Rental Income Guide - Taxes, Expenses, Reliefs, and Reporting

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The Insider @ Houst
Last updated on
August 21, 2023

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Rental Income Guide - Taxes, Expenses, Reliefs, and Reporting

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Are you considering buying a new home or renting out your current property? If so, you should know that income from your properties is subject to income tax. Buy-to-let properties can be a rewarding investment, but the tax implications can be daunting. 

In the UK, landlord taxation takes on several forms, primarily Stamp Duty Land Tax, Capital Gains Tax, and Income Tax. Understanding that these taxes are not all paid at once is essential. Stamp Duty is applicable upon the initial property purchase, while Capital Gains Tax comes into play when you sell an investment property. Income Tax is applicable upon your occupied buy-to-let property.

If you purchase a buy-to-let property through a limited company in the UK, your rental income will be subject to Corporation Tax instead. This option can have its own set of advantages and considerations.

As a landlord, rental income constitutes a significant aspect of your financial activities. In most cases, you must declare this income to HMRC and fulfil any tax obligations accordingly.

Your rental income tax rate depends on your total taxable profit and other sources of income. It could range from 0% to 45%.

Table of Contents

Rental Income

Rental income is defined as the rent landlords receive from their tenants. As per HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) guidelines, any separate payments received for furniture or services provided, such as cleaning of communal areas, hot water, heating, or property repairs, are also considered part of the 'rental income.'

Landlords must be aware of this definition to report their rental income for tax purposes accurately. By including all these elements under the umbrella of rental income, landlords can comply with HMRC regulations and fulfil their tax obligations correctly.

Calculator and documents for rental income calculations on a table.

Paying Tax on Profit from Renting Out Your Property

If you rent a property, you need to pay taxes on the money you make. The amount of tax depends on two factors: 

  • How much money do you earn from renting and spending expenses? To calculate your profit, subtract your expenses from your rental income. The resulting number is what you owe. 
  • The tax rate you pay on your rental income may vary based on your total income from all sources and other personal factors like your tax reliefs and allowances.

Combine profits and losses from all rental properties to determine overall profit or loss for your property business. Keep track of all finances carefully. However, keeping profits and losses from overseas properties separate from those in the UK is crucial.

Different tax rules apply in specific situations, such as:

  • Renting a room in your home: You can access benefits and information regarding taxation rules when renting out your property as a furnished holiday letting.
  • Letting a property as a furnished holiday letting: Taxation rules for properties let out as furnished holiday accommodation differs from standard residential properties.
  • Renting out foreign property: If you own and rent out a property outside the UK, there are specific tax considerations related to foreign properties.
  • Letting a property in the UK while you live abroad: If you're a UK citizen, you must meet certain tax requirements. Follow these regulations to stay compliant with the law.

Types of Property Ownership

When it comes to property ownership and rental in the UK, three types stand out as particularly relevant and commonly encountered:

  1. Joint ownership
  2. Property jointly owned with spouse or civil partner
  3. Property jointly owned but not with a spouse or civil partner

Let’s have a look at them: 

Two hands holding a small house model, symbolizing joint ownership in property rental income.

Joint Ownership

When a property is jointly owned, all owners have equal rights. If one owner dies, their share automatically goes to the remaining owner(s). If you own a property with someone else, you cannot leave your share of the property to someone else in a will. Instead, your share will automatically go to the other owner.

When you own 50% of a property, you will be taxed 50% of the rental income. The other co-owners will be taxed on their own shares.

The jointly owned property business is not considered separate from any properties you own. The income and expenses from all jointly owned properties are combined, and the profits or losses are shared among the co-owners based on their ownership percentages.

Property Jointly Owned with Spouse or Civil Partner

When you jointly own a property with your spouse or civil partner, the default assumption is that you both own equal shares (50%). If the ownership shares are unequal, you must inform HMRC and provide evidence to be taxed correctly based on the actual ownership percentages.

Since each owner is entitled to an equal share in rental income and capital gains, they are divided equally among all owners. No one can choose a different income split; it's automatically shared equally.

Property Jointly Owned but not with a Spouse or Civil Partner

If you own a property with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner, your share of the rental profits or losses is determined by your ownership percentage. Income and expenses are usually divided according to the ownership shares.

However, you can make a different arrangement if you agree on a different rental income and expense allocation. It's essential to have clear communication and an agreement between all co-owners to ensure fair distribution and avoid misunderstandings regarding the property's financial matters.

Record Keeping

Keeping accurate records is crucial when you rent out a property. Maintaining detailed records of rent received and expenses incurred is essential for calculating the profit on which you'll be taxed.

In your records, separating the income from fully-furnished and unfurnished or part-furnished lettings is important. The records you should keep may include rent books, receipts, invoices, bank statements, and mileage logs (for property business-related journeys).

