My correspondence showing complete Ministerial lack of understanding!

by Lyndon Whitehouse

9:32 AM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

My correspondence showing complete Ministerial lack of understanding!

Make Text Bigger
My correspondence showing complete Ministerial lack of understanding!

Below is the full response from HM Treasury and Housing Minister,Gavin Barwell, to my MP Emmaignorance Reynolds who raised concerns on my behalf concerning Section 24 and the ban on Agents fees:Treasury

 

HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ

Dear Emma,

3 JAN 2017

Thank you for your email of 16 December enclosing correspondence from your constituent about financial  cost  relief for  landlords.

Thank you for highlighting the report that was compiled regarding this measure. The report is extensive, but I will explain the Government ‘s position on some of the key aspects of it. The Government introduced this change in order to level the playing field between landlords and homeowners. Income tax relief for finance costs is not available to ordinary homebuyers. Therefore, by restricting finance cost relief to the basic rate of income tax, we are reducing the advantage landlords may have in the property market.

Income tax relief for finance costs is also not available to those investing in other assets, such as shares, therefore we are reducing the distortion between property investment  and investment in other assets.

Currently, landlords get relief on their finance costs at their marginal rate of income tax.  By restricting finance cost relief to the basic rate of income tax, all individual landlords   will receive the same rate of income tax relief on their finance   costs.

The report  brings into question the assessment that  only  1 in 5 landlords will  be affected.  I appreciate that this might not be the same conclusion  reached  by other commentators  on the measure. However, this was calculated by HM Revenue and Customs using actual self-assessment  data.

We appreciate that some of the landlords who will pay more tax as a result may have to make important decisions regarding their properties. In order to give landlords time to plan ahead of the changes, we are phasing the changes in over 4 years from April 2017.

The report also highlights case studies  of  how landlords may be affected.  It is important to note that these are rare cases and do not reflect the circumstances of the majority of landlords. As explained above, we expect that only around 1 in 5 landlords will pay more  tax as a result of the changes.

Given the small overall proportion of the housing market affected, we do not expect the changes to have a large impact on rent levels or house prices. The Office for Budget Responsibility also expect the impact on the housing market will be  small.

The report claims that income tax changes made by the Irish Government in 1998 had an impact on rents. However, these changes are not comparable with those being    introduced in the UK. Originally,  the Irish Government abolished tax relief for finance   costs altogether. The Irish Government since reintroduced the relief but placed a flat 75% cap on the amount of finance costs that attract tax relief. By comparison, in the UK the Government have retained tax relief for finance costs at the basic rate of income tax and  all individual landlords will receive tax relief at the same rate, regardless of their level of income. This is to meet our  policy objective of levelling the playing  field.

Whilst most letting and managing agents provide a reputable service a minority of agents offer a poor service and engage in unacceptable practices. The Government is keen to see all tenants receiving a good service from their  landlord and letting agent. That is why,  since 1 October 2014, it has been a legal requirement for letting and managing agents in England to belong to one of the three Government approved redress schemes and that is also why we announced in the Autumn  Statement  a ban on up front  letting agent fees paid by tenants in England. This will support better competition in the market and bring down overall costs. This will mean that tenants will be better able to search around for properties that suit their budget and there will be no hidden costs. This is preferable to tenants  being hit with  upfront charges that  can  be difficult for  them  to afford.

The Government will consult in due course on the detail of how best to implement a ban and will consider the views of  property agencies, landlords, tenants and other  stakeholders before introducing legislation. I would encourage your constituent to participate.

I hope this has helped explain the Government’s position on this policy. The Government will keep it under review, as it does with all tax policy, and it is certainly helpful to have seen the arguments and issues that have been raised.

Please pass on my thanks to Lyndon for taking the trouble to make us aware of these concerns.

JANE  ELLISON

 

Letter to Emma Reynolds MP House of Commons London from Gavin Barwell Minister of State for Housing Planning Department for Communities and Local Government

Email:gavin.barwell@communities.gsi.gov.uk www.gov .uk/dclg

1 6 JAN 2017

Thank you for your email of 16 December on behalf of your constituent Lyndon about implications of Clause 24 and the banning of Letting Agent Fees.

I have noted Lyndon’s concerns. The Government recognises the important role that buy-to-let landlords play in the in the UK housing market and economy. At Summer Budget 2015, the Government set out a package of measures to reduce the budget deficit, rebalance the economy and make the tax system fairer .

