Open Letter to George Freeman MP – ConservativeMake Text Bigger
Dear Mr Freeman
I have been a Conservative voter for my whole life and have used the influence of my property forum and blogs (200,000 subscribers) to encourage my peers to vote the same way.
I would very much like to meet with you to discuss my concerns regarding the budget, in particular the impact on lending institutions and a hardcore of Conservative voters who invest into buy-to-let property. I believe the impact is far more wide reaching than may have been considered and could well lead to another banking crisis, as I will go on to explain below.
My understanding of the logic behind the budget announcement is to reduce incentive for highly geared buy to let transactions, which the Bank of England recently reported to be a risk to the economy. I broadly agree with that. However, the consequences of the budget are that an established private landlord using a high gearing business model could now end up falling into the 45% tax bracket even if his rental portfolio is only breaking even and even if he has little or no other income or resources with which to service that increased tax burden. Please see the example below:-
SCENARIO AS OF TODAY
Rental income: £300,000 per annum
Mortgage interest: £200,000
Other legitimate expenses: £100,000 (e.g. insurance, letting, management, maintenance etc.)
Taxable income = zero.
SAME SCENARIO AS OF 2020
Rental income: £300,000 per annum
Legitimate expenses excluding interest: £100,000
Net taxable income = £200,000
Net cashflow is still zero but tax is payable on £200,000 less a tax credit of £40,000 due to the 20% relief on the £200,000 of mortgage interest.
Given that net cashflow is zero, where is the landlord expected to find the money to pay the extra tax from?
The position worsens when interest rates increase.
It gets worse!
Until now, buy-to-let mortgage underwriting and associated lending criteria has been based on the current tax system, which has not made provision for this extra tax. Many thousands of established professional landlords have based their business models on the current tax system and lending criteria. If these landlords are now allowed to fail we could be looking at another credit crisis, plus of course a further negative impact on the housing crisis..
General consensus is that highly geared landlords will be able to pay down their debt by selling some of their properties. However, the very nature of a highly geared property investment strategy means that in several cases the net sale proceeds would be insufficient to pay CGT due to outstanding mortgage liabilities having significantly exceeded the original purchase price of assets due to refinancing in line with property values during the property boom which has occurred since the early/mid 90’s. There is no CGT rollover relief available to private landlords on residential property so they cannot convert to a corporate structure either without incurring CGT. Accordingly, many are trapped into an inevitable bankruptcy scenario by the budget announcements. The net losers (in addition to these landlords) will be the banks and society as a whole due to the losses incurred on forced sales, the reducing supply of quality rental property and the associated demand led rental inflation.
The Chancellor said that he wishes to make it easier for people to become homeowners. A significant exodus from the Private Rental Sector may well facilitate this in terms of reducing property values but it will not create any more housing. In fact, it may well reduce incentive to develop new housing. This is because over the last two decades a significant proportion of new build housing stock has been purchased by landlords, thus driving up the profits of developers to a point where it makes developing new builds viable. A reduction in the appetite for buy-to-let investment, combined with a reduction in property prices, may well have the effect of reducing property developer profits, and hence incentive to build new homes. Another knock on consequence of this is that a reduction in new developments would result in less new social housing being built.
It would be politically very awkward for the Chancellor to do a u-turn at this point, albeit not impossible. However, the following concessions may be equally effective to deal with the Chancellors objectives whilst negating the necessity to openly backtrack in order to avoid the negative repercussions and unintended consequences of the Summer 2015 Budget:-
Option 1) announce that the new tax rules only apply to new debt as of 2017 or
Option 2) introduce CGT rollover for residential investment property in order to allow landlords with large portfolio’s to roll their assets into a corporate structure or
Option 3) declare a CGT amnesty for BTL landlords for a given period which will still have the effect of reducing the size of the PRS (albeit with some reduction in property values due to the possible scale of transactions) but with reduced negative consequences in terms of insolvency induced forced sales and the knock on effects to banks and property developers.
I look forward to your reply and hope we can schedule a meeting sooner rather than later.
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