Commentary on tax depreciation, property investment and construction economics. Investment property tax depreciation allows you to claim a tax deduction for the wear and tear of the structural elements.
This question will be sliced and diced a million different ways over the next week or two, but I wanted to give you my thoughts on it.
In the short term, it’s going to provide a lot more certainty, and it will be back to business as usual eventually. A lot of investors and even prospective homeowners were sitting on their hands patiently waiting to see the results of the election. A Labor Government would have likely resulted in a boost in investor activity prior to the 1st of January 2020 when their capital gains tax and negative gearing policies were to be implemented. My view is that they were never likely to get the legislation through the Senate, but investors would have been looking to lock in a grandfathered property regardless. However, all this was prefaced on the idea that they could get finance. For investors especially, this was likely to dampen what should have been a very busy period for investors, followed by a short period of tumbleweeds invading open homes.
With the Liberal Government holding onto power, there’s much more certainty in the property market. Not just because the sweeping tax changes won’t come to pass, but also because those changes would have had somewhat unpredictable impacts on prices. In my view, property prices would have softened under Labor while rents rose as supply dried up, but nobody could have really predicted the impact of a brand-new property losing its’ advantageous tax status when sold to the next owner. A brand-new property would have been eligible for the CGT discount, negative gearing and full depreciation benefits rather than just the division 43 structural component. A valuer would have to take into consideration the fact that a new owner would incur much higher costs to hold that asset without the tax concessions, effectively lowering the value of the property.
If the election showed anything, it was that investors and small business owners don’t like being labeled as the ‘top end of town’, which makes perfect sense when you take a good look at the stats on the average investor. The idea that first homeowners were being shut down by swathes of investors purchasing their 5th, 6th or 30th property was shut down with ruthless efficiency. The tax policies relied on some dodgy data, which cost the Labor party some ground in the first week of the campaign. It begs the question whether the potential impacts of the proposals were fully understood by the party. Post-election night, Labor party leadership challengers were quick to distance themselves from the sweeping proposed tax changes, and party insiders’ question whether Chris Bowen is too damaged by his close association with the tax and franking credit policies to lead the party to the next election. Anthony Albanese stated that Labor would revert to a “blank slate” on its policies which may see Labor going to the polls next time around without their CGT and negative gearing policies which would be good news for the property market. APRA have shown that they’re more than capable of curbing investor activity and tax changes aren’t needed to slow investor activity.
The election also showed that Australia demands more action on climate change. One wonders whether the Labor party would have been in front with this message alone should they have been less aggressive on the tax reform front. Tony Abbott’s exit is an interesting development and hopefully provides more scope for the Prime Minister to implement policy on climate action, as the country, including a few newly elected independents, are going to be demanding it.
Property economists are now likely to be more certain in their calling of the bottom of the property market, and the single biggest property price appreciation headwind in my view is now the availability of finance. The 7.25 percent stress test and serviceability requirements will need to soften for any real booms to materialise within the next few years.
If you are renovating your investment property, make sure you get the most out of your hard toil. There are some simple choices according to MCG Quantity Surveyors, that can boost your bank balance without any extra work.
Mike Mortlock, managing director of MCG Quantity Surveyors, said many renovators don’t realise their choices of fixtures, fittings and materials will ultimately affect the size of their annual tax return. “Most renovators try and save money by tackling DIY work, but there are smarter ways to increase your result without additional hard labour,” he said.
Tip 1: Kitchens not bathrooms
Choosing to spend more in the cooking area will improve your tax outcome, according to Mr Mortlock.
“Kitchen renovations attract higher depreciation rates than bathrooms because of the sheer quantity of assets defined as plant and equipment items – the very things that depreciate fastest under the ATO (Australian Taxation Office) guidelines.”
Mr Mortlock said all kitchen appliances are plant and equipment, whereas within the bathroom space, there’s limited similar items, like bathroom accessories and exhaust fans.
Tip 2: Carpet not tile
Mr Mortlock said some floor finishes have greater tax advantages than others. “My tip for getting dollars back is to pick floating timber or carpet, rather than tile or polished concrete.”