By restricting finance cost relief to the basic rate of income tax, all finance costs incurred by individual landlords will be treated the same by the tax system and will reduce the distortion between property investment and investment in other assets. It will also reduce the   advantage landlords may have (for example over first time buyers) in the property market. Landlords will continue to be able to claim income tax relief at their marginal rate on the day­ to-day costs incurred in letting out a property, such as letting agent fees and replacing   furniture. Using actual self-assessment data, HMRC estimate that only 1 in 5 landlords will  pay more tax as a result of this measure. Furthermore, this change is being introduced gradually from April 2017 over 4 years, ensuring  landlords will have time to adjust and plan  for this  change.

I have also noted concerns about the Government’s announcement in the Autumn Statement to ban letting agent fees to tenants. Whilst most letting and managing agents provide a good service, a minority of agents offer a poor service and engage in unacceptable practices. Banning fees to tenants will support better competition in the market and bring down overall costs. The Department will consult ahead of bringing forward legislation.

I hope this helps to explain the actions Government is taking to bring balance and fairness to the house market.

GAVIN BARWELL MP

 

My Response to Gavin Barwell MP:

Dear Mr Barwell,

Thank you for your letter to my Constituency MP, Emma Reynolds, who recently raised some concerns, on my behalf, in relation to clause 24 Finance Act 2015 and the proposed ban on letting agent fees to tenants.

I am now in receipt of your reply to her and would like you to understand and consider the following points;

Let me begin by telling you about me and my family. I do this because I am probably very representative of many other buy to let landlords ( ‘landlords’ being the appropriate description, as opposed to ‘investors’!!), who feel absolutely let down and had their whole life plans potentially destroyed by a Conservative government!

I am from a very working class background in The Black Country, attending a local comprehensive school and being bought up by extremely hard working parents, who, against the difficulties of that time worked hard on the shop floor of factories and installed in their children, the values of hard work and non-reliance on the state.

I went on to enter the West Midlands Police Service and complete 30 years public service in that difficult job.

I have lived my life, working hard and looking after my wife and three children and planning for the future. I own my own house and 15 years ago I decided to take serious risks with the capital that I had saved up.

With much trepidation I entered the property industry, as a buy to let landlord. I risked the ‘family jewels’ with deposits and borrowed heavily (1.8 million. In total), in an effort to create a business that would support my family, both now and in retirement! I now own a portfolio of property locally and then went on to become a letting agent.

My children have all gone on to university and we as a family are no burden whatsoever on the state. We are all self-dependant and although this is changing, we are a typical CONSERVATIVE VOTING FAMILY!! I have voted Conservative at every election since 1979.

I am at this moment in time a member of the Conservative party, however, this is likely to change, as this party is about to be responsible for completely decimating my plans and security for my future.

Most BTL landlords that I encounter, who have used their own, hard worked for deposits and then borrowed to buy property, are natural Conservative voters. There are thousands of these disgruntled people across the country, who are turning their backs on your party in droves. They feel, as I do, that their plans and hard worked for aspirations are about to be ruined!

I have consistently provided good affordable housing for disadvantaged people and also a section of society, who would historically have lived in ‘council accommodation’. I have recently been recognised by my local council, Wolverhampton City Council, by being awarded their first ever 5 star grade, as both landlord and agent. This represents the highest standards in relation to their new and innovative accreditation scheme.

So I think I have now set the scene. Regardless of all the TV and negative media publicity, this is how the vast majority we landlords and agents operate.

All my life I have ‘done the right thing’ and now the rug is being pulled from beneath me by a CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT!!!

Now let me address the comments in your letter;

SECTION 24 FINNCE ACT 2015

  1. How does this level the playing field with first time buyers?

I’ve been a first time buyer, we all have! I bought the house to live in and if after a

period of time I sell it and make a profit, I’m exempt from CGT.

Not so when I buy a BTL property and I’m fine with that.

  1. How can investing in a BTL property be compared to investing in shares? With a share you buy a part of a company and it either goes up or down. I do not consider myself to be an investor, I am running a business, which has associated running costs, one of these being mortgage interest. To run this business I rent the property to a human being and then manage everything that comes with that.
  1. How HMRC have come up with the figure of only 1 in 5, is beyond me. As you are aware landlords will now be pushed into the higher rate tax band by the fact that their turnover will contribute the calculation as opposed to profit. They will now be paying tax on a fictitious profit! This will inevitably force many to sell as no one is going run a loss making business.
  1. A business is what we are running. A difficult business, which involves the skills of managing what can often be challenging human beings. What other business is not allowed to offset their running costs, IN TOTAL, against tax? It is the equivalent of a taxi driver not being able to offset the finance costs of their vehicle and fuel! Ridiculous. We are left paying tax on a fictitious profit.
  1. Who is this change in tax policy going to hit?

