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What are the allowable expenses against rental income?

What are the allowable expenses against rental income?

What are the allowable costs against rental income?

It’s one of the most common questions we get asked and it’s understandable why.  Many landlords innocently misunderstand the difference between a CAPITAL expense and a REVENUE expense. In particular, establishing the difference between a repair and an improvement and claiming only the mortgage interest not capital repayments on loans.

The common notion is that because you have spent money on your property, it automatically follows that you can set it off against your rental income.

Beware…!


Some expenditure never qualifies for any tax relief

Some expenditure is only allowable against the gain when you sell the property

Some expenditure may be deducted from rental income in calculating taxable income

Some expenditure may not be claimed as a deduction but is subject to special rules

Let’s take things one at a time.

When you buy a property

The costs and expenses associated with the purchase are treated as part of the purchase price and cannot be set against rental income. We would advise you to prepare a simple statement of all the costs as follows:

Purchase price

Stamp Duty

Legal Fees

Building survey charges

Independent inspection charges

Auctioneers costs (for those of you who have bought through auctions)

Your solicitors’ completion statement should contain the majority of the costs

These can be deducted from the gain (or added to the loss) when you sell the property. You should keep a record of all the costs together with the supporting receipts so that you can claim Capital Gains Tax relief for the expenditure when you sell.

What happens if the deal falls through?

In short, any costs and expenses associated with a deal that falls through are never allowable.

So if you are thinking of buying a property and spend money instructing solicitors and arranging surveys and then decide not to proceed, or worse still the seller pulls out, there is no tax relief for the costs.

So what are the allowable costs against rental income?

The general rule is that the expenditure must be expended wholly and exclusively for the Rental Income business. Here's a list:

Interest and other finance charges

The interest accrued and any arrangement fees on any loan taken out to purchase the property are claimable but for residential properties the full amount is only allowed up until 5th April 2017. If it is a repayment mortgage, then it is only the interest element which can be claimed, not the total repayments. If you have a separate bank account for the property business then any bank charges can also be claimed.

From 6th April 2017, tax relief on interest paid by landlords of residential properties will be restricted gradually (by 1/4 for each tax year) so that from 6th April 2020, interest will not be an allowable expense in computing the profits of the business, but will attract tax relief at 20%.
The best way of explaining this is by way of an example:
Joe is a teacher and is 49 years old; he is a 40% taxpayer. He has purchased a buy to let property as an investment. As he has owned the property for some time, the outstanding debt on the property is relatively low. Here is the effect of the change:

2016/172020/21
Gross rents7,2007,200
Repairs and other tax deductible costs1,0001,000
Interest on mortgage2,500Nil
Net Rental profit3,7006,200
Tax at 40%1,4802,480
Less interest relief at 20% on £2500500
Net tax liability on rental income1,4801,980

If Joe decided to increase his borrowings to allow him to buy a second buy to let, he would see his tax rate rise still further, as his interest costs will be higher initially, and his net return lower.

The new rules are being phased in over 4 years beginning on 6th April 2017.

Basic rate (20%) taxpayers should see no change to their liabilities. However, if you pay tax at a higher rate, the effective tax increase on any mortgage interest paid as a percentage of that amount is as follows:

Effective %age increase in
tax liability on the
mortgage interest paid
Your marginal rate of tax2017-182018-192019-202020-21
20%0%0%0%0%
40%5%10%15%20%
45%6.25%12.5%18.75%25%
60% (Income between £100,000 and £123,000*)10%20%30%40%

*This figure will increase as the personal allowance increases

Commercial properties and Furnished Holiday lettings are not affected by the proposals.

Repairs and maintenance

Repair work carried out on the property can be claimed provided that it is not a capital improvement. If you lived in the property prior to letting it, then work carried out before the property is let is seen as maintenance of the property as a result of private use rather than for rental purposes, so cannot be claimed.
Repairs to furnishings cannot be claimed if there is a furnished residential letting and you are claiming the Wear and Tear Allowance.
Do not forget to include the gas safety certificate cost if applicable.

Legal, management and accountancy fees

You cannot claim any legal fees in connection with the purchase of the property or any fees for the initial lease if it is for more than one year. Any legal fees in connection with the renewal of a lease, a shorthold tenancy of less than 1 year, eviction of clients, rent collection or management fees and accountancy are all claimable.

Insurance

It is important that you insure the property and the premium for the buildings and/or contents can be claimed. Life assurance premiums are not claimable.

Rent, rates and council tax

You may pay ground rent if the property is a flat. The tenant normally pays the rates or council tax, but if you do pay these costs or there are any void periods where you pay these costs then these can be claimed.

Services

If you pay any service charges or for any other services in connection with the letting e.g. electricity in common areas, these should be claimed. If the property is a furnished holiday letting then it is likely that you will pay for electricity, gas, water, television licence, telephone and other services.

