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Matthew Gilligan

Rental Losses and Family Assistance


A common question that I get asked is – what impact do rental losses have on my entitlements to Family Assistance? Before I answer that lets just go back a step and talk about Family Assistance...

First, the technical name is now Working for Family Tax Credits (WFTC). They are entitlements that families with children may qualify for depending on the number of children you have, the household income and the hours each week you work. As a rough guide, a family with three children can qualify for payments under this scheme with household earning of up to $105,000.

As your entitlement to WFTC is dependent on your level of income, the question then is – can you take into account rental losses in calculating your income for WFTC purposes?

The answer to this is not as straight forward as you might think. If the rentals are owned in an LAQC then the answer is no, the losses are not taken into account. This means even though your attributed loss from the LAQC will reduce your taxable income and the income tax that you pay thereon, it will be disregarded when assessing your income and eligibility for WFTC purposes.

Now whilst that may or may not surprise you, I am sure that this will. If you own a rental property personally, the losses are taken into account for WFTC purposes. This means if you have a loss-making rental property owned in personal names you will qualify for more WFTC support than you would if you owned the same rental via an LAQC.

Now to further confuse things, if you have a business and the business produces a tax loss, that loss is also ignored for tax purposes. What this means is that if the IRD regard the rental activity that you conduct personally as a business, then the losses are ignored, just as the LAQC losses are.

This begs the question as to what qualifies as a business. It seems clear to us that one rental property does not qualify as a business and therefore you are safe to assume that the losses from one rental property can be offset against your income for WFTC purposes. If you own two or more rental properties personally then it may be that the investment activity constitutes a business and the losses are ignored. Each case needs to be treated on its own merits.

As we have been pondering this here, we have been trying to work out the policy rationale behind the rules. It can not be that the government did not want depreciation deductions in respect of rental properties influencing WFTC payments, as if that were the case the law should not allow a single rental property owned personally to be taken into account for those purposes. It seems on the face of it to suggest a policy whereby investment and business activities are discouraged. However, even this does not explain why tax losses from an LAQC and businesses are excluded and rental losses from a single rental property are not.

It is also worth noting that the exclusion of the LAQC losses for WFTC purposes contrasts with assessments in relation to child support, which do include LAQC losses. Obviously the policy issues are somewhat different, but the contrasting treatment is worth noting.

Given the law is what it is, this begs the question as to whether you are better off owning rental properties personally or in an LAQC. If you do qualify for Family Assistance there may well be benefit in owning the property personally. However, you need to weigh up the impact that this will have in terms of additional WFTC support versus potential downside of owning personally as opposed to an LAQC in terms of loss of ability to stream the tax losses through the higher income earner, ability to pay shareholder salaries and potentially the ability to structure debt in an advantageous manner.

It may well be that the flexibilities and rewards of LAQC ownership outweigh the marginal increases in WFTC but again, each case should be judged on its own merits.

If you have any queries or concerns regarding to the interrelationship between WFTC and rental losses please contact us at GRA.

Matthew Gilligan
Matthew Gilligan
© Gilligan Rowe & Associates LP

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Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide only a summary of the issues associated with the topics covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive nor to provide specific advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained within this article without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any further information or advice on any matter covered within this article, please contact the author.

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