Private Buy-to-Let housing providers have begun their fight back at Chancellor George Osborne and the tax changes announced in the Summer Budget which targets private landlords with mortgages.
The new tax rules will treat mortgage interest as though it is earned income and push many rental property owners into higher tax brackets. Knock on effects can also include increased CSA payments and other vital benefits but Osborne’s tax measures will not affect landlords with no mortgages, nor limited liability companies which borrow money to fund buy-to-let property investment portfolios.
Social Media has been buzzing in recent weeks calling for legal action to be considered.
A Judicial Review of the tax change known as clause 24 is being considered and the first step is to obtain a legal opinion from specialist legal counsel. Omnia Strategy LLP, established in 2011 by Cherie Blair CBE, QC, has been appointed.
The organisers of the campaign have launched a fund-raising appeal via the Crowd Justice website. Thousands of landlords are expected to donate funds.
The initial target for the legal opinion was £15,000 which has quickly been surpassed with over £28,000 being pledged at the time of writing.
A member of the Institute of Charted Accountants commented:
“It is a long established principle of taxation that expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business are deductible when calculating the taxable profits. Clause 24 of the Summer 2015 Finance Bill contravenes that principle and will result in proprietors of property businesses being liable to tax on a fictitious profit – even if the proprietors really make a loss.
The tax change does not just affect new borrowings. Landlords with existing borrowings will be affected. Highly geared landlords will be particularly badly hit.
In a letter to the Chancellor, Conservative Lord Flight said
“A lot of Buy to Let investment has been an alternative to saving for old age via pension schemes. Up until World War II investing in rented property was the main method of providing for an income in old age. Given the poor performance of the Stock Market over the last 20 years, it is hardly surprising that many people have opted for Buy to Let investment as an alternative source of retirement provisioning. But Buy to Let does not enjoy any of the major tax advantages of pension saving, i.e. tax credit on the amount invested and accumulation of income and capital gains tax free within the pension scheme. The only Buy to Let “tax advantage” has been the ability of the interest cost to be offset against an individual’s income to determine their tax rates/bill – the very thing which you have attacked.”
When Lord Flight referred to offsetting the interest cost against an individual’s income he of course meant rental income only, not total income. Buy-to-Let interest is not deducted from any other income that a landlord might have – unlike the way MIRAS used to work.
Nor can Buy-to-Let losses be set off against any other income. A BTL property has to pay its own way. If it gives rise to a loss, the owner has to make good the loss out of other taxed income. Landlords do not receive any tax “breaks”.
Deducting finance costs from rental income is not a tax relief it is normal accounting practice everywhere, and for every business. That is why Lord Flight put “tax advantage” in inverted commas.
The window of opportunity to submit an application for Judicial Review closes on 17th February 2016.