how property investing politicians have skin in the game on the negative ... - sydney morning herald

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  • How property investing politicians have skin in the game onthe negative ... - Sydney Morning Herald

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    Mal Maiden: Time nearly up for negative gearing With the Federal Reserve hinting at a looming raterise, and the government white paper on tax overdue, Mal Maiden examines the market future.

    PT5M15S 620 349

    Australia's federal politicians have been outed as the country's most eager property investors,casting doubt on their willingness to rein in negative gearing.

    The controversial practice allows taxpayers to use tax losses from rental properties to cut theirtaxable income. Critics argue it contributes to Australia's house affordability crisis.

    If someone has more than one mortgage of course they're negatively gearing. You'd be an idiot notto

    Around one in seven Australian taxpayers own rental properties, but among federal politicians it isat least one in three.

    Figures compiled by property authors Lindsay David, Paul Egan and Philip Soosshow federalpoliticians own an average 2.4 properties each, including their family homes.

    Collectively they own a portfolio of 541 properties, conservatively estimated to be worth $350million.

    Barry O'Sullivan is Capital Hill's biggest property tycoon, with the Queensland Nationals senatorowning 41 properties.

  • Other big real estate investors include the Nationals' David Gillespie (18 properties), the PalmerUnited Party's Clive Palmer (12 properties), and the Country Liberal Party's Natasha Griggs (12properties).

    High-profile Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull owns an impressive portfolio of sevenproperties, while Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan has five.

    But of the 226 members of Parliament, 84 of them hold at least one investment property and at leastone mortgage or investmentloan, meaning they are possibly negative gearing.

    Parliament's register of members' interest does not disclose if its members who hold a loan againsttheir investment properties are negatively geared.

    But as one federal politician told Fairfax Media, after admitting he negatively geared a secondproperty: "If someone has more than one mortgage of course they're negatively gearing. You'd be anidiot not to."

    Alannah MacTiernan said that her sole investment property (in which she has a 33 per cent interest)

  • is not negatively geared.

    Economists like Saul Eslake from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and John Daley from the GrattanInstitute who recently took on Treasurer Joe Hockey on Q&A say negative gearing and the capitalgains tax discount should be wound back because they are inflating house prices and acceleratingfalling rates of home ownership among the young.

    Mr Daley said if the government was unwilling to remove the capital gains tax discount it should getrid of negative gearing altogether.

    "The most important argument against negative gearing is that it drives up house prices because itincreases the after-tax returns to housing investors, and so prices are higher than they would beotherwise,"Mr Daley arguedlast week.

    Mr David, Mr Egan and Mr Soos last year warned that, with such high rates of property ownershipamong Australia's senators and ministers, it was "difficult to believe that politicians will address thereal causes of housing unaffordability, despite the recommendations fromgovernment reports".

  • When it comes to Canberra's entire property portfolio, members of the Coalition own 331 properties,or 61 per cent, at an average of 2.7 properties each.

    Labor politicians own 162 properties, at an average of two properties each. Greens politicians own16 properties, while the Palmer United Party owns 14 (Clive Palmer owns 12 of those).

    Australia's MPs currently used more properties for investment or commercial purposes (291properties) than for residential or recreational purposes (250 properties).

    Property ownership among politicians is slightly down since the last time Mr David, Mr Egan and MrSoos conducted similar research.

    In 2013, the authors found MPs owned roughly 563 properties, including 312 for investment orcommercial purposes.

    In 2011/12, more than 1.2 million taxpayers owned a negatively geared property, and the number ofpeople who use the tax strategy has more than doubled since capital the gains tax discount wasintroduced in 1999.

    This article originally contained errors relating to Alannah MacTiernan's property ownership. Theyhave been corrected.

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