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How landlords are tackling the biting tax changes

Landlord clients are tackling the tax and regulatory changes hitting their pockets by taking advantage of low mortgage rates, using limited company structures, opting for higher yielding properties and branching further afield, brokers have said.

The buy-to-let market grew rapidly after the financial crisis but has since taken a beating as a number of tax and regulatory changes have made the private rental sector a less lucrative option.

In fact more than a third of landlords are planning to sell at least part of their portfolio in 2020 as the changes continue to bite in a system “weighted against them”.

Accumulate Capital polled 750 investors in December and found 37 per cent of landlords were planning to sell one or more of their properties, with 61 per cent of them blaming increasing regulations and taxes.

How the rules changed:

An additional 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge, introduced in April 2016, was closely followed by the abolition of mortgage interest tax relief for landlords.

Landlords then took a further hit when a shake up of rules by the Prudential Regulation Authority meant buy-to-let borrowers were now subject to more stringent affordability testing.

The changes to mortgage relief have been phased into the system since April 2017, but by April 2020 landlords will be unable to deduct any of their mortgage expenses from taxable rental income.

Instead, they will receive a tax-credit based on 20 per cent (the current basic tax rate) of their mortgage interest payments.

Following the changes, landlords who were higher or additional-rate taxpayers would now only get refunds at the 20 per cent rate, rather than top rate of paid tax.

On top of this, landlords could also be forced into a higher tax bracket because they would need to declare the income that was used to pay the mortgage on their tax return.

The changes led many to predict the buy-to-let market would shrink in size leaving only ‘professional landlords’ able to make viable returns.

Of those keen to sell, 72 per cent thought the current tax and regulation measures were unfairly weight against them while 69 per cent said the costs of managing their portfolio had risen “considerably” over the past five years.

But brokers have said many of their landlord clients were sticking with the private rental sector and diversifying their portfolio or shaking up their own system to deal with changes.

David Hollingworth, associate director of communications at L&C Mortgages, said: “[The changes] will no doubt lead some to hold their position rather than add more properties, particularly the more amateur landlord whilst they review their approach.

“However, many are taking action in controlling their costs by taking advantage of low mortgage rates and the use of limited company lending to grow investments.”

Due to the tax shake up, limited company status is more attractive to landlords as changes would not affect them and they can offset mortgage interest against profits which are subject to corporation tax instead of income tax rates, which is cheaper.

Average mortgage rates have also been slashed over the past few years as lenders battle in a “race to the bottom” which has seen two-year fixed rates for buy-to-let properties fall below 1.3 per cent.

Mr Hollingworth added: “While some will be considering whether it might be the right time to sell certain properties in light of the tougher conditions, there’s little to suggest that landlords are offloading property in significant numbers.”

Rachel Lummis, mortgage and protection adviser at Xpress Mortgages, said although buy-to-let enquiries from new and smaller landlords had plummeted, the larger portfolios were still transacting.

She said: “Larger portfolio landlords are still transacting, just differently from a few years ago.

“Clients are remortgaging existing properties to not only secure decent long-term fixed rates but to also raise capital for further investment.”

Ms Lummis said the properties being added to portfolios had moved from standard flats and houses to more high-yielding houses of multiple occupancy or multi-unit blocks, as well as in locations around the country not previously considered.

Meanwhile Ruth Whitehead, director at Ruth Whitehead Associates, warned against the “relative flatlining” of property values over the next few years and urged anyone considering selling property to “think very carefully”.

She added: “In short, it’s something that needs more careful consideration than ever before and clients should only stay in this market for the long haul.”

By Imogen Tew

Source: FT Adviser

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Tax changes forcing landlords into more efficient structures for their business

The increase in portfolio and complex buy-to-let business seen over the past two years is set to continue in 2020, according to Paragon’s Director of Sales, Moray Hulme.

Recent tax changes have forced landlords to look for more efficient ways to structure their business, driving an increase in demand for mortgage products for incorporated and limited liability partnerships.

