Leaky home repairs concluded as not deductible

The leaky homes crisis represents one of the most severe problems faced by New Zealand’s property sector and continues to cause stress and anxiety for those affected. Adding to the uncertainty for rental property owners has been the question of whether repair costs are immediately deductible as ’repairs and maintenance’ (R&M).

Inland Revenue has assisted by providing guidance on determining whether repairs are deductible. The 2012 Interpretation Statement ‘IS 12/03 Income - deductibility of repairs and maintenance expenditure - general principles’ includes specific examples, but the issue is very fact specific and a matter of judgement.

Illustrating the continued uncertainty, Inland Revenue recently released Technical Decision Summary 23/07: Whether expenditure to resolve weathertightness issues is deductible. The TDS covers a dispute regarding leaky home expenditure deducted by a taxpayer and the decision by the Tax Counsel Office (TCO).

The dispute concerned a taxpayer who owned a rental unit within a block of six units, which were all connected by inter-tenancy walls. The block was also a part of a wider complex, consisting of other similar blocks. The unit in question required remediation work to resolve weathertightness issues.

While the property was untenanted, the remediation work was carried out by the body corporate and paid for by the taxpayer via a special levy. Simultaneously, the taxpayer also incurred expenditure for their unit to be painted.

The question was whether the capital limitation applied to deny the deductions claimed by the taxpayer in relation to the remediation and the painting. Inland Revenue asserted that the entire cost (including the painting) was capital, as the remediation work involved a reconstruction of the whole asset, or at the least, changed the character of the asset.

Conversely, the taxpayer argued that the expenditure incurred was deductible R&M as the remediation work was mostly limited to certain portions of the inter-tenancy walls and decks, while the painting comprised ordinary repairs and maintenance expenditure.

The TCO considered three relevant elements:
• Whether the work resulted in the reconstruction, replacement, or renewal of the asset, or substantially the whole of the asset? • Whether the work done had the effect of changing the character of the asset?
• Whether the work was part of one overall project or was a series of projects that merely happened to be undertaken at the same time?

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