Buy to let tax explained – for landlords

The essential guide to tax on your buy to let property..claiming allowable expenses and allowances. 

If you’re a landlord it is important that you understand what tax you are liable for. Our guide tells you everything you need to know about the rules for income and capital gains tax when you let a property.

Tax on buy-to-let

Self Assessment – Tax returns for Landlords 

People who receive rent or income from land and property in the UK are required to complete a tax return. Therefore the first thing you would need to do is to inform HMRC that you are receiving property income by 5 October following the end of the tax year in which you received the income. The UK tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April the following year. Therefore, if you rented out your property on 1 March 2017 you would need to inform HMRC by 5 October 2017.  If you do not do this you may be charged a penalty.

You should inform HMRC of your property income no matter whether you are making a profit or a loss from the property. But you pay tax only on your net rental profits – that is, your rental income, less the allowable expenses (deductions) of letting. So if you have no profit, you will have no tax to pay.

To register for Self Assessment and receive a tax return to complete, please click on the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/self-assessment-register-for-self-assessment-and-get-a-tax-return-sa1

UK property income is entered on the UK property pages of the tax return.

On your tax return you enter the income and the expenses. If your rental income is higher than your rental expenses, you are only taxed on this amount which is your profit. If your rental expenses exceed your income, you have made a loss. If this happens you should take advice as this is a complicated area.

Any profit from property is added to your other income of the tax year. If you are a basic rate taxpayer, you will pay 20% income tax on your rental profits. National Insurance is not paid on rental profits. The tax due is collected under self-assessment – usually a tax bill due by 31 January each year.

Rental income

This is the total amount of rent money you receive from a tenant or a lodger (or from organisations such as the local council on their behalf) before deducting any expenses.

For example if you receive rent of £500 per month from the tenants of a property you own, the total rental income for the year would be £6,000.

Rental Expenses

You can deduct certain expenses from the total rental income. The tax you pay is based on the rental income figure after deduction of expenses. You may only deduct expenses that are the result of letting out the property. There are special rules for some types of expenses – especially property repair costs.

The sorts of expenses that you can deduct from the rent that you get are:

 

  • Ground rent you have to pay
  • Letting Agents fees
  • Legal fees on renewing short leases (but not when they are first made)
  • Interest on a loan or mortgage obtained for the purchase of the property (see notes below)
  • Mortgage arrangement fees charged by the lender (see notes below)
  • Other interest directly related to the business may be allowed
  • Cost of gas safety certificates or similar requirements
  • Insurance
  • Accountant’s fees
  • Repairs & maintenance (see notes below)
  • Telephone calls
  • Travelling expenses
  • Wear and tear allowance if the property is furnished. (see notes below)
  • Use of Home as Office (see notes below)
  • Advertising for tenants
  • Repairs & maintenance to the property (see notes below)

If you have several properties, all rental receipts and expenses can be lumped together, so expenses on one property can be deducted from receipts on another.

 

Notes regarding expenses

Mortgage interest

The main property expense for most people is the mortgage payment. You can only get relief for the interest part of the mortgage payment. If you have a repayment mortgage, the repayment part of any payments does not qualify for relief. This means that the mortgage interest may be less than the full monthly repayment you make, as your mortgage repayments may include repayment of capital.

If you remortgage the property to withdraw equity or secure the loan on a different property you may still be able to get relief for the interest but you should seek further advice as this is a complicated area.

New Rules from 5 April 2017

When the last chancellor George Osborne announced the change, he implied that the extra tax would hit only higher-earning landlords.

It’s true that every mortgaged landlord who pays 40% or 45% tax will indeed pay much more under his proposals.

But some basic-rate taxpayers will also pay more tax – because the change will push them into the higher-rate bracket.

At the heart of the change is landlords’ future inability to deduct the cost of their mortgage interest from their rental income.

In other words, tax will be applied to the rent received – rather than what is left of the rent after the mortgage interest has been paid.

Here is a worked example assuming the landlord pays 40% tax.

What happens up to 5 April 2017

Your buy-to-let earns £20,000 a year and the interest-only mortgage costs £13,000 a year. Tax is due on the difference or profit. So you pay tax on £7,000, meaning £2,800 for HMRC and £4,200 for you.

In tax year 2020/21

Tax is now due on your full rental income of £20,000, less a tax credit equivalent to basic-rate tax on the interest. So you pay 40% tax on £20,000 (ie £8,000), less the 20% credit (20% of £13,000 = £2,600), meaning £5,400 for HMRC and £1,600 for you. Your tax bill has therefore gone up by 93%. The new rules will be phased in from April 2017 to April 2021

 

Mortgage arrangement fees charged by lender

Mortgage arrangement fees also qualify for relief if either paid up front or added to the cost of the mortgage. The new rules above also apply.

 

The treatment of repairs and improvements

Ongoing repairs to the fabric and structure of a let property are expenses which can be deducted from your rental income. Examples of such repairs include:

  • exterior and interior painting and decorating,
  • damp and rot treatment,
  • mending broken windows, doors, furniture and machines such as cookers or lifts,
  • re-pointing
  • replacing roof slates, flashing and gutters.

But you cannot deduct expenditure on improvements, or expenditure needed to bring a property up to standard before the first letting. Expenditure on improvements can be added to the costs of the property and may reduce any capital gain when you sell the property.