Research from BVA BDRC for Q3 2019 reveals landlords expecting to purchase property in a limited company structure has almost doubled in under two years. This, alongside the Prudential Regulation Authority’s (PRA) more detailed underwriting approach for portfolio landlords, has resulted in specialist lenders like Paragon tailoring products to match more complex requirements.

Paragon also predicts intermediaries will refocus on purchase business in the buy-to-let market, following a significant increase in the popularity of longer-term fixes since 2015 reducing remortgage opportunities.

It’s forecast those who do purchase are more likely to be larger-scale portfolio landlords, with non-portfolio landlords owning fewer than four properties far less likely to expand since the introduction of the Stamp Duty surcharge in April 2016 and subsequent tax changes. Recent research by Paragon found larger scale landlords are three times (11%) more likely to consider buying than smaller scale landlords (4%), within an overall much smaller buy-to-let market.

Despite this constrained buy-to-let market, the Private Rented Sector (PRS) continues to provide a home for one in five households, according to the 2017/18 English Housing Survey, and the demand for PRS property will continue to grow.

Following the ban on letting fees to the proposed abolition of ‘no-fault’ eviction, Paragon believes 2020 will see the introduction of more tenant-friendly regulation, as PRS landlords play an increasingly vital role in meeting the UK’s housing need.

Moray Hulme, Director of Mortgage Sales at Paragon, said:

“In recent years, landlords have had to be more strategic in their approach than ever before and the buy-to-let market has seen a significant increase in portfolio and complex business. Whilst mainstream lenders have limited their involvement to smaller-scale landlords, Paragon and other specialist lenders have been able to adapt and offer the right products to enable landlords to remain efficient – and this is a trend that we expect to continue in the long-term.”

“We also expect to see more tenant-friendly regulation in 2020, as the PRS continues to support a housing crisis caused by multiple factors, including population growth, limited investment in social housing, and tighter mortgage affordability. All of this increased complexity and growing professionalism is good news for Paragon, as we head into the new year as one of the few specialist lenders with the capability to support complex buy-to-let mortgage requirements.”

Source: Property118

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Southern cities dominate as buy-to-let hotspots for landlords are revealed

Northern cities may dominate the tables for house price growth but a different picture is emerging for the rental market.

New analysis claims to have uncovered the best UK cities for a landlord’s buy-to-let investment.

The research by Aldermore assesses and provides a score for the average rent per room per month, short-term yield for a new buy-to-let purchase, average property price rises over the past 10 years, proportion of vacant properties in a city and size of the private rental market across the UK.

Seven of the top 10 cities for landlords were in southern England while only three northern cities – Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle – make the top 25.

Yorkshire has three cities in the bottom six while Nottingham was the only city from the Midlands in the top 10.

Despite having among the lowest short-term yields, Oxford comes out on top with the highest overall score in the index of 74.

Manchester and Edinburgh are just behind with 72, and London has 71.

The research shows London ranks first for total rents, while Liverpool has the best short-term rental yields.

Cambridge got the highest score for price growth while Cardiff and Oxford were the best areas for low vacant stock.

Damian Thompson, director of mortgages at Aldermore, said: “Aldermore’s Buy to Let City Tracker shows there are still great short- and long-term investment opportunities for landlords.

“The number of people renting in the UK has been rapidly growing, up 1.7m in ten years, so private landlords are an increasingly central part of the housing market as supporting a robust and strong private rented sector becomes more essential.

“The UK housing market has never been a singular thing, instead made up of multiple smaller markets with their own unique conditions and challenges.

“There have been numerous regulatory changes recently and persistent economic uncertainty but this affects every region differently. Going forward, landlords will need continual backing and advice from lenders and the wider industry so they can provide choice, diversity of tenure and quality properties for renters.”

