The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Tax of­fice takes aim at Yasi’s vic­tims

- PETER CAMERON

NORTH Queens­land prop­erty own­ers grap­pling with cy­clone dam­age are now be­ing warned they are in the sights of the tax of­fice.

The Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice has writ­ten to in­vest­ment prop­erty own­ers in the re­gion bat­tered by Cy­clone Yasi ac­cus­ing them of try­ing to fid­dle their tax, on the ba­sis their rental in­comes are down.

But far from us­ing their homes for per­sonal hol­i­days or let­ting them at a dis­count to fam­ily mem­bers as the ATO warn­ing letters sug­gest, the prop­erty own­ers have strug­gled to find pay­ing ten­ants in the post-cy­clone pe­riod.

Deputy Tax Com­mis­sioner Steve Ves­per­man’s Au­gust 18 memo went to land­lords whose rental in­come “was lower than ex­pected”, with a warn­ing against us­ing rental prop­er­ties as “a hol­i­day home”.

He warned prop­erty own­ers “de­duc­tions are also lim­ited if the prop­erty is rented to fam­ily or friends be­low the mar­ket rate”.

Some land­lords with cy­clone-af­fected prop­er­ties in the re­gion strug­gle to gross five-fig­ures in an­nual rental in­come. Latest coastal bun­ga­low rentals are less than $300 per week on prop­er­ties which sus­tained 2011 cy­clone dam­age ex­ceed­ing $100,000.

Cy­clone Yasi caused fi­nan­cial ruin in a coastal strip from Port Hinch­in­brook north past Bingil Bay, near Innisfail.

This coastal strip was al­ready bat­tling af­ter Cy­clone Larry in March 2006 was fol­lowed by the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 2008.

The value of some lux­ury res­i­dences in ex­clu­sive Mis­sion Beach dropped 40-50 per cent from the mil­lion-dol­larplus “high wa­ter” marks in 2005 as in­ter­state visi­tors dis­ap­peared.

“For Sale” signs dot the fore­shore ar­eas.

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