Complaint to the BBC on reports concerning tax changes for landlords

Complaint to the BBC on reports concerning tax changes for landlords

13:03 PM, 2nd March 2016, About 6 years ago 56

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Complaint to the BBC on reports concerning tax changes for landlordsThere was a piece on the BBC News channel last Sunday, 28 February, concerning the tax changes for landlords: It was shown at 07.28 and at 14.16, and presumably throughout the day.

It propagated misinformation about the tax change, was biased against BTL landlords, and promoted a commercial alternative.  My detailed complaints follow.

The news readers said that from next year “the generous tax allowances are being phased out”.

This was a reference to section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015. Under this, landlords who bought property in their own names will have mortgage interest and other finance costs disallowed when the taxable profit is calculated.  A “relief” of 20% of these disallowed costs will be deducted from the tax calculated on the inflated profit.  The change will be phased in over four years, starting next April.  The result is that some landlords will pay a levy of up to 25% of their finance costs, and may lose the personal allowance.  The levy may exceed the real profit; it will be payable even when there is a real loss.  Individual landlords have already started to increase rents so that they will have enough money to pay the levy to HMRC.  Otherwise HMRC will bankrupt them.

My first complaint relates to the introduction of the piece.  Landlords do not receive generous tax allowances.  They receive exactly the same allowances as every other enterprise in the country. In paragraph 9 of its submission to the Public Bill Committee which scrutinised Clause 24 of the Finance Bill (as it then was), the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales stated:  “We can think of no other business where the cost of funding the capital of the business is not tax allowable”.

In April 2017 individual landlords will start to be deprived of this hitherto universal allowance.  That is the very opposite of having “generous tax allowances phased out”.

It is the Treasury which has described this universal allowance as “generous” to individual landlords, and only to them.

This is typical of the misinformation that the Treasury has disseminated to MP’s and their constituents since the budget announcement last July.  It has made statements that are the opposite of the truth, which are then accepted by gullible MP’s.

There have been many articles in newspapers about how this measure will be bad for tenants – and ruinous for some landlords.  There were interviews on BBC South East’s Inside Out on 1 February, and two interviews on BBC local radio last month.  That is the real story that should have been reported.

Politicians are blaming landlords for the housing shortage in London and the South East, which is really due to politicians failing, over decades, to encourage enough new building.

Whoever included the word “generous” in the autocue either has an unquestioning mind, and therefore is not suitable for journalism, or has an axe to grind.

The introduction referred to a report, which was not named, that said 1 million properties could make losses from 2020.  That is when section 24 comes into full effect.

This introduced a piece by your business correspondent Joe Lynam.   He interviewed Jaye Cook, a landlord with 5 properties, who said he would have to sell them when the early repayment penalty period finishes.   Asked if he thought loads of other BTL “investors” would be replicating that idea, he said “Absolutely.  I think it’s become a much less attractive investment and people can’t afford a loss every month.”  He did not comment on section/clause 24, much less complain about it.

Then three banners came on the screen about the 2m landlords, their 5m properties and the 1m properties that could make a loss if [interest] rates rise in the coming years.  Below each the sources were shown as CML/Property Partner.

In the Telegraph that same day, Jaye Cook was quoted as planning to sell his properties.  This was in an article quoting data from Property Partner to the effect that “Buy-to-let could become unprofitable in seven out of 10 towns and cities by 2020”.

The following day, Jaye Cook was quoted “Once my fixed rates on some of the properties come to an end, I’m thinking of selling and reinvesting in Property Partner. I’ve already remortgaged some of my properties and invested hundreds of thousands through the platform.”

Last November he was quoted as follows: “Mr Cook says he will put money in crowd-funded schemes such as Property Partner, in which he has invested £200,000.”  It is not clear from this whether this amount was invested in properties or in Property Partner itself.

My second complaint is that the BBC has allowed itself to be used to promote a commercial enterprise: Property Partner.  The only landlord interviewed in the broadcast had a defeatist attitude to Buy-to-Let.  He also had invested large sums through, or possibly in, Property Partner, which is an alternative to BTL.  Why was someone with a vested interest in Property Partner selected as the only landlord to be interviewed about the tax changes?

Joe Lynam said that for renters keen to get on the housing ladder, the changes to BTL are welcome.  This is a non sequitur, and is my third complaint.  With all the subsidies available, a prospective buyer only needs a 5% deposit, and sufficient income to justify a mortgage.  Those are the obstacles which prevent first time buyers (FTB’s) from getting on the housing ladder.  Forcing landlords to sell properties will not change that situation, or help renters get on the housing ladder therefore.

Then Betsy Dillner, a director of Generation Rent, said to camera “These tax incentives have pushed a lot of amateur landlords into the market and removing these incentives will professionalise landlords and make way for FTB’s which may (sic) have been pushed out of the market because of these tax incentives pushing up prices.”