RankingCityRegionOverall score
1OxfordSouth East74
2ManchesterNorth West72
3EdinburghScotland72
4LondonLondon71
5NorwichEastern66
6BristolSouth West64
7NottinghamEast Midlands63
8CambridgeEastern63
9BrightonSouth East60
10Milton KeynesSouth East55
11PlymouthSouth West54
12HullYorkshire49
13LeicesterEast Midlands49
14CoventryWest Midlands49
15SouthamptonSouth East48
16BirminghamWest Midlands47
17LiverpoolNorth West44
18CardiffWales39
19GlasgowScotland37
20LeedsYorkshire32
21DerbyEast Midlands31
22SheffieldYorkshire30
23BradfordYorkshire29
24NewcastleNorth East26
25WolverhamptonWest Midlands25

By MARC SHOFFMAN

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Landlords fear election could ‘end’ buy-to-let

Landlords are fearful the buy-to-let sector will be used as a political football in the upcoming election, with politicians competing with pledges that could “end the market”.

A number of mortgage brokers said they have been contacted by their landlord clients with concerns about a Labour majority government and its potential ‘right to buy’ scheme.

The right to buy scheme replicates the scheme introduced by the Thatcher government which allowed social housing tenants to buy their homes at a discounted price.

Under the Labour proposal, the government would set a discounted price for private property, likely based on how long the tenant had lived there.

Dan White, director at Champion Hall & White, said: “I’ve had people call me about the scheme and I do think landlords will opt to exit the market.

“I think this could be catastrophic for the housing market and an outrageous ruling. Enforcing a right to buy would seriously damage the integrity of the property market and encourage the wrong message.”

Mark Bailey, director of property asset manager Landwood, warned a right to buy scheme could result in a negative outcome for renters if landlords chose to sell up and rental supply diminishes.

He said: “If politicians of any leaning are serious about fixing the housing crisis then this ridiculous policy is not the way to go about it.

“The solution is to build more social housing, more starter homes and get more people on the property ladder and reduce the number of renters that way.”

Sarah Drakard, IFA at Cruze Financial Solutions, said landlords thought they would be “even more attacked” under a Labour government than they already are.

She said: “Landlords already feel quite hard done by and hit by government policies over the past few years, but many think a Labour government would potentially bring changes that would make being a landlord no longer viable economically.”

The buy-to-let market grew rapidly after the financial crisis but its growth has since stalled after a number of tax and regulatory changes introduced by the Conservative government hit landlords’ pockets.

How the rules changed:
An additional 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge, introduced in April 2016, was closely followed by the abolition of mortgage interest tax relief for landlords.

Landlords then took a further hit when a shake up of rules by the Prudential Regulation Authority meant buy-to-let borrowers were now subject to more stringent affordability testing.

The changes to mortgage relief have been phased into the system since April 2017, but by April 2020 landlords will be unable to deduct any of their mortgage expenses from taxable rental income.

Instead, they will receive a tax-credit based on 20 per cent (the current basic tax rate) of their mortgage interest payments.

Following the changes, landlords who were higher or additional-rate taxpayers would now only get refunds at the 20 per cent rate, rather than top rate of paid tax.

On top of this, landlords could also be forced into a higher tax bracket because they would need to declare the income that was used to pay the mortgage on their tax return.

Chris Sykes, a mortgage broker at Private Finance, said his landlord clients were concerned the election would mean “something else” would happen which would mean “the end of the buy-to-let market”.

He said: “I think landlords are generally worried and concerned as to whether their investment will end up being a financial asset or a burden.

“It used to be more of a safe investment but now it’s become less attractive and if any further political changes come in, it will become even less so.”

David Hollingworth, director of communications at L&C Mortgages, agreed, adding that anything that put a further squeeze on landlords could ultimately cause prospective investors to rethink their plans or ultimately see existing landlords considering scaling back or exit.

