As far as buy-to-let landlords are concerned, April 2017 is not so much a red-letter date as a red ink one. That’s the date when a series of tax changes start to come into force which are going to decrease their profits and increase their tax liability.
Until now, landlords have been able to subtract mortgage interest from rental income, before calculating how much tax they owe. Not after April. Changes will be phased in from April onwards which by 2020, will result in landlords paying tax on the entire rental income their property earns. If the fat-cat landlord ever really existed, they are certainly a thing of the past.
Needless to say, given the world-beating complexity of the UK tax regime, the changes aren’t that simple. The landlord will be due a tax credit of 20% of the total interest they pay, but the entire rent will be taxable. Higher rate tax payers will be much harder hit because the rent will be taxable at the higher rate. And of course, a landlord who is paying 45% tax, will be worse off still.
The people at MoneySupermarket.com have been busy crunching the numbers and they reckon that if you are a higher-rate taxpayer and the mortgage interest is 75% or more of your income from the property, the tax changes will eliminate your return on the investment. For someone paying the additional rate of tax, this will happen when the interest is at 68% of the rent.
If you are a small landlord with just one property, you may be breathing a sigh of relief, if you are on the basic rate of tax. But wait a moment. Since your taxable income will go up as a result of the changes, you may well become a higher rate tax payer.
Is there any way to protect yourself from the changes?
Companies which own property and let it out are not affected by the rental tax changes. They can carry on paying corporation tax on the profits and paying dividends and salaries to the company directors. But before landlords rush to become limited companies, they need to be aware of the many tax complications and possible pitfalls in taking this step. They certainly need to take professional advice.
The company needs to be set up properly to buy the property, and this has to be achieved with the correct paperwork. So don’t necessarily assume the cheapest set-up that you find is the best choice. It is better to get an accountant to do this for you.
And although companies aren’t affected by the tax changes on rents and interest, they are affected by the stamp duty changes which mean that there’s 3% extra stamp duty payable by any person or company buying a second property when they already own one.
As for transferring properties you already own into a company, there are a host of tax complications.
Buy to let investments still competitive
The fact is that many people, not just those on very low incomes or on benefits, need to rent property and in Manchester lettings agents are as busy as ever. Tenants need landlords to provide a stable and active property rental market.
Professional landlords, holding large portfolios of property can probably look after themselves but the small landlord with one or two properties is going to be more adversely affected. One of the effects may be that the average age of landlords rises, as people in work are not going to want to be pushed into higher tax bands by the income from a rental property. They may wait until they retire to move into buy-to-let.
For retired people looking for additional income, even though the tax benefits of buy-to-let have been greatly reduced, given the woeful returns on savings, the income from owning rental properties looks very attractive and there is always the possibility of increases in property values.
Furthermore, mortgages for buy-to-let are becoming increasingly available for older people. For many retired people with lower outgoings and perhaps no mortgage left on their own home, the affordability criteria for these mortgages are not stumbling blocks to anything like the same degree as they are for younger borrowers.
The Chancellor has done his worst, but buy-to-let is still with us and while interest rates on savings are below 1%, landlords are unlikely to give up on their investments.