He said in the eyes of the ATO, carpet has a 10-year effective life and floating timber has a 15-year horizon, while tile and concrete are both classified as lasting 40 years.
Tip 3: Small fixtures
Mr Mortlock said individual plant items with an opening value under $301 provide an instant deduction on your tax return.
“If, for example, you’re considering cost-effective approaches to cooling rooms, ceiling fans could be the way to go. If you have one installed for $300 or less, you’ll get a $300 deduction right away.”
Tip 4: Outdoor areas
Upgrading outdoor spaces provides the perfect opportunity to increase your tax return, said Mr Mortlock.
“You might consider making your rental more inviting by including a few little outdoor extras that provide great advantages for maximising rebates. External fridges and barbecues, for example, help improve rental appeal while also providing excellent short-term tax deductions.
Tip 5: Windows
Mr Mortlock said one of the most cost-effective ways to boost a property’s value and take advantage of depreciation is to include window coverings.
“They help with temperature control and filtering light, while also completing the property’s fresh, new look – and they’re a terrific tax deduction too.”
Since we started preparing depreciation reports for property investors back in 2011, I wanted to collect data that I thought would illuminate the property industry as to the types of acquisitions the average property investors was making. Through the course of doing what we do, we also have to ask some fairly unusual questions that are pretty specific to our reports, but these questions can shed some light into investor behaviour as well. Most notably, our findings on investors living in their property prior to renting it out (https://www.realestate.com.au/news/1-in-5-firsttime-landlords-are-accidental-investors/)
Let’s look at some of the top-level data we’ve collected. Through our analysis of 1,000 residential depreciation schedules, we found that property investors are split across each type of residential property in the following way;
* 43.1% of investors either buy or build a house
* 8.5% on investors purchase a townhouse or duplex
* 47.3% of investors purchase a unit
* 38.2% of all investors buy something brand new
So, if you add townhouses and duplexes into the ‘house bucket,’ you’ll see that it’s a fairly even split. Now that we’ve identified the split, we’ll be tracking the numbers with interest.
If we dive into units individually, we’ve found that;
* The average number of units within the development investors are purchasing in is 68
* The average purchase price for investment units across the 473 units studied was $539,570
* 43% of units are bought brand new compared to only 26.2% of housing being bought new. This figure for houses drops to 7.3% if we exclude investors who engage a builder directly.
Clearly, we’re seeing the prevalence of off-the-plan purchases here and it will be interesting to see how these purchase prices hold up over time.
Now let’s look at some average deductions. In our research, we found the average depreciation deduction within the first full year of claim was $9,415. According to the ATO tax calculator, this gives you the following back in your pocket;
• On a $200,000 salary, you’ll receive $4,237 back in your pocket
• On $100,000 you’ll receive $3,484 and;
• For a $50,000 salary, you’ll end up with $3,060 back.
Whilst the above clearly shows that the higher the salary, the better you’ll do with the deductions, but in my view, it also shows the difference being relatively marginal once you earn over $80,000 a year.
What about the budget changes to depreciation? Well, our research finished right when the budget changes were announced in May 2017, but this made us best placed to model the impacts immediately. Our models were confirmed when we analysed the first 100 schedules we completed after the changes, and we found that;
• Our average depreciation deduction figure in the first year was $11,628
• The division 40 plant and equipment component equated to $6,870
• The division 40 structural component was $4,758
The prevalence of ‘budget affected’ clients is on the increase as anyone purchasing established property after the 9th of May 2017 is affected and will lose their plant deductions. However, we still see a significant number of schedules not affected simply due to clients not arranging a schedule upon acquisition. Eventually, these clients will fall away and what we’re left with is as a result, is that in the first full year of claim under the budget changes to depreciation, investors will lose 59% of their deductions for that year.
Now that’s the year were the loss is likely to be the starkest but remember that a house you build for $250,000 is likely only going to have $30,000 worth of plant and equipment items in it, so if you’re buying it second hand, at most we’re talking about a 12% loss of deductions over 40 years. However, the way that plant depreciates, it’s a big whack to the cash-flow for an investor upfront. It certainly decreases the incentives to purchase an established home or unit and coupled with proposed capital gains and negative gearing, we might see some real problems keeping rental increases below lackluster wages growth.