By Imogen Tew

Source: FT Adviser

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Average Buy to Let makes a return of just £2k a year pre-tax

The true cost of a being a landlord: Letting platform Howsy has revealed how the profitability of the buy-to-let sector is being squeezed due to the hidden costs of being a landlord, coupled with the financial penalties handed down from the Government via changes to stamp duty tax.

In recent times, the buy-to-let market has been considered a good investment for those with the financial means to operate within it, leading to a number of Government changes to dent this profitability through initiatives such as an increase in stamp duty tax.

Despite this, landlords are still considered to be ‘raking it in’, but Howsy has found that the average landlord is left with just £2,000 from an annual return of £13,000 once the hidden costs of being a landlord are paid for.

However, with the introduction section 24 mortgage interest relief restrictions and depending on the landlord’s tax status it is easily possible for this to be taxed into a loss!

The research shows that the initial start-up costs of Stamp Duty Tax (£6,663) and agency fees to find a tenant (£811) cost the average landlord £7,475 and that’s before the ongoing costs are considered.

According to a recent survey, the average landlord experiences 23.75 days of void periods a year during a tenancy, that’s an average of £535 a year.

What’s more, 73% of landlords buy with a mortgage and each and every year will see £6,921 paid out in interest as a result. Couple these costs with an additional £1,622 in agency management fees, an average annual maintenance and repair bill of £2,077 and you’re talking £11,147 per year.

In a worst-case scenario, UK landlords may also find themselves forced to stump up for additional unforeseen costs, such as the legal process to evict a tenant. While this doesn’t happen to everyone, there is a one in 500 chance that you will have to pay for bailiffs to evict a tenant from your property.  

What’s left?

Based on an average annual rental income of £8,112 divided by the average B2L property cost of £183,278, the average yield available is 4.4% – that’s an annual sum of £8,119.

Over the last decade, the capital appreciation of bricks and mortar has also averaged an increase of 2.85% a year, £5,223 in monetary terms. That means B2L landlords are seeing a return of £13,343 on their investment.

However, leaving start-up costs and unforeseen events out of the equation, once the average UK landlord has paid the ongoing costs associated with a buy-to-let property each year, they’re left with a profit of just £2,140.

Cost HeadingsCost Amount (£)
One-Offs Costs:£7,474.54
Ongoing Costs:£11,147
Average Annual B2L Return:£13,287
Average Annual B2L Return – Ongoing Costs£2,140

Costs Explained…

Cost HeadingsCost Amount (£)Notes/Sources
One-Offs Costs:
SDLT£1,165.00Initial stamp duty owed – Gov.uk
SDLT second home penalty£5,498.34Additional 3% – Gov.uk
Agency fees (tenant find)£811.20The minimum tenant find fee according to Which?
Total£7,474.54
Ongoing Costs:
Void periods£52723.75 days a year on average according to GoodLord
Mortgage Interest£6,920.7373% of B2L landlords have a mortgage according to Which?
Agency fees (management)£1,622.40The average annual management fee according to Which?
Maintenance & Repairs£2,077.00Average cost according to Pennington
Total£11,147
Positives:
Basis:
Avg annual rent£8,112Monthly average rent of £676 multiplied by 12
Avg B2L mortgage amount£132,075According to UK Finance
Avg house price£183,278Average B2L price according to Money Supermarket
Avg LTV72.06%
Avg equity£51,203
Return:
Annual Yield %4.4%Average annual rent divided by average B2L house price
Annual Yield ££8,064Average B2L house price multiplied by 4.4%
Capital appreciation per annum %2.9%Based on average property price change per annum over the last decade
Capital appreciation per annum ££5,223Source: ONS
Average Annual Return£13,287
Ongoing Costs£11,147
Final Annual Return£2,140

Source: Property118

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Landlords seek u-turns on tax relief

A majority of landlords believe future government u-turns on the increase in stamp duty and cuts to mortgage interest tax relief could provide a “significant stimulus” to the buy-to-let and private rental sectors, latest research by Foundation Home Loans reveals.

