Landlords are braced for cuts to their profits as the government’s mortgage interest tax relief changes are phased in from next week.
Originally announced in the 2015 Budget, the rules mean that when landlords file their tax returns for the 2017-18 tax year, the amount of mortgage interest they can offset against their tax bill will be reduced.
With this figure set to drop each tax year until it’s fully replaced by a tax credit for mortgage interest in 2020-21, investors could see thousands of pounds of potential profits wiped out.
What is mortgage interest tax relief?
Until April 2017, landlords could deduct all of their mortgage interest payments before calculating their tax bill, meaning they would be taxed on their profits rather than their overall turnover.
With the majority of landlords being on interest-only mortgages, this meant the savings on offer could be significant.
This is set to change, though. When investors file their returns for the 2017-18 tax year, due by 31 January 2019, they will only be able to claim tax relief on 75% of their mortgage interest. They will get a 20% tax credit on the rest of their mortgage interest payments.
In the following year, the relief will only be available on half of their interest, and they’ll get the 20% credit on the rest.
The short video below explains the basics of mortgage interest tax relief:
Mortgage interest tax relief changes explained
From the April 2020-2021 tax year, mortgage interest tax relief will be fully replaced by a tax credit limited to the basic rate of tax (20%).
For a higher-rate taxpayer, the tax credit is roughly half as generous. But it could be more punishing still, as it forces landlords to declare a higher income – which could push them into a higher tax bracket.
This threatens to wipe out profits for higher-rate taxpayers, and could mean some basic-rate taxpayers are pushed into the higher band.
The table below shows how landlords will need to claim tax relief on their mortgage costs as the new rules phase in:
|Tax year||Mortgage interest deductible under old system||Mortgage interest qualifying for 20% tax credit under new system|
|2017-18 (filed by 31 Jan 2019)||75%||25%|
|2018-19 (filed by 31 Jan 2020)||50%||50%|
|2019-20 (filed by 31 Jan 2021)||25%||75%|
Mortgage interest tax relief changes for higher-rate taxpayers
The table below shows the extent to which landlords who are higher-rate taxpayers could be affected by the changes.
In this example, we take a landlord who receives £950 a month in rent and pays £600 a month towards their mortgage.
Before the 2017-18 tax year, this landlord would have made a profit of £2,520 a year, but as the tax credit is phased in, their taxes rise and their profits fall. By 2020-21, this profit will be reduced by nearly 60%, to just £1,080.
|Tax year||Tax bill||Profit|
|2017-18 (filed by 31 Jan 2019)||£2,040||£2,160|
|2018-19 (filed by 31 Jan 2020)||£2,400||£1,800|
|2019-20 (filed by 31 Jan 2021)||£2,760||£1,440|
Should landlords set up a limited company?
As they seek to counter taxation changes, some landlords have set up limited companies for their investment properties.
Indeed, the specialist broker Kent Reliance claims that 70% of buy-to-let mortgage applications in the first nine months of 2017 were made via limited companies, up from 45% in 2016.
While setting up a company will help you avoid tax relief changes, it’s certainly not the right move for everyone.
When we assessed the pros and cons of setting up a limited company last autumn, we found that for many landlords the potential tax savings were offset by significantly higher mortgage rates and the prospect of triggering additional stamp duty surcharges and capital gains tax bills.
Is investing in property still profitable?
For many investors, buy-to-let has become a less profitable business in the last few years, as government and Bank of England interventions on tax and lending have cooled the sector.
Research published by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association showed that buy-to-let investment dropped by a remarkable 80% between 2015 and 2017, as investors decided against expanding their property portfolios.
And while it is still possible to make a return from property in 2018, there are some other changes you’ll need to be aware of, including:
- More expensive mortgages: the closure of the Funding for Lending and Term Funding schemes could push up mortgage rates, especially coupled with the prospect of an increase in the Bank of England base rate.
- Lending regulations: landlords who have four or more mortgaged properties now face tighter lending restrictions, and must provide details of each property in their portfolio when applying for finance.
- Energy efficiency changes: from tomorrow, privately rented properties will require a minimum EPC rating of E. If they fail to adhere, landlords could face cumulative fines of up to £5,000. This will initially only apply to new tenancies and renewals, before being extended to existing tenancies from 2020.
- Landlord licensing: at local level, a number of councils have brought in licensing schemes. Check out our story to see whether you need a licence to operate in your area.
You can find out more about the challenges facing landlords in our full story on 12 things buy-to-let landlords need to know in 2018.