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Australia Announces Tax Breaks For Affordable Housing Investments

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Australian Government has announced that it will introduce a 60 percent capital gains tax discount (CGT) for investors in affordable rental housing.

The Government has released draft legislation to implement a number of housing affordability policies.

From January 1, 2018, residents investing in eligible affordable housing will be entitled to a CGT discount of up to 60 percent if they hold the investment for at least three years. The standard discount rate is 50 percent.

The Government also intends to permit managed investment trusts (MITs) to invest in affordable housing. Effective July 1, 2017, MITs will be permitted to hold affordable housing for the purpose of deriving long-term rent, and to derive other eligible business income from investments including shares or commercial property. MITs will be allowed to construct or develop the affordable property within the MIT.

Consistent with current MIT withholding tax rules, eligible foreign residents will generally be able to take advantage of a reduced withholding tax of 15 percent on investment returns, including income from capital gains. However, this concessional rate will not apply to capital gains income derived from selling affordable housing held for less than 10 years.

However, from 16:30 AEST on September 14, 2017, MITs will not be permitted to acquire residential property, unless it qualifies as affordable housing. The aim is to prevent MITs from investing in houses, units, and apartments to hold for long term rent (other than affordable housing). It is also intended to clarify the long-standing convention that the primary purpose of the MIT concessional tax treatment is to apply to passive investment income.

MITs currently holding residential property will be provided with a transitional period until October 1, 2027, for their existing property assets.

To qualify for the higher discount and MIT concessional tax treatment, affordable housing tenancies will need to be managed by a registered Community Housing Provider. Housing providers will determine the tenant eligibility criteria, including the rent charged, consistent with state and territory affordable housing policies.