Property Landlords – An Unfair Hit on an Easy Target

On 6th April 2016 new rules come into play that will deny higher rate tax relief for any interest and other finance costs against rental income. It has long been established that interest is a cost that all businesses can offset against their income. This however will not be the case for landlords in the future.

To replace the deductibility of interest and related costs, landlords will be able to claim a tax deduction based upon the finance costs multiplied by the basic rate of 20%. This will have the effect in some cases of artificially making basic rate tax payers become higher rate tax payers, which could in turn lead to a loss or claw-back of benefits such as child tax credits and personal allowances, and cause landlords to pay tax on profits that they have not made.

Consider this example. Dave is already a higher rate tax payer through his employment. He also has rental income of £30,000 but pays mortgage interest of £35,000. Thus Dave has a monetary shortfall of £5,000 from his rental business that he must fund out of his other earnings. Surely he should not have to pay tax on his rental earnings, should he? Under the new rules he will. By 2020/21 his rents of £30,000 will incur tax of £12,000 (£30,000 @ 40%) and will get a reduction of only £7000 (£35,000 @ 20%). Despite making a monetary loss of £5,000 he will have to pay tax of £5,000 (£12,000 – £7,000).

Why can the Government get away with this bizarre unfairness? Due to the capping of tax rates during the current term of this Government, the Treasury, which is short of revenue and needing to close the Lending Gap, must be more inventive in it’s ways of raising taxes. Landlords are relatively easy targets. Despite Dave making a loss, he is perceived as a fat cat landlord, taking advantage of the poor working majority. Taxing landlords in this way, not only raises revenue for the Government, but also wins popular support and votes. A win-win for the government.

To make matters worse for landlords, they will also face increasing Stamp Duty on the purchase of buy-to-let properties, and when they come to sell properties they will be required to pay the tax they owe much earlier than all other tax payers. Currently the existing rules deny tax relief for genuine business expenses such as renewals of things such as carpets and white goods. Whilst this anomaly will be partially addressed after 6th April 2016 with the introduction of new rules, these rules are still purposely limited and will leave certain genuine business costs for landlords un-relievable.

At DEB we believe that this attack on landlords is likely to be the thin edge of a wedge with landlords likely to face increasing costs and threats to their businesses in the future. To keep landlords informed about these changes, as part of the DEB Business Wise Forum initiative, we are holding a free seminar on the afternoon of 28th April 2016 at DEB House which is open to both clients and non-clients to attend. Places are limited so please book your place early by contacting Ben Morley on 01226 245824.

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