Over half (51%) of landlords argued that both measures to be addressed in order to help build greater confidence in the sector.

Jeff Knight, director of marketing at Foundation Home Loans, said: “It doesn’t seem surprising that the two biggest impacts on landlords over the past five years – stamp duty increases and cuts to mortgage interest tax relief – are seen as the biggest factors holding back the market.

“Clearly, such measures were always going to have a real influence and they have undoubtedly resulted in a large number of so-called amateur landlords either selling up, or not being able to go ahead and add to portfolios.

“We now have a sector which is much more in line with professional and portfolio landlords; utilising limited company vehicles to ensure they retain their tax relief, and where appropriate, adding to their portfolios via these structures.

“Because of this, the move towards greater levels of limited company business is likely to continue for many landlords, as I expect a u-turn is very unlikely despite fiscal loosening likely to be a strategy adopted in the very near future to stimulate a weakening economy.

Meanwhile almost a quarter (22%) suggested remaining in the EU would give the biggest boost, whilst 14% said securing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would be the most helpful.

Four in ten landlords said they would still be willing to make their first investment in property, arguing that buy-to-let remains a good long-term investment.

According to the research however, 50% of landlords said that due to government intervention and regulatory changes, they would not choose to make a first investment decision now.

Only on in four landlords said they wanted to increase rents in the next 12 months, whilst a majority believe they are renting out at least one of their properties below market value.

Knight continued: “There is a continued appetite to be active in this sector and a recognition of the strong demand for quality properties from tenants.

“That being the case, and with a perhaps more sympathetic government ear, we might anticipate that demand for mortgage advice and buy-to-let mortgages will continue to grow, although many are clearly worried about the current economic uncertainty and what might happen in a post-Brexit world.

“The other positive here is the long-term view taken by many landlords and the fact over four in 10 would still invest today if it was their first property.

“Given all the demographics and the underlying demand drivers for the private rental sector, advisers are still likely to see a steady stream of landlord clients seeking to remortgage and/or purchase, for many years to come.

“It continues to pay to be a specialist in this sector and Foundation is here to help advisers develop their buy-to-let propositions for the demand that is clearly still out there.”

By Jessica Nangle

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Landlords holding back from further purchases over next 12 months

Fewer than a third of landlords would add to their buy-to-let portfolio over the next 12 months, research claims.

A survey of 5,000 landlords by letting agent Benham and Reeves, assessed sentiment in the property sector amid tax and regulatory changes.

The majority (83%) said they were unlikely to sell up this year, but just 28% said they would consider investing in a property in the next 12 months.

Half said they would consider expanding their portfolio within the next five years.

Two thirds of landlords said the proposed changes to Section 21 notices made them more cautious about investing in a further property, while opinion was divided over changes to mortgage interest relief  and whether the sector still provided a good investment as a result, with 49% believing it is and 51% no longer sure.

Despite this uncertainty, 73% considered property is still the best and least volatile long-term investment when compared to all other asset classes.

More than a third (37%) felt very confident that they will see an adequate return on their portfolio over the next ten years, with a further six per cent stating they were extremely confident and 51% not as confident.

Marc von Grundherr, director of London-based Benham and Reeves, said: “The Government has really gone to war with buy-to-let investors of late and a consistent string of detrimental changes to the sector through Stamp Duty increases, tax relief changes and a ban on tenant fees has had the desired impact of denting industry sentiment and dampening appetite for future investment due to a reduction in profitability

“However, for the institutional buy-to-let investor, this is but a mere blip on a much longer timeline, and the overwhelming overtones are that while Brexit poses a challenging obstacle for the immediate future, the market remains the investment option of choice with many confident on a return further down the line.

“This is a testament to the durability of buy-to-let bricks and mortar in the UK as, despite a Government-backed clampdown, it remains a lucrative business and one that continues to gain the backing of those that are on the frontline.”