This is nonsense.  BTL landlords do not have tax incentives, they have the same allowances as every other enterprise.  These allowances did not push landlords into the market.  The allowances did not push up prices.  Ms Dillner is not even sure that FTB’s have been pushed out of the market.

In spite of all that, Joe Lynam’s said in a voice-over “And the Chancellor seems to agree.”

This is not true, and is my fourth complaint.  Neither the Chancellor nor anyone from the Treasury has claimed that removing the allowance will professionalise landlords.  Nor have they ever claimed that landlords have pushed up prices.

Mr Lynam’s then voiced the government’s spin: “The Treasury says that by restricting the mortgage tax relief it has addressed the unfair advantage enjoyed by BTL landlords.”  Unfortunately, it does not explain what advantage BTL landlords enjoy or how it is unfair, but that is typical of the Treasury.

Bizarrely, the Treasury was thus given the right to reply about section/clause 24, even though nobody on the programme had complained about it or criticised it in the first place.

Then Mr Lynam asserted that “BTL landlords have enjoyed tax advantages down the years, but those advantages could be coming to an end.”  This is not true, it is Treasury misinformation. BTL landlords have only enjoyed the same allowance for finance costs as every other enterprise.  It is my fifth complaint.



15:59 PM, 2nd March 2016, About 6 years ago

What an excellent letter. Clear, concise and factual. I hope the BBC acknowledge as much and treat the Clause 34 turnover tax problem for landlords accurately in future.

James Fraser

16:12 PM, 2nd March 2016, About 6 years ago

What?! We've now got to deal with Clause THIRTY four as well?! This gets worse and worse... 🙂

All joking aside, the standard of BBC reporting is much weaker these days. They parrot whatever officialdom tells them to say, and often fail to seek appropriate alternative points of view. I hope this letter gets through to the BBC, and preferably to someone who understands how private home provision really works!

Jon Pipllman

16:19 PM, 2nd March 2016, About 6 years ago

I have always worked on the basis that a state funded news service can never be unbiased when reporting on matters of state.

I am yet to be proven wrong.

Appalled Landlord

19:35 PM, 2nd March 2016, About 6 years ago

I have made a complaint to the BBC at

I would encourage everyone to do the same. You do not need to give any personal details if you don’t want to. The more people who complain, the less easy it will be for them to ignore it.

The details required are BBC News Channel, 28/02/2016 at 14.16. You have to make a choice between Bias and Factually incorrect, you can’t choose both.

There are 50 characters for an outline of the complaint, and 2,000 for the complaint itself. That is not enough for the 5 separate sub-complaints, so I wrote a brief summary and asked them to go, for the detail, to this page:

They have staff working 24/7 on complaints, who will circulate them the next day. So the sooner the complaints are lodged, the better.


23:13 PM, 2nd March 2016, About 6 years ago

I made my complaint and wrote the following:

My complaint is that the BBC are promulgating anti-landlord/property investor propaganda on behalf of the Government in an effort to support the Government's illegal and flawed tax grab initiative which flies on the face of normal business.

If a greengrocer or a minicab driver can offset loan interest against his earnings then why can't a property investor/landlord carry on doing the same.

George Osborne clearly sees this action as a vote winner with the general populace who bemoan the fact that they can't get a home or they are paying high rents in London. I agree with the sentiment but the method by which the Government are addressing the issue, which doesn't/won't actually address the issue and I believe is illegal and flies in the face of every business practice and process in the world.

Buying property to rent is a business. It's not hands off or passive, even if the investor uses an agent to manage it. But even if an agent is used then it's still a business and interest is a legitimate cost to deduct from the rental income stream generated by the business (of letting property).

So the reporting of this by the BBC in the manner in which it was done was completely biased and made property investors/landlords to be getting something extra that other folk weren't getting. This is completely not the case.

If the Government wanted to restrict the purchase of property as a buy to let investment/letting business then the fairer approach must be to instigate tax changes from a future date for all NEW property investors/purchases. It is unfair to make these changes retrospectively for existing property investors with portfolios of 2 or more and with the mind set of building a property business.

I have enumerated my personal complaint but I'd like to draw your attention to another, more eloquent, complaint here:

Carol Duckfield

10:18 AM, 3rd March 2016, About 6 years ago

Complaint duly lodge

Sue P

12:39 PM, 3rd March 2016, About 6 years ago

Complaint made

Landlord Oh Landlord

13:37 PM, 3rd March 2016, About 6 years ago

complaint lodged

Lillian Howell

13:55 PM, 3rd March 2016, About 6 years ago

Complaint lodged to BBC about enjoying an unfair tax advantage(?) and how there are other barriers to first time buyers

Mick Roberts

14:30 PM, 3rd March 2016, About 6 years ago

I thought exactly the same when they used the word 'generous'.

I thought here we go, tenants & public are gonna' be thinking we've had something for nothing all these years.

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