Failure to maintain accurate, complete, and readable records, or not keeping them for the required period, can lead to penalties imposed by HMRC. Also, submitting an inaccurate tax return may also result in penalties. HMRC may conduct checks on your records to ensure you're paying the correct amount of tax. By diligently recording your rental income and expenses, you can stay compliant with tax regulations, avoid penalties, and accurately assess your tax liability. 

Close-up of organized folders and financial documents on a desk, highlighting the importance of record-keeping for rental income.

Cash Basis Accounting

If your business has a simple tax situation, you can benefit from cash-based accounting. This method makes it easier to calculate taxable profits.

Under the cash basis, you record income when it's received and expenses when they are paid, regardless of when the income was earned, or the expenses were incurred. This means you focus on the actual cash flow in and out of your property business. It's a more straightforward and practical approach, especially for landlords who don't maintain complex accounting systems.

If you earn income from a property business, you can use a 'cash basis' instead of standard accounting to determine your taxable profits.

If you qualify for cash basis accounting but would rather use standard accounting methods, you can opt out of cash basis by selecting the correct box on your tax return.

Changes to Tax Relief for Residential Property

The Income Tax relief for landlords on residential property finance costs is limited to the basic tax rate. This change impacts landlords who let residential properties as individuals, in partnerships, or through trusts.

Before, landlords could subtract their mortgage interest and finance costs from their rental income, lowering the taxable income. However, new rules have limited the deduction to the introductory tax rate, presently 20% in the UK.

Landlords may face higher tax liability due to changes in mortgage interest and finance cost relief. They should review their tax situation and consider the impact on rental income. 

Finance costs won't be considered when calculating taxable property profits. After assessing Income Tax on property profits and other income, your tax liability will be reduced by a basic tax reduction rate. For most landlords, this reduction will equal the basic rate of finance costs.

Who is Affected

If you fall into any of the following categories, you'll be affected by the changes in the tax rules for residential landlords with finance costs:

  • UK resident individual who lets residential properties in the UK or overseas.
  • Non-UK resident individual who lets residential properties in the UK.
  • An individual who lets such properties as part of a partnership.
  • Trustees or beneficiaries of trusts are liable for Income Tax on the property profits.

These changes will impact all residential landlords with finance costs, but only some will pay more tax. The impact depends on individual circumstances, such as the finance costs incurred and the overall income from the properties.

Who is Not Affected

The finance cost restriction will not impact you if you belong to any of the following categories:

  • UK resident company.
  • Non-UK resident company.
  • Landlord of Furnished Holiday Lettings.

Suppose you fall into any of these categories. In that case, you can continue to claim relief for interest and other finance costs regularly without any changes due to the finance cost restriction.

Finance Costs Restricted

The finance costs that will be subject to restriction include interest on:

  • Mortgages
  • Loans - including loans used to buy furnishings
  • Overdrafts

In addition to interest, other costs affected by the restriction are:

  • Alternative finance returns
  • Fees and any other incidental costs for getting or repaying mortgages and loans
  • Discounts, premiums, and disguised interest

If you take a loan for both residential and commercial properties, you will need to reasonably apportion the interest to determine the finance costs for the residential properties. However, only the finance costs related to the residential property business will be subject to restriction. This also applies if your loan serves self-employed trade and residential property purposes.

Flat lay of various business expense receipts, a calculator, and a spreadsheet, representing allowable expenses for rental income.

Allowable Expenses

When calculating your taxable rental profit, you can deduct expenses as long as they are wholly and exclusively for the purposes of renting out the property. Let's explore some examples of such allowable expenses:

  • General maintenance and repairs to the property (excluding improvements).
  • Water rates, council tax, gas, and electricity bills.
  • Insurance costs, including landlords' policies for buildings, contents, and public liability.
  • Service costs, like wages for gardeners and cleaners.
  • Fees for letting agents and property management.
  • Legal fees for short-term lets or lease renewals under 50 years.
  • Accountant's fees related to rental income.
  • Rents, ground rents, and service charges.
  • Direct costs like phone calls, stationery, and advertising for new tenants.
  • Vehicle running costs, but only the proportion used for your rental business, including mileage rate deductions for business motoring costs.

However, there are certain expenses you cannot claim deductions for, such as:

  • The full amount of your mortgage payment; only the interest element is allowable.
  • Private telephone calls; you can only claim for calls directly related to your property rental business.
  • Clothing expenses, like a suit bought for a meeting related to your rental business, cannot be claimed as it serves dual purposes.
  • Personal expenses not solely incurred for your rental business are not allowable.

It's crucial to note that 'capital expenditure', which includes buying a property, is not an allowable expense for the deduction. Keeping proper records of these expenses and understanding which ones are allowable can help you maximise your tax deductions and ensure compliance with tax regulations. 

