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From 1 July 2019, new rules prevent some taxpayers from claiming a deduction for interest and other holding costs for property that they own. Previously, if you bought vacant land with the intent to build a rental property on it, you may have been able to claim tax deductions for expenses incurred in holding the land – such as loan interest, council rates and other ongoing holding costs.

Mum & Dad developers (individuals, closely held trusts, SMSFs and unit trusts or partnerships where any interests are held by individuals, discretionary trusts or SMSFs) are the focus of these changes. Since the new laws apply retrospectively to losses or outgoings incurred on or after 1 July 2019 regardless of whether the land was first held prior to this date, and with no grandfathering in place, the amendments not only impact those intending to develop vacant land, but also those who have acquired land to develop.

The rules seek to ensure that deductions cannot be claimed during periods where a residential dwelling is being constructed or substantially renovated until the work has been completed, an occupancy certificate is issued, and the property is either rented out or genuinely available for rent.

Where holding costs cannot be claimed as a deduction, then they will generally be added to the cost base of the property for CGT purposes. This means that they can potentially reduce a capital gain made when you dispose of the property in the future. However, holding costs cannot be added to the cost base of a property unless it was acquired after 20 August 1991 and these costs cannot increase or create a capital loss on sale of a property.
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