The ATO has warned that it will double the number of audits scrutinising rental deductions this year. It says some tax agents are still claiming travel to residential rental properties for their clients, but from 1 July 2017 taxpayers (aside from excluded entities) were no longer permitted to claim travel expenses related to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent for a residential rental property.
Assistant Commissioner Gavin Siebert has said that this year the ATO is making 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.
The ATO expects to more than double the number of in-depth audits 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.
"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", Mr Siebert said.
In 2017–2018, the ATO audited more than 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.
If an income-producing asset such as an investment property is damaged or destroyed, the ATO has said the taxpayer will need to work out the correct tax treatment of insurance payouts they receive and their costs in rebuilding, repairing or replacing the assets.