Wages

If you need someone to carry out a regular service for you e.g. cleaning, we recommend that you pay a fixed rate for that service and do not provide any tools or materials so that they can be treated as self-employed. However, if for example, you employ a cleaner for one hour a week and provide all the materials, then that person is probably an employee. Be aware, that if you do employ an employee, you need to ensure that you comply with Employment Regulations including Working Time Directive, National Minimum Wage, Health and Safety and PAYE/NIC. The national living wage from 1st April 2017 is £7.50 per hour for adults over age 25.

We advise that you should ask your employee to complete a “Starter Checklist” which is available on the Government website. Provided that you do pay under £113 per week, you have no other employees and your employee marks either certificate A or B, you can retain the Starter Checklist and take no further action. If certificate C or no box is marked or you pay £113 or more per week it will be necessary to have a PAYE scheme in place. If you have a PAYE scheme then you will need to pay the employee under RTI (Real Time Information) even if they earn less than £113 per week.

Travelling expenses

Do you travel to the property to carry out maintenance or deal with issues with the tenants? If so you should claim the cost of travelling. It does have to be reasonable - if you live in London and spend a week on holiday in Cornwall, popping in for ten minutes to check that the holiday home next door was alright would not make the journey a business trip!

Administration expenses

These can include postage, stationery, telephone calls and other administration expenses. The rules for claiming use of home as office have changed from 6th April 2013. Either a complex calculation has to be made justifying the charge or the following can be claimed depending on the hours worked in an office:

Number of hours
worked per month
Monthly claim
25 or more £10
51 or more £18
101 or more£26

It is unlikely that a charge for using your home as an office can be justified unless you are managing a number of properties yourself.

Other expenses

Any other expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the property business can be claimed. The licence fee for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) is claimable for example.

Capital expenditure

The cost of purchasing or improving a property (e.g. an extension) cannot be claimed as revenue expenditure against your property income. The distinction between capital and revenue expenditure is not black and white. If you buy a property and simply redecorate it before you let it out, this will be considered to be revenue expenditure. If however you bought a property for a significantly lower price than normal because it was in a poor condition and then carried out substantial works, this expenditure would probably be considered as capital expenditure.

However, most capital expenditure is eligible for relief for Capital Gains Tax purposes when you come to sell the property, so it is important that you keep records and receipts for the expenditure incurred.

Capital Allowances (Not available on Residential Lettings)

Whilst structural works cannot normally be claimed, capital allowances are available on the purchase of fixtures, plant and machinery. There is an Annual Investment Allowance for expenditure up to £200,000 from 1st January 2016. As most landlords will not be spending more than the annual limit or claiming for a car, cars and eligible expenditure over the annual limit are not discussed.

Examples of expenditure eligible for Annual Investment Allowance are as follows:

Cookers
Washing machines
Dishwashers
Refrigerators
Electrical systems
Washbasins
Sinks
Baths
Showers
Water systems
Furniture
Carpets
Curtains
Boilers
Heating systems
Storage equipment
Counters
Machinery
Lifts
Alarm systems

The list is not exhaustive and you should obtain further advice from us, particularly if your expenditure is over the annual limit.

If you sell an asset on which you have previously claimed Capital Allowances, the proceeds are taken into account and may create an additional income charge.

Replacement Furniture Relief

From 6th April 2016, where a residential property is not a Furnished Holiday let or no Rent a Room relief is claimed, the expenditure on replacing items of furniture and white goods will be allowed as an expense less any proceeds on the disposal of the item being replaced. The cost of assets which are not replacements are not be allowed as an expense.
The Wear and Tear allowance for fully furnished lettings was withdrawn after 5th April 2016.

Private Use

If you use the property for private purposes, which is most likely if it is a furnished holiday letting or you are not claiming Rent a Room relief in your own home, then any expenditure claimed must be restricted for its private use.

If you have previously occupied a property then any expenditure which relates to that period of occupation cannot be claimed. So any maintenance of the property prior to the first letting is private. Conversely, if for instance you had paid an annual insurance premium on 1st April and left the property with a view to letting it on the following 1st October, then you would claim one half of the insurance premium paid even though it was paid when you occupied the property.

Finally...

This can be a confusing area for many landlords. Errors can be costly if they are picked up by HMRC. Choosing a property tax specialist to help you get it right could save you £000's. Get in touch if you need some help.

DISCLAIMER
© Thandi Nicholls Ltd 2017 All Rights Reserved - The above articles are provided for guidance only and may not cover your personal circumstances so you should not rely on them. It is important that you seek appropriate professional advice which takes into account your personal circumstances where you can provide the full facts of the case and all documents related to your case. Thandi Nicholls Ltd t/a uklandlordtax.co.uk, K Nicholls FCA or S Thandi cannot be held responsible for the consequences of any action or the consequences of deciding not to act.

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