Investing in property through your self-managed super fund
How can the astute property investor combine the benefits of low tax in super and the benefits of leverage?
Superannuation’s prime responsibility is to provide a member with retirement income. With increasing regularity people are seeing their superannuation funds declining either from poor investments or spiralling costs. To get more control many people are moving to self-managed superannuation.
Since mid-2007 self-managed superannuation funds have had the ability to invest in property, with bank debt. Many see investing in property as less volatile, unlikely to reduce in value over time and importantly as an asset that is in limited supply and one that everyone needs. Thus market values (capital and rents) are more likely to grow over time.
Property in a SMSF allows investors to accumulate property using bank debt that will be tax free in pension stage for both rental income and any capital gains on sale. At the same time, it allows the full benefits of negative gearing at the individual’s marginal tax rates while still working. This is like having multiple tax-free principal places of residences. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
Many people argue that with leveraged property in a super fund there is less likelihood of an overall loss of superannuation, as the ability to borrow to increase the asset size allows more funds to be accumulated and grow in a less volatile asset class than maybe shares.
Four key steps to maximising your property investment through your SMSF
With the ability to negatively gear property in superannuation while still at work against your personal tax, more people are looking at this strategy to improve their lifestyle in retirement. This ability to buy property, which will be tax free in your retirement, can greatly boost your future income. However, many people take shortcuts that reduce the upside of this strategy and unfortunately, in some cases, unintended costs are triggered. To maximise the strategy, four key steps are necessary.
- Talk to your specialist SMSF accountant or financial planner to ensure the property you are looking at is allowable. In summary, borrowings can be used to purchase, repair, and fund interest expenses. Cosmetic renovations (not an improvement) are permitted with borrowings, and while you can improve a property by adding floor space, granny flat, etc, this must be done using SMSF cash. Off-the-plan purchases are allowable, but not the purchase of land and the subsequent construction of the building. During this talk you can discuss the rollover from other super funds and any insurances etc., you may need.
- Get pre-approved finance. In many instances the banks will require a financial planner to sign off on your SMSF strategy, but this is normally a relatively simple thing. You may need to top up your super if you do not have sufficient deposit etc., but you can lend money to your SMSF from say cash or equity from outside super. As this is not a super contribution, there is no limit on the amount, and it can be repaid prior to retirement.
- After steps one and two are complete you can then put in place the paperwork. Caution is needed, as not all suppliers of the required documents are equally skilled. If you are lending money to your SMSF then you need these documents, and it is also advisable to complete additional documents as in many states a future second stamp duty on the property may be payable if all required documents are not completed.
- Now the fun stuff: go out and secure the property.
The above may look intimidating, but it is just administration that your specialty advisor will help you with and for most people, it’s no more daunting than the process of purchasing the property; it’s simply just some “extra paperwork”. The ability to leverage property in super can be very beneficial, but ensure you follow these relatively simple rules to maximise your benefits.
How to use your super to buy a tax-free investment property
This tax pearler is normally associated with the family home, but the federal government eliminated all taxation within superannuation when in the pension stage many years ago. With the ability to now borrow in superannuation, the astute investor can now leverage his or her superannuation and borrow to purchase property that will become tax free.
While working and paying tax the investor can negatively gear a good capital growth property out of his or her pre-tax income in the same way as if it was purchased outside super. The 9% superannuation guarantee can even be used to fund the negative gearing. The big difference occurs after age 60 when the property in super will attract no tax on rental income or capital gains on sale. Payments from the super fund to the investor are also tax free, and in fact it does not even need to be itemised in the individual’s personal tax return. Outside of super the cashflows would be fully taxable on both the rental stream and any capital gains. This superannuation treatment allows the individual to effectively have the taxation benefits as if they had multiple family homes.
Many people are sceptical about investing in super and argue they are too young, the rules may change and it is too confusing. All valid concerns, but the primary aim of all investors is to make money, and this task is made easier if no taxes are paid. An investment property needs time to do “its thing”, i.e. capital growth, so even the younger generations can benefit. How good would it be to have some of your investments in the “pay no taxes” basket?
This strategy can in some instances apply even before age 60 and has the added benefits of creating an additional land tax threshold and improved asset protection. The benefits are many.