Debate over spending cuts and taxation is increasingly asking whether landlords should continue to receive an estimated £10 billion - or more - in so-called tax breaks.
Ian Cowie, winner of the ‘financial commentator of the year title’ at the recent Headlinemoney awards, says in the Sunday Times that he is breaking the habit of a lifetime by advocating a tax rise, not a tax cut.
“At a time of austerity, when cuts must be made in many areas we may wish to support, this raises serious questions about whether investors in bricks and mortar should continue to receive unlimited mortgage interest relief 15 years after it was withdrawn from home owners” he writes.
Cowie’s latest call comes in the same edition of the paper that carries a front page headline anticipating £12 billion of cuts in welfare spending, possibly to be announced in the extra Budget that is being give by Chancellor George Osborne on July 8.
Cowie says he has nothing against buy to let nor landlords “but I am anxious about some baby boomers who benefited from decades of house price inflation seem willing to kick away the ladder, trapping younger folk as perpetual tenants in ‘Generation Rent’.”
Tax deductible expenses by buy to let landlords include mortgage broker and arrangement fees, mortgage interest, letting agent fees and their associated tenant-finding and management costs, building and contents insurance premiums, maintenance and repairs, furniture and general wear and tear, ground rent and service charges, council tax and utility bills during void periods, and a range of low cost activities such as visiting the property and telephone calls and stationery charges incurred while managing the buy to let.
In the spring the campaigning charity Shelter claimed landlords actually enjoyed £14 billion in tax breaks in 2013; it says some £6.3 billion of this was tax relief against the cost of mortgage interest alone in the 2012-13 financial year.
Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb has told the media that: “In the context of looming welfare cuts and a dramatic shortage of homes, all those struggling to keep up with sky-high housing costs will be shocked to hear that a massive £14 billion has been given in tax breaks for landlords in just a year.”