By MARC SHOFFMAN

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Capital gains tax take rises as landlords feel the squeeze

There has been an increase in capital gains tax receipts in a sign that landlords are selling up as regulatory and tax changes start to bite in the buy-to-let market.

Latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs revealed there was an 18 per cent increase in capital gains tax receipts in 2018-19 compared to the previous year – with the amount raised reaching £9.2bn.

According to industry experts, this has been driven in part by private landlords ‘offloading’ less profitable buy-to-let properties as landlords’ margins narrow.

Unlike when a homeowner sells their house or flat, private landlords are charged capital gains tax on any profitable gains they make so an exodus of private landlords from the market could lead to increased revenue for the exchequer.

The trend is a sign that landlords have started to feel the effect of tax and regulatory changes on their income, as had been predicted by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association in January.

Imla warned this year’s tax return would be the first time many landlords would see the effects of the changes on their earnings.

Landlords have been subject to a number of regulatory changes in recent years, with an introduction of an additional 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge on second homes in April 2016 followed by cuts to mortgage interest tax relief.

Buy-to-let borrowers are also now subject to more stringent affordability testing under the Prudential Regulation Authority’s tightened underwriting rules.

Sean McCann, financial planner at NFU Mutual, said the double-digit hike in capital gains tax receipts could be attributable to this clampdown on private buy-to-let investors.

He said: “Capital gains tax is a growing source of revenue for the government. Last year’s record haul of £9.2bn already looks like it could be surpassed.

“The increase is partly due to some private landlords choosing to offload buy-to-let investments.”

Research from Arla Propertymark also showed the number of buy-to-let properties up for sale had increased by 25 per cent in April.

Mr McCann said: “Essentially, landlords are being squeezed from two sides by the taxman. From one side, the higher rate tax relief on mortgage interest is gradually being phased out, which makes it a much less profitable exercise.

“From the other, those looking to sell buy-to-let properties are being squeezed with an extra 8 per cent capital gains tax.”

Mr McCann went on to say that HMRC “clearly saw the opportunity to increase the capital gains coffers” when it targeted landlords and was now introducing new rules to collect the revenue earlier.

Currently, the tax is due by January 31 following the end of the tax year in which the sale has occurred but the government plans to change the rules from April 2020 to require tax to be paid within 30 days of the sale.

The government is also cracking down on overseas landlords avoiding tax and new research shows letters and campaigns have led to a 61 per cent increase in those admitting to not paying tax on their rental income.

In a further knock to landlords, the government has proposed abolishing the so-called ‘no fault’ Section 21 notices which give landlords the power to evict tenants at the end of their tenancy without a reason.

At the time, the National Landlords Association warned that any greater security for tenants would mean little if the homes to rent were not there in the first place.

Chris Norris, director of policy and practice at the NLA, said although an exodus of private landlords from the market could represent a windfall of sorts for the exchequer, he thought private property contributed far more to the UK economy when it was actively let than when it was disposed of as an asset.

He said: “Landlords’ taxable income from rent is generally taxed every year at 20 or 40 per cent depending on their income, whereas taxable gains are likely to attract only 18 or 28 per cent and are a one-off charge.

“In many cases, after an individual’s annual tax-free allowance, capital costs, and other deductibles are taken into account, it is likely that the tax raised by a typical property sale would be equivalent to only a year or two’s income tax.

“It would be far better for the government’s tax take to encourage landlords to keep trading, rather than sell up.”

By Imogen Tew

Source: FT Adviser

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Buy To Let Property Investors Optimistic About Future

Around two thirds of UK buy to let investors are optimistic about the future of the private rental sector, despite the challenges faced by landlords.

Furthermore, more than one in ten of these are ‘very’ optimistic when it comes to investment property growth and yields.

The findings come in the latest research by Cambridge & Counties Bank, which has highlighted that a significant number of landlords are using the current market volatility to grow their portfolios.

