SMSF gearing versus personal gearing in residential and commercial property

SMSF gearing versus personal gearing in residential and commercial property
SMSF gearing versus personal gearing in residential and commercial property

Should I gear into property in my own name or through my self-managed super fund? Which is likely to produce the best after-tax returns in my circumstances? 

These are burning questions as the popularity of borrowing to invest in property through self-managed super funds (SMSFs) steadily increases despite the uncertain outlook for residential and commercial property. 

The latest Self-managed super fund statistical report, from the Australian Taxation Office, estimates that SMSFs hold $60.4 billion in geared and ungeared direct property – up from a relatively modest $41.5 billion three years earlier. 

And Craig Morgan, a director of mortgage broker SMSF Loans, reports a spike in inquiries about gearing property following the release in September of a detailed draft SMSF ruling about repairing and improving geared real estate. 

Mark Gleeson, technical services manager for advice and distribution with the financial services group OnePath, suspects that some investors automatically assume that gearing through concessionally taxed superannuation will inevitably produce the highest after-tax returns. 

However, Gleeson emphasises that much will depend on the circumstances. In some cases, super will produce the best returns yet the opposite is true in other cases. 

In a simplified case study prepared for Property Observer, Gleeson looks at the example of an investor with a 38.5% personal marginal tax rate who bought a residential property three years ago for $655,000. He took a $500,000 loan with a 7.5% interest rate. 

It is assumed that the property produced an annual rent of $30,000 and increased in value by $95,000 during the three-year ownership. Apart from the initial instalment or deposit, no other capital repayments were made. 

The length of ownership has been set at an unusually low three years to simply illustrate some of the key points to think about with a gearing strategy – without complicating the issue by considering changes to the time value of money. 

By holding the investment outside super rather than through his SMSF, this investor produces by far the best negative-gearing tax benefits – $5,005 a year ($15,015 over three years) against $1,950 a year ($5,850 over three years). 

But once both capital gains tax (CGT) and negative gearing are taken into account, the picture really changes. By holding the property in super and selling when the asset is backing the payment of a superannuation pension will produce by far the best overall results in these circumstances – a $5,850 total tax benefit over three years. (Superannuation assets supporting pension payments are not subject to CGT.) 

By contrast, the property would have produced negative returns (once CGT is counted) if the property were geared in super and sold during the accumulation phase or held in the investor’s name. 

“[In this case study] there is no significant difference in total tax benefits between holding the property outside super and inside super if selling in the accumulation phase,” says Gleeson. But he emphasises that the projected tax results will depend much on the assumptions used. 



Inside super

Outside super

Rental income

$30,000 pa

$30,000 pa

Less interest

$37,500 pa

$37,500 pa

Less rates and


$5500 pa

$5500 pa

Net loss

$13,000 pa

$13,000 pa

Annual tax benefit

$1950 pa

(15% x ($13,000)

$5005 pa

(38.5% x $13,000)



Inside super

Outside super

CGT cost base



Sales proceeds



Assessable capital gains


(2/3 x $95,000*)


(1/2 x $95,000*)


  • $9,500 (15% x $63,333)

in accumulation phase

  • Nil in pension phase


$18,288 (38.5% x $47,5000)

* CGT discount because property not sold within 12 months of purchase.




Inside super

(Sold in accumulation phase)

Inside super

(Sold in pension phase)

Outside super

Negatively geared tax benefit (three

(three years)




Less CGT




Total tax benefit

Minus $3,650


Minus $3,273

Source: OnePath

Before gearing a property, it is advisable to ask your accountant and/or financial planner to do some projections to determine whether you may be best to gear in your own name or through your SMSF. Tomorrow we will look at five things to consider before you decide.


Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?