Timing of insurance receipts for expenditure or loss

2012 legislation following the Canterbury Earthquake relating to the timing of insurance receipts for expenditure or loss.

Section CG 4 of the Income Tax Act 2007

Previous legislation was developed on the assumption that expenditure incurred on, for example, repairing a damaged asset, would be incurred (and the expense taken as a deduction) before insurance proceeds were received. It was therefore not clear how the legislation would operate if an insurance payout was made before expenditure had been incurred on repairing a damaged asset.

Key feature

An insurance receipt which recovers deductible expenditure will be taxable irrespective of whether the insurance is received before or after the expenditure has been incurred.

Detailed analysis

Previous legislation was based on the assumption that expenditure incurred on, for example, repairing a damaged asset, would be incurred (and the expense taken as a deduction) before insurance proceeds were received. This was consistent with the normal insurance model, where the insurer either undertakes the repairs or reimburses the policyholder after they have undertaken repairs on the affected property. However, in the context of the Canterbury earthquakes, it has been common for insurers to make insurance payouts before the policyholder undertakes the relevant repairs.

The problem with the previous wording of section CG 4 was that it was not clear if it operated when insurance payouts were made before expenditure is incurred on repairing a damaged asset. If the section did not operate in these situations, it could mean there would be a reduction in the damaged asset's adjusted tax value instead, under section EE 52 of the tax depreciation rules. Furthermore, if an amount of insurance was received that was greater than the adjusted tax value, section EE 52 would treat the excess as taxable income upfront, without taking into account repairs undertaken at a later time. In other words, the compensation payment would be treated as depreciation recovered rather than a recovery of the future expenditure on repairs.

Accordingly, the wording of section CG 4 has been amended to resolve this problem. Section CG now provides that an insurance receipt which relates to deductible expenditure is taxable irrespective of whether the insurance is received before or after the repair expenditure is incurred.

In cases when insurance proceeds are received before repair costs are incurred, and those costs are incurred in more than one income year, any income from insurance proceeds must be recognised in each income year that the repair costs are incurred.

Application date

This generic amendment applies for the 2011-12 and later income years. However, for a person who is granted an extension of time for filing an income tax return for the 2010-11 income year under the Canterbury Earthquake (Inland Revenue Acts) Order 2011, the amendment applies for the 2010-11 and later income years.