One of the ways in which you can maximise the tax deductions for your small business is through the simplified small business depreciation rules offered by the Australian Tax Office. 

But what is small business depreciation?  How do you know if you qualify? And how is the Australian Government helping small businesses through the economic hardship caused by COVID-19? 

Don’t worry; we’ve got all your questions covered!

We’ve put together this ultimate guide to the simplified depreciation rules to help your small business save thousands of dollars. 

What Is Small Business Depreciation?

As a commercial building gets older, its structure and the assets within the building are subject to general wear and tear. In other words, each year, the value decreases and thus, depreciates.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) allows business owners and property investors, who generate income from their properties, to claim the depreciation as a tax deduction.

To help make the process of claiming tax deductions simpler, the ATO introduced simplified depreciation rules for small businesses. A small business can, thus, choose to either use the simplified depreciation rules or the general rules, depending on what best suits their circumstances. 

Before delving into the simplified small business depreciation rules, it’s essential to determine whether your business qualifies as a “small business entity”. 

What Qualifies as a Small Business Entity?

Whether a business is considered a small entity or not, is dependent on its annual aggregated turnover. 

To access the simplified depreciation rules, the business must have an annual aggregated turner of: 

  • $10 million (from 1 July 2016 onwards); or 
  • $2 million for the previous income years. 

Choosing the Simplified Small Business Depreciation Rules

Suppose you’ve determined that your business is a small entity and that you would prefer to make use of the simplified small business depreciation rules. If that is the case, there are a few factors that you need to consider. 

Small businesses that choose to go the simplified route must be aware that you’ll be required:

  • to apply the rules to all your business’s depreciable assets (except for those that the ATO specifically excludes); 
  • to apply the entire set of rules, not just ones you deem appropriate; and 
  • to only claim depreciation deductions for the portion of the asset that’s used to carry out your business. In other words, you can’t claim a depreciation deduction on the portion of the asset that you use privately. 

What Are the Simplified Depreciation Rules? 

The simplified small business depreciation rules include: 

  1. Instant asset write off; and 
  2. general small business pool.

What Does “Instant Asset Write-off” Entail for Small Business Entities?

Under this rule, you can immediately claim a small business deduction for the cost of the business-use portion of an asset, in the same year that you first used it or installed it.

The instant asset write-off can be used for a variety of new and second-hand assets, provided that the cost of each asset is less than the relevant threshold.

The threshold has changed numerous times over the past few years.

In response to the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, the ATO made the following changes to the instant asset write-off. From 12 March 2020 until 31 December 2020: 

  • the threshold amount for each depreciating asset had increased from $30,000 to $150,000, and 
  • the eligibility criteria had been expanded to cover businesses with an annual aggregated turnover of less than $500 million. This was increased from $50 million. 

Since then, however, the Australian Government has further extended the Instant Asset Write-Off Scheme.  The updated scheme has been effective since 7:30 pm on 6 October 2020 and will apply until 30 June 2022: 

  • businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of up to $5 billion can now immediately claim a depreciation deduction for eligible assets as well as the full cost of improvements to existing assets, and 
  • the total cost of the asset can be claimed,  so there is no threshold amount. 

This means that until 30 June 2022, this limitless instant asset write-off will override all other previous instant asset write-off schemes.

The following table reflects the various changes made to the instant-write off threshold from 7:30 pm on 12 May 2015: 

Date Instant Write Off Threshold
From 7.30 pm (AEST) on 12 May 2015 until 28 January 2019 Small business entities can immediately deduct the business portion of most depreciating assets costing less than $20,000 each (the instant asset write-off threshold).
From 29 January 2019 until before 7.30pm (AEDT) 2 April 2019 Small business entities can immediately deduct the business portion of most depreciating assets costing less than $25,000 each (the instant asset write-off threshold).
From 7.30pm (AEDT) on 2 April 2019 until 11 March 2020 Small business entities can immediately deduct the business portion of most depreciating assets costing less than $30,000 each (the instant asset write-off threshold).
From 12 March 2020 until 30 June 2020 Small business entities can immediately deduct the business portion of most depreciating assets costing less than $150,000 each (the instant asset write-off threshold).
From 7:30pm on 6 October 2020 until 30 June 2022 Business entities with aggregated annual turnover of up to $5 billion can immediately deduct the business portion of all depreciating assets, with no cost limit. This recent change overrides all previous changes until June 2022.

