Escalation of complaint to the BBC on reports about tax changes for landlordsMake Text Bigger
In reply to our complaint Click Here the BBC has sent this standard reply to everyone:
“Thanks for getting in touch with us about BBC Business Correspondent Joe Lynam’s reports on changes for buy-to-let landlords broadcast on 28 February. Please allow us to offer our apologies here for the regrettable delay replying to your complaint.
As is always the case for any issue, across BBC News we have carried a wide range of reports on the Stamp Duty and Tax changes, and indeed wider matters such as the proposals on lending criteria from the Financial Policy Committee.
In doing so, we have been careful to fully and fairly explain all sides of the debate, including the Government’s aim to assist first time buyers, landlords’ fears as a result of the changes coming into force, the views of existing rental tenants and potential first time buyers.
Joe Lynam referred to some research which had been undertaken by the Council of Mortgage Lenders / Property Partner which was relevant to the issue being reported. In crediting their research to them, we did not promote or endorse these organisations or their views.
The above all being the case, whilst we appreciate that you may have strong views on the legislation changes as they may affect you personally, we stand by our reporting of this issue as being both fair and balanced.
Thank you once again for getting in touch – we greatly value your feedback which has been discussed personally with the senior editorial team at BBC News. In closing, please allow us to once again apologise for the delay getting back in touch.
NB. This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.”
Comments on the reply
Except for the first and last paragraphs, this reply is incorrect.
The BBC has not carried a wide range of reports on the tax change. There has only been one other item on TV – a short one on Inside Out in only one region, the South East. Apart from that there were two short interviews on local radio stations.
This is inadequate coverage of a revolutionary change in taxation, section/clause 24, which departs from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) by levying tax on a cost, which only applies to one sector of the economy – landlords who own property in their own names – and which retro-actively affects properties bought years or decades earlier.
The programme on 28 February merely repeated anti-landlord propaganda and Treasury misinformation. It did not “fully and fairly explain” this iniquitous change in taxation. There was no explanation at all, and no criticism – even from the one landlord who was interviewed.
Any other landlord given the opportunity to put forward his point of view would have explained what was wrong with the tax change. This opportunity was hi-jacked by a commercial organisation, Property Partner, which provided a docile landlord, Jaye Cook. He did not even mention the tax change, let alone complain about it.
Mr Cook had already invested £200,000 in or through Property Partner, which is in direct competition with private landlords for both properties and tenants. Property Partner’s activities will not help potential first time buyers.
The broadcast was planned as part of Property Partner’s co-ordinated campaign to promote itself. In the Sunday 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”. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/mortgages/the-governments-buy-to-let-tax-changes-mean-i-will-have-to-sell/
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.
The above shows that Mr Cook was planning to sell his properties in order to put more money into Property Partner. He was not representative of the majority of private landlords who will be affected by section 24. He was defeatist, and predicted that lots more landlords would sell up, thereby influencing them to do the same as him.
Then a version of the programme was used the following month on Property Partner’s website which included something that had not been broadcast, and using the BBC News logo.
It started with Joe Lynam mentioning the increase in stamp duty and the restriction on the deductibility of finance costs, and then the interview with Jaye Cook saying he will sell his properties.
The rest of the clip was not included in the broadcast. In a voice over, Joe Lynam said “And now a study by investment advisers (sic), Property Partner, says the new harsher environment for buy-to-let (BTL) investors could seriously damage the market.”
Then there was a clip from an unnamed person who said “There’s 1.7 million mortgaged BTL homes in the UK at the moment and our study has found that if the interest rate goes up to 2.5%, by 2020 a million of those are going to be loss-making for the owner. That’s going to have huge ramifications for the housing market and we can’t expect them all to be positive.”
Then in a voice over, Joe Lynam said “But millions of first time buyers priced out of the market will doubtless welcome the changes. The Treasury says the tax advantages enjoyed by BTL investors are unfair, and the new rules will enable new buyers to get a foothold on the ladder. Whether that will come at the expense of some investors remains to be seen.
Fortunately Mr Lynam’s propaganda, and his mis-description of Property Partner as investment advisers, were not broadcast.
How did Property Partner acquire a recording of the interview of the man talking about “our study” when it was not shown either live or on iPlayer?
Joe Lynam did not, as you state “refer to some research which had been undertaken by the Council of Mortgage Lenders / Property Partner which was relevant to the issue being reported on.”
Firstly. there is no such entity as the Council of Mortgage Lenders / Property Partner. Property Partner is a commercial enterprise which has no connection with the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
Secondly, the issue that was being reported on, according to the newsreader’s introduction, was that “There was a warning today that a million BTL properties could be making a loss by 2020 because, in part, of big changes to the market. From April, people who buy homes to rent for income will have to pay another 3% in stamp duty. And from next year the generous tax reliefs are being phased out as well. Our business correspondent reports.”.
What Joe Lynam referred to was a so-called study “that says more than a million of them [rental homes] could be loss making if rates rise in the coming years”. This was a non-story, merely a statement of the obvious. This is quite separate from the changes to taxation and stamp duty.
The above all being the case, your claim of “our reporting of this issue as being both fair and balanced” is categorically rejected. Complaint number 2 was that the BBC allowed itself to be used to promote a commercial enterprise: Property Partner. You did so by publicising its non-story about what will happen if interest rates rise, and interviewing its stooge instead of a committed landlord.
Your reply does not answer the question in the original complaint: Why was someone with a vested interest in Property Partner selected as the only landlord to be interviewed about the tax and stamp duty changes? This denied any committed private landlord the opportunity of exposing the multifarious flaws of section/clause 24.
In addition, your reply fails to address the first complaint: about describing the deduction of a cost, which every enterprise in the country applies under GAAP, as a “generous tax allowance”. This is pure Treasury misinformation.
It also fails to address the third, fourth and fifth complaints: about Joe Lynam uttering anti-landlord propaganda, a complete untruth, and Treasury propaganda, respectively.
Overall, the Treasury will have been very pleased with your broadcast. It completely excluded any comment about section/clause 24 or the 3% increase in stamp duty, which was what it was supposed to be about, according to the introduction.
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