The most important tax to consider for any property investor is the income tax. It is charged on employment income, rental income, interest, dividends, and profits for self-employed. Income tax is the largest source of tax revenue for UK government accounting for more than 30% of total tax revenue.
The tax rules are continuously changing, and it is difficult for landlords to find the plain English guide to income tax. In this article, the main elements of income tax for landlords are explained in simple explanatory manner.
In this article, we will look into the income tax rates, self assessment filing deadline and penalty, worked example, particular issues around taxation of property income, etc.
Income below £11,850 (increasing to £12,500 from 1 April 2019)
Between £11,851 to £46,350 (increasing to £12,501 to £50,000 from 1 April 2019)
Between £46,351 to £150,000 (increasing to £50,001 to £150,000 from 1 April 2019)
Income over £150,000
When your adjusted taxable income crosses £100,000, you will start losing personal allowance by £1 for every £2 of income. You will loose all the personal allowance once the income exceeds £123,700. For example, if your income is £110,000, you will get a personal allowance of only £6,500 instead of £11,500 as you lost £5,000 of personal allowance (50% of income above £100,000).
As a result, the effective tax rate for individual earning between £100,000 and £123,700 is 60%!
If you are claiming child benefit and you or your partner has an annual income over £50,000, there will be additional tax charge called "High income child benefit charge". This charge effectively claws back the child benefit via self assessment tax return once the adjusted net income of either the claimant or his/her partner exceeds £50,000.
The charge is 1% of the child benefit for every £100 of adjusted net income over £50,000. For example, if you have adjusted net taxable income of £52,000, the high income child benefit charge is 20% of the child benefit claimed. If you claim child benefit of £2,500 per annum, then the charge is £500.
Individuals pay income tax by reference to the “tax year”. The UK tax year runs from 6 April to the following 5 April. For example, the tax year 2017/18 runs from 6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018. Partnerships and trusts are also taxed on tax year basis.
A tax payer in the UK needs to prepare and submit self-assessment tax return for each tax year. It is called self-assessment because you need to assess your income and tax liability yourself and need to declare to HMRC. The filing deadline for the tax return is 31 January following the tax year if the return is filed online. For paper filing, the deadline is 31 October. For the tax year 2017/18, the deadline for online filing is 31 January 2019, and for paper filing is 31 October 2018.
If the tax return is filed late, the initial penalty is £100. This penalty is levied even if there is no tax liability. Additional daily penalties of £10 per day will be levied in respect of returns which are more than three months late up to a maximum of £900.
If you are six months late, there will be a penalty of 5% of tax liability (or £300 if greater). For being more than 12 months late, there will be additional 5% of tax liability (or £300 if greater). So, it is best to file the tax return on time.
In addition to these late filing penalties, you will incur late payment penalties for missing the payment deadline.
The taxpayer needs to pay income tax liability in three instalments on payment on account basis. This means the tax is due even before you have prepared your self-assessment tax return. The deadline for making payment of income tax liability is as below:
Suppose, during the tax year 2019/20, Ms Julie has a salary of £40,000, property income of £10,000 from a London flat, property income of £5,000 from an apartment in Spain. Her taxable income and tax liability will be calculated as below:
Income from employment (Salary)
UK property income
Foreign property income
Less: Personal allowance
Tax at 20% (on first £37,500 - up to income threshold of £50,000)
Tax at 40% (on remaining £5,000)
Total tax liability
Property income mainly consists of rents from properties such as flats and houses. However, be aware that it includes other types of income from property such as lease premium and income from selling fishing rights, etc.
Historically, landlords were required to use accrual basis for calculating property income for tax. The accrual basis means the income and expenses are accounted when they occur instead of when they received. For example, a property investor received rent in advance for April 2017 on 1 March 2017. Although the rent was received during tax year 2016/17, the rent relates to April 2017 and so would be declared only on the tax return for tax year 2017/18. The same principle applies to the expenses.
However, special rules of a cash basis for landlords were introduced from 6 April 2017. This new rule applies to landlords whose annual cash basis receipts does not exceed £150,000. However, landlords can opt out from the new rules of cash basis and continue to use accrual basis as before.
Expenses are deductible from rental income only if those expenses are incurred “wholly and exclusively” for the letting business. So, any expenditure incurred for the benefit of the landlords or their family is not allowed unless it is business related.
Another important condition is that the expenses should not be of capital nature. Any expenditure that improves or enhances the value of the property is treated as capital expenditure. On the other hand, expenditure which is incurred on a regular basis to earn income from the property is allowed. For example, window repairs are allowed while expenses incurred on loft conversion are not allowed. These capital costs are usually allowed as deduction while calculating capital gain at the time of sale of the property.
Following are the common types of expenses allowed for deduction from rental income (although each expenses need to be tested as per rules above):
If you are letting out a room to a tenant in your home, the Rent a Room Scheme lets you earn up to a threshold of £7,500 per year tax-free. But, the property should be your main residence to claim relief under this scheme.
If you are not already registered for self-assessment, you need to register by 5 October following the tax year in which you had the income. For example, if you have income in the tax year 2018/19, you need to register for self-assessment by 5 October 2018.
If you only have employment income, you generally don't need to file self assessment tax return. However, following are some of the situations where you will need to file tax return:
HMRC accepts various means of paying self assessment tax liability. Some of most common means of making payment are:
Full details on how to pay can be found on HMRC payment instructions.