Rental property owners are being warned to ensure their claims are correct this tax time, as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) announces it will double the number of audits scrutinising rental deductions.
In the 2017–18 financial year, more than 2.2 million Australians claimed over $47 billion in deductions.
Assistant Commissioner Gavin Siebert says that this year, the ATO has made rental deductions a top priority. “A random sample of returns with rental deductions found that nine out of 10 contained an error. We are concerned about the extent of non-compliance in this area and will be looking very closely at claims this year,” he said.
When it comes to dodgy claims, the ATO’s detection methods are becoming more advanced.
“We use a range of third-party information including data from financial institutions, property transactions and rental bonds from all states and territories, and online accommodation booking platforms, in combination with sophisticated analytics to scrutinise every tax return,” Mr Siebert said.
“Where we identify claims of concern, ATO staff will investigate and prompt taxpayers to amend unjustifiable claims. If necessary, we will commence audits,” he said.
“Over-claiming robs the whole community of essential services and will not be tolerated by the Australian community. The Government recently allocated additional funds to the ATO to extend its program of audits and reviews of rental properties.
“We expect to more than double the number of in-depth audits we conduct this year to 4,500, with a specific focus on over-claimed interest, capital works claimed as repairs, incorrect apportionment of expenses for holiday homes let out to others, and omitted income from accommodation sharing,” Mr Siebert said.
“Once our auditors begin, they may search through even more data including utilities, tolls, social media and other online content to determine whether the taxpayer was entitled to claims they’ve made,” he said.
While no penalties will apply for taxpayers who amend their returns due to genuine mistakes, deliberate attempts to over-claim can attract penalties of up to 75% of the claim. In 2017–18, the ATO audited over 1,500 taxpayers with rental claims, and applied penalties totalling $1.3 million.
In one case, a taxpayer was penalised over $12,000 for over-claiming deductions for their holiday home when it was not made genuinely available for rent, including being blocked out over seasonal holiday periods. Another taxpayer had to pay back $5,500 because they had not apportioned their rental interest deduction to account for redraws on their investment loan to pay for living expenses.
“This tax time, our message to taxpayers is clear. If you are renting out a room or a property, any money you earn must be declared as income and any deductions you claim may need to be apportioned for private use,” Mr Siebert said.
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