Buy-to-let landlord on a lower income? Watch out for these elephant traps!

If you’re a buy-to-let landlord, you’ll know that changes to the tax regime are making incomes drop.

The biggest hit has come from the restriction of relief on finance costs in general, and on mortgage relief in particular. From 2020, you will not be allowed to deduct any of this expenditure from your property income to calculate your pre-tax property profits.

Instead, you get a basic rate reduction from your income tax liability.

The government states that the changes “This will ensure that landlords with higher incomes no longer receive the most generous tax treatment.”

That’s true, as you can see from our calculations on this page. But if you are a basic rate taxpayer, it’s a mistake to think that your income won’t suffer. Sadly, in many cases, it will – but in rather less obvious ways.

So, what are the elephant traps a landlord who pays basic rate income tax can fall into?

Most of the problems come from your taxable income increasing.  In England for the tax years 2019/20 and 2020/21, you will pay the higher rate of tax (40%) when your income hits £37,501.

Now imagine you pay £8,400 in mortgage interest on a rental property. Under the old rules (which ended in 2015), you could deduct the full amount from your taxable profit. From 2020/2021, that £8,400 will be added to your taxable profit. This can easily tip you over the £37,501 threshold that transforms you into a higher rate taxpayer.

When this happens, you could easily fall into these elephant traps:

  • Losing your marriage allowance: spouses can’t transfer all or part of their personal tax allowance to each other if both are higher rate taxpayers. This could lose you thousands – as you can see on this page.
  • Reduction or loss of child benefit. If your taxable income goes over £50,000, some or all of your child benefit can be taken back via the High Income Child Benefit Charge.
  • Increased Capital Gains Tax. Higher rate taxpayers pay 20% instead of 10%, which could make a serious dent in your profits if you sell a rental property.
  • More tax on savings. Basic rate taxpayers have a personal savings allowance of £1,000 – this drops to £500 when you hit the 40% income tax band.
  • More tax on dividends. Higher rate taxpayers shell out tax at 32.5% on dividend income, instead of 7.5%.

Even if you aren’t pushed into higher rate tax, you still need to look out for these traps.

  • Higher Student Loan repayments. If your taxable income increases, it can easily push you into a higher Student Loan repayment band. This could see you moving from zero repayments to paying 9% of your pre-tax income over the £18,935 threshold.
  • A bigger child maintenance bill. If you pay child maintenance, a higher pre-tax income is likely to mean higher maintenance payments.

As you can see, the knock-on effects of the government removing relief on finance costs and mortgage relief can be very expensive. That’s why it’s essential to talk to your accountant, especially if you are likely to be tipped into higher rate tax – it’s quite possible that good advice could legally place you back in the basic rate band, meaning you can avoid many of the elephant traps above!

Find out more how THP can help Buy-To-Let Landlords.

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