Due to the optimistic viewpoint held by landlords, nearly a fifth (19 per cent) are looking to grow their portfolios by a third and 11 per cent want to double it over the next three years. The research found that just 19 per cent of landlords are looking to sell.

While landlords are optimistic, Brexit remains the biggest uncertainty for property sector professionals with two fifths (40 per cent) of landlords conceding that it is top of their list of concerns.

Brexit is seen as a bigger risk than rising interest rates, a lack of confidence in the stability of lenders, and rising levels of tax, which were all cited by 32 per cent of landlords.

The student accommodation market was close behind the general private rental sector when it came to positivity, with a similar number (61 per cent) of landlords are equally optimistic about student accommodation in terms of growth, and 16 per cent ‘very’ optimistic.

Office buildings and commercial properties are viewed positively by two fifths (41 per cent) of those asked – though almost a third are not optimistic.

A significant number of landlords also say they will be refurbishing their buy to let and investment properties, with an average of £10,000 set to be spent. One in 10 (11 per cent) of respondents said they would spend more than £20,000, with 4 per cent forecasting they would invest more than £50,000 on their portfolio.

Chief Commercial Director of Cambridge & Counties Bank, Simon Lindley, said: ‘In spite of Brexit worries, it is great to see that the overall outlook for the commercial property sector is one of optimism.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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More overseas landlords admit tax avoidance

More overseas landlords are coming forward to admit not paying tax on their rental income after the government targeted suspected avoiders, new research has shown.

According to accountants and business advisers Moore Stephens, in the year to April 397 overseas-based buy-to-let landlords admitted to HM Revenue and Customs they had not been paying tax on the funds they received from tenants.

This was up 61 per cent on the 246 that came forward in the previous year.

HMRC has been targeting suspected tax avoiders with threatening letters alongside launching a ‘Let Property Campaign’, aimed to encourage landlords to voluntarily disclose that they had not paid the full amount.

Moore Stephens suggested HMRC’s mailshot to thousands of landlords suggested the government knew many of these buy-to-let consumers were not declaring the full tax they owed.

If landlords don’t respond within 30 days of receiving these letters from HMRC, they are liable to face penalties based on what HMRC believes they owe or criminal investigations for non-compliance.

HMRC is using its Connect database — which can cross-reference taxpayers’ details against estate agent client lists — to gather information on landlords, and it is estimated Connect now generates 80 per cent of the government’s tax investigations.

HMRC also access data from the Tenancy Deposit Schemes, Land Registry data and even social media profiles to cross reference buy-to-let landlords against people declaring rental income.

Jonathan Green, partner at Moore Stephens, said: “More and more landlords are starting to approach HMRC to avoid the risk of being hit with heavy sanctions further down the line.”

“HMRC is ‘offering the chance’ to landlords to bring their tax affairs up to date. However, the letters being sent out by HMRC make it pretty clear that it is threatening a full-blown investigation.”

Mr Green went on to say that while most landlords were aware they owed tax, many others just didn’t know what their responsibilities were.

He added: “In some cases, people have inherited buy-to-let properties and others think that because they are only making a modest profit it doesn’t count.

“It is very easy to make mistakes or get behind on your paperwork for a buy-to-let investment.”

Mr Green added that landlords must seek professional advice if they realised they had underpaid tax.

Carl Shave, director at Just Mortgage Brokers, said independent financial advisers and mortgage brokers needed to play their part in the process of landlords understanding their tax requirements as they had a duty to highlight these responsibilities to their clients.

He said: “HMRC are showing their continued intent for cracking down on tax avoidance and overseas landlords are no exception.

“Landlords are under increased pressure in regard to tax and legislation with numerous changes being introduced within the sector. However, ignorance is not an excuse in matters with such importance and property investors, professional and accidental alike, have a responsibility that goes hand in hand with property ownership.”

Mr Shave went on to say that if consumers were not familiar with the market or had concerns, they must look for professional advice wherever possible.

By Imogen Tew

Source: FT Adviser