We look forward to sharing more data and contributing to an informed debate around property investors and the role of investors within our economy. Or at very least, pumping out data more effective at getting you into blissful slumber than prescription melatonin.
Apologies for the click bait article title, but I was at a loss as to what to call it. Let me start by saying that split depreciation schedules are fantastic. I’ve written about them before: http://www.mcgqs.com.au/blog/split-depreciation-reports-are-saving-investment-property-co-owners-thousands/) and we’ve done thousands of them. They’re a fantastic way for multiple tenants in common to see their exact deductions, and more importantly, to front-load those deductions.
However, we’re asked on a frequent basis why the deductions won’t add up.
We prepare a master report (set out as if there is just one owning entity) and the split reports side by side (per owner) and provide them all to the clients as a means of comparison. I guess that’s where the problem arises as if you try to add up the year one deductions across the split reports, they won’t normally match the master schedule. This is something that both investors and accountants get confused by. The reason lies in the value the split schedule provides, over and above just looking at your share of the ownership.
Take for example the 100% rule. If you buy a property yourself and decide to add a ceiling fan that costs $280, you’ll be able to write the value off at 100% in the year of acquisition because the asset has an opening value of $300 or less. Now if that ceiling fan had a value of $320 dollars, you’d have to depreciate it over its lifespan. Now if you bought this property with your sibling say, you might have decided on a fifty-fifty split. So that means that your share of a $280 ceiling fan is $140. Again, this figure is under $301 for you so it’s an instant deduction. Where it gets interesting is if the ceiling fan was $320 as above, your share of the ceiling fan is $160. So, if you own this property at 50% you can claim the ceiling fan in one year if you own the property at 100% you cannot.
Given we know that the value must be $300 or less, your 50% share of the actual asset can be $300, which means the actual value of the fan could be $600 in total.
There are some things to be wary of such as the ‘set rule’ but that’s the easiest way to explain it. It works for low value assets as well as those that qualify for the low value pool at under $1,000 in value.
So below, here’s a look at an example split report next to a full report showing why the depreciation totals won’t match.
You can see that the total opening value is exactly half in the split report, but the year one deductions are almost as high in the 50% split as in the joint report, even though it’s only a half share. In this example, it’s due to the extra items that qualify for an instant deduction. You’ll note that the split system suffers from a lesser rate in the split report. This is due to pooled assets depreciating at 18.75% in the year of acquisition, and 37.5% each year thereafter. So, with that asset, it will underperform in year one but vastly outperform every other year. Therefore, preparing a maximised report requires an understanding of the client’s situation and goals, as sometimes a different approach can be taken.
If a client calls up and asks why $611 times two isn’t $823, this is the reason why. You can clearly see the way that a split report can front load those deductions. Sure, it’s the same value over 40 years, but most people aren’t holding the property that long and the cash flow position of a property is most likely to be worst at the beginning as the rent will rise over time.
Split reports might be a little more to get your head around but the benefits over the short term can be substantial.
Back in the day, tax depreciation was not a service that quantity surveyors offered. In fact, it’s an industry that’s not much older than 21 years whereas quantity surveying in general can be traced back to at least 1859 but possibly 1785. Sorry, you’re right, you didn’t ask. Anyway, my point is that most quantity surveyors don’t do tax depreciation. The largest QS companies in Australia and abroad are traditional quantity surveyors that are more specialised in estimating, contract administration and project management than depreciation. Most established firms that specialise in depreciation once started in traditional estimating but moved over to the tax side of things and abandoned that service. There are surely also companies that popped up just doing depreciation. That’s all very well, but I think both are neglecting a key advantage to maintaining a traditional estimating department.
There are probably three factors that merge to assist an estimator. Experience, cost databases/libraries and current project data. Companies that don’t maintain an estimating department are missing the third component. Here’s why that matters.
In our business for example, I’m the tax depreciation guy. I’ve done it for as long as I dare admit and we run a department that specialises only in tax depreciation. On the other side of the business are our traditional estimators. One of the key differences is that on the tax side, we’re almost exclusively working on projects that have been already built, and often built tens of years ago. On the estimating side, they’re almost exclusively working on things that are about to be built or are coming out of the ground right now. The tax side of the business benefits hugely from that.
