist rebate?

Capital Retro2:57 pm 26 Apr 24

I have never sought a “socialist rebate”. By legislation I do receive some through Medicare (who doesn’t?) but I don’t actively seek out every social skerrick that is available like 99% of the rest of you do.

What you said is total crap, by the way.

“socialist rebate”
You said it. It was legislated. You use it.

You mean mining companies? Landlords? Churches? You?

Capital Retro, Medical and pharmacy costs were tax deductible for many years after Universal Healthcare was introduced.

It’s hard to take Lambie serious when she says we should lock up Elon Musk for wanting free speech and not holding the whole word to Australia’s rules on what to share and what to hide.

We’re better off getting less people needing handouts than trying to work out what they should be.

HiddenDragon8:53 pm 25 Apr 24

Rather than grandfathering, which would surely have the perverse effect of encouraging people to hang on to properties thus protected, it would be better to phase out negative gearing over an extended period – maybe five, or even ten years – with the concession being reduced proportionately every year until it was eventually eliminated.

Changes to capital gains tax should be done across-the-board, not just for real estate with, desirably, a move back to something closer to the original model, which tended to encourage a longer-term approach to investing, rather than the current model, which incentivises shorter-term asset price speculation and has the truly disgusting effect of allowing people who make their living largely from speculation to pay a much lower rate of tax than people who do real work for a living.

Yes, agree on that Hidden Dragon. And form of “grandfathering”, should be a phase out, along with your suggested CGT changes.

Where will the houses come from for renters? No ones going to buy them just to make a loss. How many tradies will be out of work if no investment houses to rent are built?

Seeing as the vast majority of property investors buy existing properties rather than new builds, what makes you think it would make much difference on new supply at all?

Is that true? I thought the majority of property investors buy new apartments and houses and claim the building depreciation.

bj_ACT, the data likely will be from investor loans by banks, where 75-80% are for existing property not new build.

Andrew Sutton6:59 pm 25 Apr 24

The sentiments expressed in this article by David and Jacquie are, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. There are many investors who publicly announce how clever they are owning multiple investment properties because the tax deductions allow them to continue to build their portfolio.

Maybe a policy that allows parents to have one investment property per child is appropriate as the parents will in effect be assisting them to fund their first home purchase. Anymore than that is just being greedy.

Tax breaks on multiple investment properties is welfare for the rich. One or two for your kids or your retirement is fine but more is just greed.

We also need to come to reciprocal “arrangements” with citizens from countries where Australians are not allowed to by real estate. “Australians cannot buy land in XXX so citizens and businesses of XXX cannot buy land in Australia.

I agree with that. It’s bizarre we allow properties to be bought up by residents of countries that won’t let us.

devils_advocate4:07 pm 26 Apr 24

“ It’s bizarre we allow properties to be bought up by residents of countries that won’t let us.”

No it’s not. The Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act and associated policy is actually designed to and does leverage foreign investment into creating new supply, and hence helping affordability.

Andrew Sutton, Number of children should be irrelevant. That’s discriminatory.

devils_advocate12:53 pm 02 May 24

@Maya if you think it’s “discriminatory” to give people favourable tax treatment based on whether they have children, I have some very upsetting news for you. You might want to sit down for this.

Stephen Saunders5:24 pm 25 Apr 24

A million migrants in two years, tent cities everywhere, still Pocock flatly refuses to look at the demand side. So how is he any different to LibLabGreenTeal?

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