Articles by Matthew Gilligan

Healthy Homes Costs

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Readers will by now be well acquainted with the minimum standards under the Healthy Homes Regulations. Rather than discuss what landlords need to do to adhere to these standards, in this blog I want to address the debate as to the tax treatment of costs incurred in doing so. 

In recent weeks the IRD have issued a draft statement for comment and discussion setting out their view. I am sure no reader will be surprised if I say that the IRD have proposed a relatively conservative viewpoint with a fairly narrow view of what costs will be deductible. 

Deductible costs
By way of summary, the IRD see the following types of costs as deductible:

Repairing existing items that would otherwise meet the standards if operational or in reasonable condition
Minor additions or alterations to the building. As examples of such minor additions/alterations the IRD talks about installation of battery-powered smoke alarms, sealing unnecessary gaps or holes to meet draught stopping standards, minor work to meet ventilation and moisture ingress and drainage standards.
Future replacement of items that were treated as capital improvements to the building when installed
Costs of recordkeeping, such as paying management fees for healthy homes compliance services

Non-deductible costs
On the other hand, there is a long list of costs that will not be deductible as repairs and maintenance including:

Wired-in smoke alarms, or more than minor additions of battery powered alarms
Installation of new insulation
Ducted or multi-unit heat pumps
Flued fires (wood or gas)
New or replacement openable windows
New exterior doors
Most extractor fans or rangehoods
Ground moisture barriers
Stormwater drainage, gutters and downpipes
Underfloor vents

Some of these non-deductible items could be depreciated, although that is a fairly limited class which includes electric panel heaters, some heat pumps, through-window extractor fans, window stays, door openers and stops, external door draught excluders and devices for blocking fireplaces or chimneys. There is also potential for a deduction in regard to low-value depreciable items. The cost threshold was $500 at the time of writing, but in a late breaking Covid-19 related law change it has increased to $5,000 for assets purchased on or after 17 March 2020, and $1,000 for assets purchased on or after 17 March 2021.  

The IRD’s attitude is pretty much that any expenditure is likely to be capital unless it is repairing an existing asset or of a very minor nature. They have noted that in the context of insulation, one example of an expense that is still revenue in nature even though it represents a replacement with a superior product is where you are conducting a patch replacement of foil insulation (now banned under the Building Act) with a compliant product. 

In my view, the IRD’s approach is disappointing given the mandatory nature of the work undertaken. It would seem to make more sense to incentivise landlords to meet these standards through the allowance of a deduction for expenses – rather than effectively penalising them. 

There are also arguably technical grounds for claiming deductions for some of the work they argue is capital. The first step in any analysis as to whether an expense is deductible repairs and maintenance or non-deductible capital improvements, is to identify the asset in question. If the asset is the rental dwelling as a whole, there is arguably not a significant change in the character of the asset merely by adding a ducted heat pump or ventilation system, or adding insulation to parts of the property where there were none previously. 

Finally, bear in mind that it is a draft statement and we await finalisation post public feedback. However, at this stage I am not holding my breath that there will be any relaxation of this attitude from the Inland Revenue.

As always, if you need help with any of the issues discussed in this article, contact us at GRA on +64 9 522 7955, or via our website.