Why? Simply because the cost data we have access to is minutes, hours and days old, rather than months and years old. Working in cost control for current projects under construction gives us access to progress claims that developers are making to the banks, showing us the details of what each stage of the building is costing them. It goes right down to the individual trades too where we can see how much painting costs per square meter and how much the labour component of carpentry is costing for example. Without this information, we’d be relying on cost databases that come out yearly at best and due to the pace of price movements in Australia, the costs are technically already out of date.
It’s true that the tax side of our business does work on projects where the total construction cost is already known, but based on the data gathered within the system, that only happens 14.3% of the time. Even when it does, the level of detail often never goes past just the total cost.
I guess there’s a lot of ways to spin your point of difference, but I firmly believe that working with a firm that has a traditional estimating department presents real advantages on the tax depreciation side, and in turn, better depreciation.
Once people have been rebirthed into the glorious world of depreciation boosted property investing, their next question is; ‘When should I organise the schedule?’
If I can cement one thing into your brain, let that be this answer:
What I’m getting at here is that people can get seriously caught out by putting it off, and then missing out on some claims. You can normally only back claim two financial years, and you’ll generally incur a fee to amend your prior returns. So, really the sooner the better.
Getting a little more specific, people ask these two questions about timing;
1. Should I wait until after settlement? and
2. Should I wait until after I finish (insert works here).
Starting with question one, settlement will almost certainly be the start date for the report, so we cannot complete it until this date is at least set in concrete. However, it need not have occurred yet. The one caveat is that the property must not change between our inspection and settlement, but this is typically a period where no work is done anyway. Putting that issue aside, the only issue left is access.
A lot of the time we’re able to organise access to inspect a property prior to settlement, so there’s no need to hold off getting it done. In fact, inspecting pre-settlement normally means the property will be vacant, or at least an inspector won’t be upsetting your tenants by showing up a few days into their shiny new lease. Note: we do try not to recruit upsetting characters (sadly, some slip through into senior management), but even the most charming and swift quantity surveyors can sometimes be an unwelcome guest in a tenant’s new home.
You’ll also find that sales agents can be quite obliging if they know it’s ensuring a smooth transition to settlement with a happy buyer, so they can be a great resource for early access. So, there’s no need to hold off calling your QS for a schedule and if we cannot get access until after settlement, it will likely be right afterwards, which means everything is squared away nice and early.
On to questions two, should you wait until certain works are done?
In the old days, certainly the opposite was the case. If there were any items that could have been scrapped, we’d want to see them before any renovation in order to estimate their value. For the subsequent works? Generally, you’ll know what’s being done, the date it’s being done and the cost. So, if you’re adding blinds to the property, if you have a receipt, we won’t need to physically see them in place. We would rely on your documentation to say they went in today at a cost of $3,000 for example.
However, if there are major works being done that will be a mix of building structure additions and plant and equipment additions, chances are you won’t have a breakdown of the costs, and we will need to inspect the works in order to estimate the breakdown of values.
In conclusion, there’s not often an argument for holding off obtaining a depreciation schedule, quite the opposite. However, a quick call to your friendly neighbourhood QS will always point you in the right direction.
Listen. I’m a Quantity Surveyor (QS) who specialises in tax deprecation so, frankly, I’ve heard them all:
Q. How can you tell if a QS is extroverted?
A. In conversation, he looks at your shoes instead of his own.
Q. How does a QS make a bold fashion statement?
A. He wears dark grey socks instead of light grey.
Q. What’s the difference between a QS and a lawyer?
A. The QS knows he’s boring.
And the painfully popular:
Q. What does a QS use for contraception?
A. His personality!
Well, folks, I’m here to explain why this is a raw deal. I refuse to see my profession labeled as the last picked when guests lists are made up. I tut-tut at the notion QS’s make semolina pudding look like a gourmet option. I refute that a QS can talk a street sign into a coma.
