Buy-to-let - it's all changing!

Three ways to cope with losing buy-to-let tax relief

Buy-to-let - it's all changing!

The game has changed for many buy-to-let landlords. From this April the change to buy-to-let tax relief is being phased in, which could translate into a big loss of profits for many with rental properties. What can you do about it?

What does the loss of tax relief mean?

If you’re new to buy-to-let, you might not appreciate the full implications. Up to now, people buying to let have been able to claim tax relief on their mortgage interest payments at their marginal rate of tax. This means that a basic rate taxpayer would get 20 per cent tax relief, but those at a higher rate would receive 40 per cent relief, while top-rate taxpayers could claim 45 per cent.

What’s changing?

When the changes are fully in place (from 2020), tax relief will be a flat rate of 20 per cent. Landlords who pay basic rate tax would see no change, but those on higher incomes will find themselves losing much more in mortgage interest payments. From April 2017 to April 2020 the change will be phased in gradually, to ensure that there is not a sudden increase in income tax for landlords.

How severe could the impact be?

The Nationwide Building Society published estimated figures of how a typical landlord’s profits might be hit. Someone with a £150,000 buy-to-let mortgage on a property worth £200,000, with a monthly rent of £800, would currently have a net profit of around £2,160 a year. Under the new system, the net profit would plunge to £960.

Other predictions have been even gloomier. The higher the interest you pay, the more you would feel the pinch, so if you have a long-term fixed rate (which is usually higher) you may find your profits aren’t much better than the returns from a savings account. The additional stamp duty may for some be the final straw.

What’s the answer?

One solution, of course, may be to increase rents so that the extra cost is passed on to tenants - but this solution is far from ideal. Most tenants are already paying as much as they can afford, and you risk pricing yourself out of the market. However, if you think you will be affected, there are a few other things you can try:

  1. You could switch to shorter-term fixed rate deals to get lower rates of interest, although these mortgages carry more risk.
  2. You could place your property portfolio in a limited company structure. You would then pay corporation tax (which is lower) rather than income tax on your profits. A drawback is that your mortgage options will narrow, as fewer providers will lend to a company.
  3. If your spouse pays a lower rate of tax, you could transfer ownership of one or more properties to them (taking care this does not lift them into a higher tax band).

We can answer all your questions about this issue. So get in touch today and find out how these changes may affect you.