I have not confirmed the source yet but there is a talking in tax community that the tax authority is considering to limit deductible depreciation expenses on overseas properties.
As you may know that second handed houses can be expensed over relatively shorter period. The depreciation expense are allowed to use the 20% of the original life year if it is older than the original life year.
For example, the life year defined for a wooden house by the tax law is 22 years. If you buy a wooden house which is older than 22 years, you are allowed to expense the cost of the house (except the land price portion) over 4 years through depreciation calculation (22 years * 20%).
If you buy a house of 60 million yen and if the house portion and the land portion can be split into 50:50, you can claim depreciation expense of 7.5 million yen (60 million * 0.5 / 4 years) per year over the next 4 years.
Because your rent income usually is much lower than this amount (let’s presume it will be 2.4 million yen a year), and you also have other expenses (let’s say 1 million yen), your loss will be 6.1 million yen (2.4M – 1M – 7.5M) that can be offset against other income (e.g. salary).
As you can see, it has huge impact to reduce your tax. On top of this, when you sell it, the tax rate on capital gain is only 20%. So, if you are in the higher tax bracket, say 50%), you save the income tax of 50% by the amount of loss, and when you sell it, you only have to pay 20%. It surely sounds like a very good deal, no?
The tax authority knows this and is said to be considering to stop this type of practice because this does not sound fair.
If it comes soon, the new restriction will come in by January 1, 2018. If you are thinking of buying a property because of the tax benefit, you may want to consider more on financial elements such as your future return on investment.