The fact is your QS is one cool cat and will be the life of your wealth-building party, so stop cutting them off at the velvet rope and check out the sweet moves they cut on your financial dance floor.
The thing about your QS is while all of the hipster also-rans of investing are trying to make themselves look good – talking a big game but failing to deliver on the financial fun stakes – your QS is all about making the good times sizzle.
When it comes to wealth building, we carry our import with confidence and command respect from the spreadsheet.
Why? Well… we’re the money!
Your QS is key to unlocking thousands of additional dollars each year – and you barely need to do a thing.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Even the name ‘depreciation schedule’ sounds depressing!” but that’s because this wallflower document gets a bad rap. At my soirees, nobody keeps a QS in the corner.
Depreciation schedules allow property investors to claim the depreciating costs associated with their investment against their annual income.
And those schedules are the perfect invite because they’re the last guest to leave and they help with the cleaning up. Generally, a schedule is useful for about 40 years, so that is extra cash in your account for four decades if you don’t sell.
The money shot
We recently completed a comprehensive study of 1000 depreciation reports, which found that the average deduction was about $9414 in the first full year.
Do you know how many Jatz Crackers and French Onion dip you can buy for that sort of coin?
Unfortunately, the ATO is the fun police at this gig. They won’t just hand you a cheque for $10k, but rather reduce your annual taxable income by that amount.
The upshot? You pay less tax which is music to everyone’s ears.
To give an example, let’s look at an investor who earns $100,000 per year.
If they don’t have any deductions, they’d be liable to pay $24,632 in tax every year.
However, in the first year of owning an investment property, they can engage a QS to prepare a star-studded depreciation schedule and reduce their taxable income by $9414, according to our study.
As a result, their tax liability drops by about $3500, which means it’s ‘Celebration time, C’mon!’
Sensational property investment is all about the long-term, so if an investor was able to hold that property for 40 years – the life of the schedule – they’d be able to claim average deductions of $192,158.
That kind of money would cover a week on a Barrier Reef superyacht with catered dining for you and 10 of your closest friends.
Why you should ask the QS to arrive early
The first couple of years of owning an investment property are generally the most expensive for a landlord.
It’s during this initial period when the rent is not usually enough to cover the mortgage repayments and other costs such as owner corporation fees and council rates. The result is negative cash flow – or more money going out than coming in.
What a buzzkill!
However, that situation can be remedied by having a depreciation schedule prepared for your property. It helps carry you through those lean years by putting dollars back in your wallet each EOFY.
In time, your rent will grow. Once it’s covering your costs nicely, any tax return might be used for something sexier than plugging up a temporary cash flow hole.
Crank up the volume because I feel big fun ahead.
The serious bit
This has all been a bit of a laugh but it is important to understand that everyone’s situation is different because of varying incomes, types and ages of investment properties, as well as the reality of tax rates changing over time.
That said, our study shows what the average deduction looks like and is a solid barometer of how quantity surveyors can make you money while you party likes it’s 1999.
My recommendation is to talk to us – we can show you why knowing the numbers and applying the schedule can create the most thrilling of results.
Owning an investment property will invariably result in having to spend some money on it. The good news is that the tax man (perhaps we need a gender-neutral term but technically the tax commissioner is a man) will let you claim that expenditure as a deduction. However, not all deductions are equal.
Spending money on your investment property is likely to be classified as either a depreciable improvement or repairs and maintenance. Repairs and maintenance are by far the best outcome, as you’ll be able to claim 100% of the cost as an immediate deduction within the financial year the cost is incurred. So, why don’t we just say everything is repairs and maintenance? Well, there are very clear rules the ATO have provided, and breaching those will likely have you on the receiving end of Thor’s hammer (some say the ATO keep this in a filing cabinet, maybe check with four corners.)
replacing part of the guttering or windows damaged in a storm
replacing part of a fence damaged by a falling tree branch
repairing electrical appliances or machinery.
Maintenance refers to:
Work to prevent deterioration or fix existing deterioration, such as;
painting a rental property
oiling, brushing or cleaning something that is otherwise in good working condition
An improvement is work that:
provides something new
generally furthers the income-producing ability or expected life of the property
generally changes the character of the item you have improved
goes beyond just restoring the efficient functioning of the property.
