Should you invest in real estate through a company?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindooley

Most people are familiar with individual ownership of real estate property because they already own a home. When they decide to get involved in investment real estate, individual ownership is the first approach that comes to mind. There are, however, various other methods of taking title to a real estate investment. One of the most popular ways is through a private limited property holding company.

Advantages of investing through company
There are several advantages to buy properties under a property holding company. One of the biggest advantages most people may think of is the tax benefits. In fact, tax advantage of a company is only significant if your personal income tax bracket is already exceeding 20%. This is because corporate tax is at a flat rate of 20% for annual profit below RM500k.

Other tax benefits of a company include more deductibles than personal’s such as staff payroll, depreciation (or capital allowance) on plant and machinery and industrial buildings, and other operating expenses.

A company also allows foreign investors to act as directors of the company to invest in properties priced below RM500k through the company. Foreign investors who want to buy properties in Malaysia with individual ownership can only purchase properties priced above RM500k and they have to pay a levy of RM10k to the authority for each property.

But wait…
However, rental income of a company can only be treated as business income in Malaysia if the company owns 4 or more residential/ commercial rental properties. Otherwise the rental income is not subject to the above deductibles unless the company provides ancillary or support services/facilities (public ruling of income from letting of real property).

Also, not forgetting when we run a company, we have to pay extra costs to maintain the company like secretarial fee, auditing fee. A minimum cost of RM2000-RM3000 per year is required if yearly transactions of the company are not many. Extra effort such as bookkeeping, preparation of resolutions for every acquisition of property and for authorisation to bid each auctioned property is also required.

You may also face difficulty to take up mortgages from banks when your company is still young (less than 2 years). And normally banks will offer higher interest rate (0.5%-1% higher than personal’s mortgage) and shorter tenure (< 20 years) for corporate’s mortgages.

All these have to be taken into consideration before you decide if you want to acquire properties through a company. Unless you plan to grow your company into a larger scale of property holding, investing through individual ownership is still considered more viable in the beginning until you have reached high personal income tax bracket or the maximum limit of personal credit allowed by banks.

In fact, we would think the biggest advantage of buying properties through a company is the limited liability provided to protect your assets, especially if your investments or assets are shared among more than one individual.

You have to think and calculate carefully based on your investment plan in order to evaluate if it is worth it for you to setup a company. Before venturing into any form of ownership, you should seek professional advice on tax and legal complication to determine which method may be best for you.


About The Author


Coming from a humble little town named Tangkak in north Johor state of Malaysia, I am so lucky to have chances to learn and work both in Johor Bahru and Singapore - a conurbation with 6.49 million still fast growing population - since year 1996. Hope now I can have a chance to contribute back to the community by sharing what I see, what I know and what I learn in this wonderful place.

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