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Tax on loans varies and can bite hard

There is confusion about home loan accounts with a line of credit or redraw facility, and offset accounts, Noel Whittaker says.
There is confusion about home loan accounts with a line of credit or redraw facility, and offset accounts, Noel Whittaker says. JOEL CARRETT

LAST week I wrote about tax deductibility of interest - today I'll explore some of the traps with redraw facilities.

There is confusion about home loan accounts with a line of credit or redraw facility and offset accounts.

It's worth taking the time to understand them because they are vastly different animals and getting it wrong can be very costly.

An offset account is simply a savings account in which the interest is deducted from your loan interest instead of being paid to you as taxable income.

At any stage, funds can be withdrawn from the offset account without tax implications. In contrast, every time you make a withdrawal from a redraw facility or line of credit account, you are establishing a new loan.

Suppose a couple have a $400,000 loan on their home and have the goal of eventually upgrading to another home and renting the original out.

Over the years they have accumulated $350,000 in their offset account, which means they effectively owe only $50,000 on their property. When they make the move they simply withdraw the $350,000 from the offset account and use that as a deposit on the new home. This leaves them with a $400,000 debt on the original property - now tenanted - and they can claim all the interest on it as a tax deduction.

Their neighbours also once had a $400,000 loan but have worked hard to reduce the debt to $50,000. If they move out, their debt on the now-rented property will be stuck at $50,000. Certainly, they could redraw funds from the original loan to buy their dream home, but the interest will not be tax-deductible.

They will have a huge non-deductible debt on their new residence, as well as paying tax on the rents from the original property.

An investment line of credit loan can be a particular trap if borrowers do not keep their business and private expenses strictly separate. Unfortunately, far too many borrowers deposit their salary into the investment loan account and then withdraw funds each month for normal living expenses.

They do not realise that the ATO treats depositing the salary as a permanent reduction of the debt and each redraw as a new loan.

Because the redraws are used for a private purpose such as paying for groceries, the loan very quickly loses its tax deductibility.

The lesson in all this is that you should keep your investment and private borrowings separate and always use an offset account if you intend one day to rent out a property that is presently used as your own residence.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email: noel@noelwhittaker.com.au

Topics:  home loan account line of credit making money made simple noel whittaker offset account



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