So as per the above, repairs and maintenance are generally only things that maintain or repair an existing asset. The moment you replace something with something else, it becomes an improvement, even if the old asset was ruined or needed to be replaced. An improvement is most likely to be classified as division 43, which is the same as the structure of the building. This means you’re able to claim 2.5% of the value each year for 40 years. So, you get $2.50 back in deductions for every $100 of expenditure. Of course, it’s much better to be a repair as an instant deduction, rather than having to wait for 40 years to claim the whole value. Sadly though, the definitions are clear from the ATO but it’s always worth having the conversation with your accountant.
Remember though that even repairs and maintenance can’t be an instant deduction if “they did not relate directly to wear and tear or other damage occurring due to renting out your property.” The good news is though they can still be claimed as an improvement once the property becomes income producing.
Every year people complain about Easter eggs being in the shops already in February, it’s one of those perennial water cooler topics like the magpie swooping season. Tax time is no different and for my part, I wish I wasn’t droning on about the end of the financial year approaching every year, but my insatiable thirst for saving people money takes precedence.
The depreciation party isn’t over, but the game has changed. It wasn’t my idea to call it a party either, can you imagine it? Elbow pads, corduroy trousers and juice boxes as far as the eye can see. Anyway, I digress.
The changes have tightened the reins on depreciation, but our statistics are still showing there’s value in all but the rarer cases. I’m often asked how to categorically tell if it’s worthwhile having a depreciation schedule. The standard question is something along the lines of “Can we say for example, that if the property was built in the 60s it won’t be worthwhile?” The answer is no, you can’t. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Let’s start with a way you can all but guarantee that you need a depreciation schedule.
1. The property commenced construction after the 16th of September 1987
If the property was built after this date, it means that you’ll be able to claim depreciation deductions on the value of the original building structure. These deductions are referred to as division 43 if you want to get nerdy. It’s a key trigger because worst case scenario, the report is going to be paying for itself.
Let’s run some calculations. We’ve crunched the numbers from our database of landlords and found that the average build cost for a new investment property is $267,000. If we roughly index that back to say 1988 (because the cost to build back in 1988 was cheaper than today) you’re looking at a build cost of $102,000. Now some of that value would be plant and equipment, so we can conservatively knock off around $20,000 leaving us with $82,000 of qualifying division 43 building works. This will give you $2,050 worth of deductions each year until the year 2028, no matter when you bought the building.
2. The property has been extended, had a new kitchen and bathroom after the 16th of September 1987
Like the above, but based on the improvements, you’ll be able to claim 2.5% of the value of the new building works/renovations each year from the date of completion for 40 years, whether the works were done by the previous owner or yourself. Therefore, you cannot simply say that a property built in the 60s won’t be worthwhile. Regardless, people are given this dodgy advice daily. So, the original structure won’t qualify if built before the 1987 date, but the renovations will if after 1987 (structural things like paths & fences would need to be after 26th of February 1992). The trick now is knowing the rough value of the work being done. For every $100,000 worth of building renovations, you’re able to claim $2,500 of deductions each year. A quantity surveyor would need to estimate the value of these works if they were done by the previous owner, but anything over around $40,000 is likely to produce some worthwhile claims and most people can spot a spend of $40,000 on a kitchen and bathroom when they see it. If you’re not sure, ask a quantity surveyor.
3. You bought the property brand new
Sounds simple, stupid even right? However, we’re still doing depreciation schedules for people that bought new properties and waited too many years to have one done and will subsequently not be able to back claim far enough to capture everything. The trick now with the depreciation changes is that if you bought after the 9 th of May 2017, you’ll kill the plant and equipment deductions if you ever decide to move in (plant items are things like carpets, appliances, heaters and the like). Also, if you bought prior to the 2017 budget, the property needed to be a rental in the 2016/2017 financial year. This is exactly why my blood boils when people say that you’re simply grandfathered if you bought prior to the 9 th of May 2017. Not if you moved straight in and kept living in it that year you’re not!