General Small Business Pool 

According to the small business pool simplified depreciation rule, business owners can claim depreciation deductions on plant and equipment assets at an accelerated rate. 

In other words, small businesses can pool the higher costing business-use assets and claim: 

  • a 15% deduction in the year that you started using the asset or installed it ready to be used; and
  • a 30% deduction each year after the first year. 

The ATO proposes that higher cost assets are generally those that cost more than or equal to the relevant instant asset write-off threshold. 

In addition, small businesses can deduct the entire balance of the pool at the end of the income year if the balance (before applying the depreciation deductions) is less than the instant asset write-off threshold. 

Note: while the limitless instant asset write-off is in effect, the small business pool is only used for businesses with turnover over $5 billion per year. 

Example:

Jules purchased a food truck on 4 January 2020 for $63,000. Her truck is ready to use by 12 January 2020.  In addition to her food truck, she also purchased several higher-priced assets allocated to her small business pool, including her commercial ovens and refrigerators for her food truck. 

At the end of the 2019 – 20 financial year, her small business pool totalled to $125,000. 

Because Jule’s assets total to higher than the threshold, which was $30,000 at the time, she does not qualify for an instant asset write-off. 

And as it is new assets for business purposes, she qualifies for a 15% deduction. 

Her small business depreciation deduction calculation is as follows: 

$125,000 x 15% = $18,750

Jules can claim a depreciation tax deduction for $18,750. 

What About the Backing Business Investment Incentive (BBI)?

To support business investment and economic growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ATO also introduced the BBI Incentive. 

The incentive, available from 12 March 2020 to 30 June 2021, allows for accelerated depreciation deductions for businesses with an annual aggregated turnover below $500 million with new (first-held) depreciating assets. 

Businesses using the small business depreciation rules can claim 57.5% of the asset’s total cost in the first year of its use. It can then be added to the general small business pool in which the depreciation deduction will be calculated at 30% for the following years.  

Key Takeaways 

The ATO has made simplified depreciation rules available to small businesses so that they are able to maximise their cash flow each financial year. 

 The simplified small business depreciation rules apply to eligible small business entities and include: 

  • the instant asset write off; and 
  • the general small business pool.

In attempts to soften the economic hardship caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, the Australian Government recently made amendments to the instant asset write-off to cover a broader range of businesses. In addition, they introduced the BBI Incentive to accelerate depreciation deductions for small business pools. 

As a small business, you should ensure that you are taking advantage of the simplified depreciation rules as depreciation is a significant tax-deductible expense. 

If you are feeling unsure about the small business depreciation rules, you may find it helpful to purchase a tax depreciation schedule.

A tax depreciation schedule is a report that details the tax depreciation deductions you can claim on your small business assets. 

At Duo Tax, our team of quantity surveyors are small business and investment tax experts who can provide you with a depreciation schedule that will not only break down your claimable small business depreciation deductions but will also save you thousands of dollars in tax each year.

To receive a free estimate on your small business depreciation, or to request a sample report, get in touch with us today!

Disclaimer: Please note that every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this guide is accurate. You should note, however, that the information is intended as a guide only, providing an overview of general information available to property investors. This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive source of information and should not be seen to constitute legal or tax advice. You should, where necessary, seek a second professional opinion for any legal or tax issues raised in your investing affairs.
Portrait of Tuan Duong

Tuan Duong is an award winning Quantity Surveyor and leads Duo Tax Quantity Surveyors – Australia’s fastest growing provider of Tax Depreciation. Reach out to him directly on 0431 154 356 or email tuan@duotax.com.au

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