The dividing line between improvement and repair can be difficult to judge. For example, if the windows needed replacing in the property you own, but you replaced single glazed windows with double glazed windows, is this a repair or an improvement, or a bit of each? In cases like this, you will be allowed the normal ‘modern equivalent’ – so double glazing is accepted as a ‘repair’ and you can deduct all the costs against your rental income.

Where there is a significant element of improvement – such as you replace the kitchen:

Conveniently, HMRC consider kitchens in PIM2020 and present three scenarios for the refurbishment of a fitted kitchen. Assuming that the dimensions of the kitchen remain unaltered:

  • Replacement with a similar standard kitchen, which counts as revenue and is allowable.
  • Replacement with a new kitchen of the same standard, but with changes such as additional cupboards or extra equipment, which equates to a reasonable apportionment, with the “add-ons” treated as capital not allowable.
  • The substantial upgrading of the whole kitchen, for example with high-quality materials and fittings, where the whole expenditure will be capital.

Furnishings

If you are letting a furnished property, and it has sufficient furnishings for the tenant to be able to live there without providing anything more, you are allowed a deduction of 10% of the gross rent for the cost of the furnishings and equipment.

The wear and tear allowance 

PLEASE NOTE: For furnished property the Wear and Tear Allowance was abolished on 6th April 2016, it has been replaced with a new repairs and renewals basis, this means on the actual cost of repair or renewing an item can be claimed. This will apply to all rental property whether furnished or unfurnished. 

Rent-a-Room

If the property income you have is from lodgers, there is a special scheme you may choose to use. It is called the Rent-a-Room scheme. To qualify you must have one or more lodgers living in your home. By a lodger, HMRC means someone who is living with you as a member of your household, but paying you to do so.

If your ‘lodger’ has a separate front door, kitchen and other facilities, then this would not qualify for the Rent-a-Room scheme.

Under the Rent-a-room scheme, you don’t need to keep records of your expenses and you may not need to fill in tax returns – this is the case if you don’t normally receive a tax return and your receipts are below the tax-free thresholds for the scheme. The tax exemption is automatic so you don’t need to do anything. But if your receipts are above the threshold, or you do not want to use the scheme, you must do a return and you can register using form SA1:http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/sa/forms/sa1.pdf

You are given a flat ‘deduction’ of £7,500 per year against your rental income. This means that if your lodger pays you no more than £7,500 in a year, you have no taxable rental income.

If your lodger pays you more than £7,500 then you may still use the Rent-a-Room scheme if you like, but instead of deducting the actual expenses you have made in connection with your lodger, you simply deduct £7,500 from your income. If you have high costs, such as a large mortgage, you may find that the actual expenses which relate to the lodger – including a proportion of your mortgage interest – are more than £7,500, so you would pay less tax using the standard rules for a property business as described in the sections on income and expenses above.

For more details on the Rent-a-Room scheme see http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/pimmanual/pim4001.htm

Non-resident landlords scheme

The Non-resident Landlords Scheme is a way of collecting tax due on the UK rental income of non-resident landlords (those who own property in the UK, but do not live in the UK).

Moving abroad and letting out your home or another UK property?

If you are moving abroad but are going to rent out your old home, or any other UK property, it is important to realise you remain liable to UK tax on those rents and will still need to complete self assessment tax returns.

You will also need to consider if you want to register for the non resident landlords’ scheme. If you do not register, your tenant or letting agent will deduct tax from the rent you are due to get. You then claim to offset this tax against any tax owed on your self assessment return.

You can register to get your rent without tax taken off. You need to contact HMRC here:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/cnr/nr_landlords.htm#10

Record keeping

If you receive property income, you have to keep records and keep them for 6 years. A simple single entry cash book or simple computer spreadsheet or accounting system is enough. But it must be kept up to date. You will need to keep all the necessary paperwork to back up your cash book or computerised records. It is sensible to have a hard copy of essential information in case your computerised records are damaged or lost. This includes bills you pay and copies of the rent receipts/invoice you send to your tenant. If you use a letting agent make sure you keep all the statements and other documents that they send you.

If records are poor, it will be very difficult to challenge any claims by HM Revenue and Customs during a tax enquiry that you have not included all your income or have made deductions for non-property related expenses. Furthermore, accurate records make it much easier to actually fill out your tax return correctly and quickly.

Jointly held property

There are special tax rules for jointly owned property for married couples and civil partners. The rules mean that you can’t simply decide between yourselves how you want to be taxed or, for example, just give the rental income to the member of the couple with the lower income. The tax rules say that income from jointly owned property must be split and taxed in equal shares. Only in exceptional circumstances can a different split be used. This is when the property is owned in unequal shares and so income is divided in the same proportion.

 

KWA Tax Returns Online – our service 

Completing your Tax Return correctly, without hassle, may not be an easy task and also can be time consuming. For just £99.00 (after tax relief £79.00) we can prepare and file your Tax Return for you without any fuss and ensure you claim all the expenses you are entitled to, saving you tax. Simply provide us with the information we ask for then leave the rest to us.

Contact us or register and start using our online service for free.

 

 

 

The material in this article is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Links to external sites are for information only and do not constitute endorsement. Always obtain independent professional advice for your own particular situation.

 

 

 

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