HMRC wants property landlords to declare all property income and capital gains and to pay whatever tax that is due to the government before the January deadline. For the UK’s 500,000 landlords already registered with HMRC this is business as usual. But estimates put the real number of landlords at between 1.4-1.9 million.
HMRC has run a two year campaign to reduce this staggering number, utilising the television presenting talents of Moira Stuart, for example, to convince property owners to complete their self-assessments or company tax returns. Now, Accountants like UHY Hacker Young are prophesising that the warning period is over. With an estimated £550 million due to the Government from rental income that wasn’t paid (23% of the total UK liability) as recently as 2010 – undoubtedly their patience is wearing thin.
Much of the problem, market insiders say, stems from a combination of three things.
Firstly, a number of ‘accidental landlords’ were created when families moved home, only to find the property they left behind difficult to sell in the recession. These people then became landlords when they ceased attempting to sell their old home and turned to renting it out. Without the intention to become a landlord, and the research that goes with it, some may not have realised their obligations to HMRC. Similarly, those with holiday lets or rooms let to lodgers are also considered private landlords, but frequently neglect their tax requirements.
Secondly, a rapid recovery in house prices, particular in London, has brought capital gains tax into play in a big way. Landlords who bought in the nineties and held on to their assets throughout the recession may now be looking to sell, perhaps to beat what some think is an impending crash. Those house-holders will face a heavy tax bill in the form of Capital Gains Tax – for which rented homes and second homes are both liable. Without the advice of an accountant, many may have neglected to declare this.
Thirdly, the influence of both apathy and fraudulence cannot be discounted. The tax deficit figures are so large that thousands must know their obligations and simply refuse or neglect to do them. Unfortunately for them, HMRC has access to a substantial range of weapons to track these people down, including data on a taxpayer’s other declared income, Land Registry data, information from Lettings Agents and Bank records.
Now that the warning period of adverts and ‘gentle pushing’ is over, we might well see these tools put to greater use. Certainly, with an election in a year and a half’s time and a budget to balance, the Treasury will be pushing for significantly greater progress in this problematic area. One spokesman is reported to have stated:
“Lettings are a key area where we are losing money…this is an area where people try to cheat us.”
Part of a fresh push in this area has taken the form of a ‘Let Property Campaign’ including a Campaign Hotline on 03000 514479.
05/11/2013 SRJ / LCB