I’ll wrap it up here owing to my indulgent introduction, but these are probably the simplest three triggers that point you in the direction of a depreciation schedule because it will save you money. There are plenty of odd cases and nuances, so an enquiry is always worth the cost of a bit of your time, but if you fall under any of these three categories, tax time might be a little more rewarding for you this year.
Today, March 8th is international women’s day. I’d like to take a moment from talking about property, construction, depreciation and my normal blog topics to recognise some inspirational women. Here at MCG Quantity Surveyors, our office is thankfully around 50% women and the contribution they make is a marked one. They are critical to our business in a myriad of roles, and some of those roles are heavily male-dominated ones. Outside of what they ‘do,’ they’re witty, passionate, fun and our office wouldn’t be the same without them.
Personally, my life is richer for having my wife, mother, sister, mother-in-law, sisters-in-laws, friends and aunts in it. They’re the first to cheer in the good times and the first to console in the tough ones.
I’d like to honour them today by sharing six women whose stories inspire me. Three born in the 1800s or earlier, and three a tad more contemporary. They may not be feminists per se or have dedicated their lives to women’s rights, but for me, they exemplify the trailblazing spirit. In my view, they have made monumental inroads towards equality through leading inspirational lives.
Joan of Arc
She was a seventeen-year-old girl in a time where seventeen-year-old girls didn’t change worlds, but somehow, she did. Joan of Arc was born to simple farmers in the tiny village of Domremy. She managed to defeat a well-trained British Army and make herself a member of the royal court in just one year. She was a superb strategist and no doubt a born leader and sustained many injuries on the battlefield.
She was captured in May of 1430 and was burned at the stake for heresy in a show trial that only enhanced her reputation as a martyr and heroine. Her was later overturned by an ecclesiastical court in 1456 and in 1920 she was even canonized and made one of the five patron saints of France.
Born Maria Skladowska in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867, Marie Curie was a penniless student who worked as a governess and tutor while pursuing her dream of becoming a physicist, which was simply not an occupation that women held in the nineteenth century. After moving to Paris, she met a physics and chemistry instructor by the name of Pierre Curie, in whom she found a kindred spirit. The two married in 1895, becoming the first husband and wife science team in history, and set about on a short but spectacular career that would make them Nobel Prize-winning physicists and their names synonymous with the science of modern chemistry. What makes Madame Currie so remarkable—besides being the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in science, was that she continued to carry on with her husband’s work after his death in 1905 (likely as a result of their experiments with radiation), going on to become the first female head of Laboratory at the Sorbonne University in Paris and winning a second Nobel Prize, this one in Chemistry, in 1911 (which made her the first person to win two Nobel prizes—an accomplishment not to be repeated 1962. No doubt her accomplishments served as a source of inspiration for the thousands of women scientists and researchers who were to follow later.
Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, and was an American aviation pioneer and author. She was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and she received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this accomplishment. She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. In 1935, Earhart became a visiting faculty member at Purdue University as an advisor to aeronautical engineering and a career counsellor to women students. She was also a member of the National Woman’s Party and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.
It doesn’t sound too taxing refusing to give up a seat on a bus, but when Rosa Parks did it in 1955 it was nothing short of unheard of. As an African American, Parks was legally obliged to give up her seat at the request of a white person – something she simply wasn’t willing to do. The courage she showed in that instance sparked the civil rights movement in America, and her simple act of defiance changed the lives of millions of people. “I’m tired of being treated like a second-class citizen” was the quote that Rosa Parks best used to describe the reasoning behind her act of defiance. The sheer bravery of this woman led to one act of defiance that changed the world for the better.
J. K. Rowling
Joanne Rowling was born on 31 July 1965, writing under the pen names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith, is a British novelist, screenwriter, and producer who is best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series. The books have won multiple awards and sold more than 400 million copies. They have become the best-selling book series in history.
Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband and relative poverty until the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997.
Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to being the world’s first billionaire author. However, she lost her billionaire status from giving away much of her earnings to charity. Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans. In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Born on July 12, 1997, Yousafzai became an advocate for girls’ education when she herself was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was travelling home from school. She survived and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. In 2013, she gave a speech to the United Nations and published her first book, I Am Malala. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.