Or who is it NOT going to hit?

  1. The Rich – they remain unaffected. They own their property outright and this has no impact.
  2. Property companies – the directors hold their property in limited companies and can continue to offset all their finance costs, but an individual landlord cannot. How bizarre to create a situation like that?

You point out that the changes are being phased in over 4 years to allow for adjustment. The only room for adjustment is to either exit the market, creating homelessness, put rents up to unaffordable levels, or incorporate with all the added financial costs that that brings!

You are actually creating a situation whereby many higher rate tax payers, who have paid their income tax on the rental profit at 40%, year in year out, like me, are going to form limited companies and pay less tax. Why oh why would a CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT be doing that. Why are you going to force landlords to incorporate? That is the only logical adjustment, as you refer to, that can happen.

I’ve tried to remove myself from my landlord’s role and see the logic in what is happening and I cannot actually believe that a Government, that truly understands the implications would continue with it!!! It’s unbelievable!

Given all these points, and I acknowledge that others have set these out to the government in far more depth and with more eloquence than me, you are still set on course to continue with it. Perhaps you should at the very least, make some allowance for people whose plans are in place and not apply it retrospectively! Put it into place for new BTL purchases only.

Lastly, let me address the second issue raised;

PROPOSED BAN ON TENANT LETTING AGENT FEES.

I absolutely acknowledge that there are many rogue agents who in areas of extremely high demand for property, charge extortionate fees. My two daughters both rent in London and believe me I know! However, the moderate fees that most agents charge are realistic and are necessary to enable the agent to provide a good 24 hour service.

We are an agency, managing 300 properties. We offer 24 hour cover to the tenant and will assist in dealing with benefit claims etc. etc. All my staff are qualified in understanding the benefit system. They have been accredited locally by the Local Authority. These services will need to be cut if this ban is brought in.

There are many time wasters, who insist that they want a property and then back out at the last minute. Without the provision of some fees this will get worse.

I have calculated that the loss to our company will be in the region of £24k, which is someone’s job. These fees cannot realistically be passed onto the landlord, the competition is already high and this encourages lower charging agents to flourish. But these agents cannot provide the levels of service that a tenant deserves.

My feelings are that a blanket ban is the equivalent of using a broad brush to tackle a problem that is specific the certain areas and certain agents. Maybe, if you need to legislate, cap the fees?

Mr Barwell, I do hope that you will take my thoughts into consideration and I look forward to your considered response.

Yours sincerely

Lyndon

Landlord and Letting Agent



Comments

Dr Rosalind Beck

10:42 AM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

Excellent work, Lyndon. Very cogently argued. They should be hanging their heads in shame when they repeat these lies and sophistry.

Martin Stephenson

10:59 AM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

I echo everything you say there Lyndon. As I'm sure most landlords and business people with half a brain cell do too. Then why oh why is this this government so adamant on destroying everything we have built up.

How can the call this "levelling the playing field?". As you quite rightly pointed out the rich (who could no doubt cover the hit) don't get affected!

We only have a few properties that we have been trying to build up as our pension plan so as not to have to depend on the state. And at the end of the month after costs etc we come out with very little money as it is.

Its the retrospective tax part I don't understand. Surely the way to "level the playing field" would be as you also mentioned , to start it from our next purchase so that we can factor these cost into it.

I think we can all talk till we are blue in the face, this government is not going to listen to logic. Is'nt it about time the government took a harder line with the scroungers and left the hard working people trying to create a future without burdening the state alone.

Laura Delow

11:05 AM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

Absolutely brilliant.

Tobias Nightingale

11:06 AM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

If it was not so serious what i would find so amusing is the point they make about shares. I mean if for the sake of argument you had the most truly awful rotten properties with smallest rooms imagineable, running rancid water etc (someone with better english could do a more vivid description) but if I as the LL stated this does not matter because I just pay the tax on sale and rental income all my responsibilities are done. .But people would come back and say LL should not be able to get away with that, to that it would come back to the point if it was truly like shares the responsibilities outlined above would be the only responsibilities but because LL is a business (if self managing) of sorts LL does have a duty of care. Or to coin a phrase its the biz of goverment to 'regulate' business practice.

