According to the latest figures released by IMLA, new investment in the buy-to-let market has fallen by £20bn in the last two years, so it may seem that putting your money into property is no longer a wise move.
Recent changes in legislation and greater scrutiny from lenders have meant that many buy-to-let investors are no longer expanding their portfolios as rapidly as they once were. However, if you do your homework, property can still be a good, solid long-term investment, providing excellent annual returns and appreciation rates.
If you are looking to take the plunge into property investment, or even if you have already built up a portfolio, here’s what you need to know about the latest legislation …
1: Allow for stamp duty surcharges
If you have a pot of money put aside for a second property make sure you do your sums first, factoring in all the charges you are likely to incur in addition to the price of the property itself.
Changes in stamp duty land tax mean you will have to pay 3% on top of the existing stamp duty rates currently paid on main residences. This will apply even if your existing home is abroad and you are purchasing your second property in the UK.
Furthermore, unlike the tiered stamp duty rates, which are applied proportionately to the value of the property, the 3% charge applies to the entire purchase price. For example, if you are buying a property for £300,000, you will pay 3% on the full amount and then the standard rates of 0% on the first £125,000, 2% of the value between £125,001 to £250,000 and 5% for the remaining portion of £251,000 to £300,000. To put it into context, if you were purchasing the property as your main residence you’d pay £5,000 in stamp duty charges, but as a second property it will cost you more than double the amount at £14,000.
Once upon a time a landlord was able to claim tax relief on rental income by deducting both mortgage interest and other allowable costs associated with a let property. However, changes being phased in since April 2017 mean this relief is being significantly reduced over the next few years until it is replaced with a new 20% tax credit system in 2020.
Therefore, 100% of any rent you receive will have to be declared and added as income on top of any income you already earn from other sources. For example, if you are already in paid employment earning an annual salary as a basic rate taxpayer at 20%, you could end up tipping the scales into the higher rate tax band of 40%, which will also affect your personal savings allowance.
3: Should you set up as a limited company?
Limited companies are not subject to the same set of tax relief rules as sole traders, so setting one up might seem like an ideal solution. However, investors should do their homework before jumping straight in. Research has suggested that using a limited company for property investment is only worthwhile if you’re buying four or more properties, and in the case of existing landlords this could be a lot more.
For example, rates on mortgage loans are usually a lot higher than for personal borrowers so this could offset any potential savings. And if you do decide to move an existing property portfolio over into company ownership you could be in line for a hefty bill in the form of capital gains tax and stamp duty payments.
Whatever you are planning, before making any final decisions always make sure you seek professional advice from a tax specialist and independent mortgage adviser. They will be able to fully assess your situation and provide you with information so you can be armed with the full facts before taking the plunge.