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Landlords, your rental agent’s fees are tax deductable

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Q

Last year I moved out of my sectional title unit and quickly found a tenant. This past tax season I had to declare my rental income but was not sure of which expenses I could claim against. Can you give me some guidance in anticipation of the next tax deadline. – Sybrand

A

Hi Sybrand, owning a rental property portfolio that provides an income is much like owning a business, and as such there are tax implications and dues that need to be paid to the South Africa Revenue Service.

Landlords are required to declare the total amount of rental income received as gross income and they will be taxed at the marginal Income Tax Rate, applying to the owner of the home. The below table is a guideline of the personal tax rates that are currently applicable in South Africa:

Personal Income Tax Rate 2017/2018  
R0 – R189,880 18% of each R1
R189,881 – R296,540 R34,178 + 26% of the amount above R189,880
R296,541 – R410,460 R61,910 + 31% of the amount above R296,540
R410,461 – R555,600 R97,225 + 36% of the amount above R410,460
R555,601 – R708,310 R149,475 + 39% of the amount above R555,600
R708,311 – R1,500,000 R209,032 + 41% of the amount above R708,310
R1,500,000 and above R533,625 + 45% of the amount above R1,500,000

While landlords are required to declare the total income acquired through letting out their property, there are certain deductions that can be made, such as a non-capital expense. A landlord is obliged to incur expenses during the period that the property is let out. Deducting the non-capital expenses from the landlord’s tax return will reduce the taxable income and possibly put the landlord in a lower tax bracket, which will be of benefit to them.

These are non-capital expenses

  • Rental agent’s commission or fees for securing a tenant

  • Advertising costs for marketing the property

  • Insurance fees, levies, municipal rates, water and electricity
  • Interest paid on the home loan if applicable
  • Cleaning costs, garden services and security
  • If the property is furnished, the depreciation of the furniture’s value can be deducted
  • Legal fees incurred from disputes with tenants – this includes the eviction of tenants
  • Repairs and maintenance costs – this does not include improvements to the property

Expenses that are regarded to be of a capital nature cannot be deducted. These would include any expenses incurred while renovating or adding on to the property. If the tenant has moved out of the property and you as the landlord decide to make repairs to the home to sell it, these expenses cannot be deducted as they did not happen while the tenant occupied the property.

If the total deductions exceed the rental income received by the landlord and they wish to declare a net rental loss, the Income Tax Act contains a ring-fencing provision that may come into play depending on the circumstances. If the provision does apply, the landlord will not be able to offset their rental losses against income received from other sources.

Evading paying tax on rental income will see the landlord in hot financial water. Rental agents are obligated to provide SARS with a record of the rental income received and paid over to the landlord. As a result, it is very easy for SARS to find any discrepancies in the landlord’s tax return. If found out evading tax after notification of an audit, the landlord could be facing a hefty penalty or worse – imprisonment.

All rental income should be included in the landlord’s taxable income. However, reducing it by the relevant expenditure will assist the landlord to reduce the amount of money that leaves their back pocket.


Who is Adrian Goslett?

Adrian Goslett is the regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa

Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

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