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A rental property is said to be negatively geared if the owner’s expenses (including mortgage interest and maintenance) exceed the rental income, so that the property makes an annual loss. If the tax system allows negative gearing deductibility, that loss can be deducted from other income for tax purposes. Abolition of this deductibility, loosely known as “abolition of negative gearing”, would make the owner’s expenses deductible against the rent alone — not against other income.

SPIN: Negative gearing deductibility helps renters and first home buyers by encouraging property investors to “supply accommodation”; the larger the supply, the lower the rents and prices.

FACT: The only investors who actually add to the supply of accommodation are those who build new accommodation. Therefore, if negative gearing deductibility were really intended to maximize the supply of accommodation, it would be allowed only for new construction — not for future purchases of established properties. But in fact the negative gearing rules fail to distinguish between new and established properties, giving no incentive to build rather than buy. So the supply of accommodation is lower than it could be, and rents and prices are consequently higher than they could be. That’s good for current owners of rental properties, but bad for renters and first home buyers.

VERDICT: Negative gearing deductibility could help renters and first home buyers if it were done properly. But it isn’t. It’s done so that established property investors get a tax break at the expense of other taxpayers plus higher rents and prices at the expense of renters and first home buyers.