Tobias Nightingale

11:37 AM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

Some part of me could kind of agree with what the gov says. However there are numerous things they could have done such as making equity release a cgt event, could have made borrowings of up to say £1 million deductible, they could have not done QE (main reason property prices through the roof in some places) They could a half decent return on peoples savings. If they are concerned about the young, they could have not introduced tuition fees, which going forward will be a liability for mortgage criteria. They could improve the job market where those with degrees temporary job to temporary job from here to there, who will not be in a position (finance aside) to buy for a good few years. Same with the laws against rogue landlords there has been more than enough for years on that yet more action is needed ostensibly. Meanwhile in my local area I know about 15 people live in a 3-4 bed house and the council has been informed yet they do nothing. Yet heaven forbid if someone does not get a hmo licence for property that is housing exactly the amount bedrooms it has. To that I can imagine they would whisper its because of the homes shortage, To that I would say but your going to white glove inspect the LL who does his/her very best and if anything is wrong you will clamp them in irons how is that fair.

Bill O'Dell

11:43 AM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

In my experience rents in Guildford are at least 10% higher than last year. I'd call that an own goal.

Alex Pawlowski

12:10 PM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

As a landlord and letting agent in the Midlands, that could have been me writing that,
I also wrote to my local MP Julian Knight for Solihull twice and got the same generic standard 'toe the party line' response.
We are making every effort to let our tenants know the reasons behind the 'tenant tax' to get them on board and help us to put further pressure on, but like so may Government policies, I feel they will not concede they have made a mistake.
Excellent letter though Lyndon.
Alex, Ferndown Estates.

Paul Green

13:22 PM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

They say a 4 phase but it is actually 3 years of phase, as the 4th year is 100%. More lies or as they call it in politics spin...
1 year 75%
2nd year 50%
3rd year 25%

That's it from then on it's 100% you don't get the 4th year. The full inpact is conducted in 3 years,

Appalled Landlord

14:02 PM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

Hi Lyndon

Congratulations on your letter to Gavin Barwell.

I think Jane Ellison also needs a letter - hers is shocking.

Not just because of the false comparisons and the irrelevant 1 in 5 ratio that the Treasury has been trotting out since July 2105, but because they claim to have read Ros’s report which rebuts them comprehensively.

The biggest shock to me was the lie “Originally,  the Irish Government abolished tax relief for finance costs altogether.”

As Ros made clear in paragraph 9 of the Executive Summary, "in Ireland it only initially applied to new purchases It is the fact that Section 24 is retroactive
legislation that is so damaging and that will lead to the bankrupting of currently successful businesses.” She amplified this in paragraph 23.2 on page 59.

The description of how the change originally worked starts on page 35 of the “Tax Briefing Issue 32 - June 1998 - Revenue” from the Office of the Chief Inspector of Taxes, which you can download by googling its title.

Jane Ellison’s reply continues by suggesting that Section 24 will be milder than the Irish government’s second experiment, where only 25% is disallowed. This is either a deliberate lie, or the result of lamentable ignorance.

The fact is that in Ireland, landlords have been paying extra tax ON 25% of their finance costs. Section 24 will mean that landlords in the UK will pay extra tax OF up to 25% of their finance costs.

Suppose a 40% taxpayer had finance costs of £10,000. In Ireland he would pay extra tax of 40% on £2,500, or £1,000. Under S 24 the landlord will pay 40% (£4,000) minus the “relief” of 20% (£2,000) making £2,000 net extra tax - twice as much as in Ireland.

A 45% taxpayer in Ireland would pay extra tax of 45% on £2,500, or £1,125. Under S 24 he will pay 45% (£4,500) minus the “relief” of 20% (£2,000) making £2,500 net extra tax - more than twice as much as in Ireland.

I suggest you get your MP to confront Jane Ellison about her deceitful letter. These are facts that she cannot deny, as opposed to sophistry that she can hide behind.

You could also point out that homelessness is already increasing due to S 24, and ask how the increased tax that it raises will compare to the increase in the bill for housing the homeless in “temporary” accommodation.

Lyndon Whitehouse

14:08 PM, 24th February 2017
About 2 years ago

Jane Ellison has received a similar letter, as has Phillip Hammond

1 2 4

Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?

OR

BECOME A MEMBER

And the landlord vote goes to - ?

The Landlords Union

Become a Member, it's FREE

Our mission is to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst UK landlords, tenants and letting agents

Learn More