Claiming Part Expenses

Sometimes, you may incur expenses that are not entirely for your property rental business but have a definite part or proportion that is. In such cases, you can only deduct the part or proportion incurred wholly and exclusively for the rental property business.

Let's take an example to illustrate this:

Haley, a landlord, decides to replace the tiles in the bathroom of her investment property. The local tile shop offers 12 square meters of tiles for £240, but she only needs 8 square meters for the bathroom. Since the offer is an excellent value for money, she decides to purchase 12 square meters of tiles.

Haley then uses the extra 4 square meters of tiles for her own house, which means the entire cost was not incurred wholly and exclusively for the rental property.

However, two-thirds of the cost (8 square meters out of 12) was incurred solely for the property rental business.

Consequently, Haley can claim £160 (two-thirds of £240) as a deduction against her rental income. This reflects the portion of the expense that was incurred wholly and exclusively for her property rental business.

Increasing Your Mortgage

If you decide to increase your buy-to-let mortgage loan on a buy-to-let property, you may be eligible to treat the interest on the additional loan as a revenue expense or get relief against income tax. However, this applies only if the additional loan amount is wholly and exclusively used for your letting business.

It's important to ensure that the funds from the additional loan are directly related to your letting business and you have proper documentation to support the purpose of the borrowing.

On the other hand, interest on any additional borrowing above the property's capital value at the time it was brought into your letting business is not tax-deductible. In such cases, you won't be able to claim tax relief on the interest paid for the borrowing that exceeds the property's original capital value when it was first used for letting purposes.

Hand holding a repair tool over a wooden model house, symbolizing home maintenance and repair costs in rental property management.

Maintenance and Repairs Costs

Allowable expenses for property rental businesses include maintenance and repair costs but not 'capital' improvements.

A repair is an action that restores an asset to its original condition, often by replacing parts. Some examples of property repairs are:

  • Replacing roof tiles blown off by a storm.
  • Fixing a broken-down boiler.
  • Performing redecoration between tenants to restore the property to its original condition.

Even if you replace a part of the property with the nearest modern equivalent, it is still considered a repair if the improvement is incidental to the repair. For example, changing a single-glazed window to a double-glazed window would be considered a repair.

If you have an insurance policy covering certain repairs to your property, you can only claim expenses for repairs the insurance payout did not cover. The same applies if you retain your tenant's deposit from a Tenancy Deposit Scheme to cover damages they caused to the property. You can only claim expenses exceeding the amount of the deposit you retained.

However, the costs of replacing furnishings or equipment in a property are not allowable as maintenance and repair costs. From 6 April 2016, such costs were qualified for Replacement Domestic Items relief.

Renewing fixtures like baths, washbasins, or toilets is generally allowable as they are considered repairs to the building, as long as they are like-for-like replacements and not improvements.

The cost of replacing small items like cutlery, crockery, cushions, and bed linen is also allowable. To qualify, these items must be of low value, have a short useful life, and must be replaced regularly, typically almost annually. Understanding the distinction between repairs and improvements and knowing which expenses are allowable can help landlords maximise their tax deductions and manage their rental properties more efficiently. 

Allowances

Allowances refer to the deductions or reductions applied to a taxpayer's income to arrive at the taxable amount. Tax authorities usually provide these deductions to incentivise certain activities or to account for specific expenses incurred by taxpayers.

Landlords can claim various allowances in property rental businesses to reduce their taxable rental income.

Property Allowance

The property allowance is a tax relief available to individuals who earn property income. Under this allowance, you can claim up to £1,000 per year of tax-free property income.

The benefit of the property allowance is that it simplifies tax reporting for landlords with relatively low rental income. Instead of calculating and claiming expenses, you can directly deduct up to £1,000 from your property income, and the remaining amount is what you'll be taxed on.

However, if you claim the property allowance and benefit from the tax-free income, you cannot deduct any expenses related to the property. This means you won't be able to claim deductions for allowable expenses like maintenance, repairs, insurance, and other costs.

Graphic illustration of various allowance icons such as a house, calculator, and dollar sign, representing different types of allowances in rental income.

Allowances for Replacement of Domestic Items

Let out a residential property (dwelling house). You may be eligible to claim a deduction for the cost of replacing domestic items, which includes movable furniture (e.g., beds, free-standing wardrobes), furnishings (e.g., curtains, linens, carpets, floor coverings), household appliances (e.g., televisions, fridges, freezers), and kitchenware (e.g., crockery, cutlery).

This deduction falls under the Replacement of Domestic Items Relief, which is applicable for expenses incurred from 6 April 2016 for Income Tax purposes.

You can claim this relief when:

  1. You operate a property business that involves letting dwelling houses.
  2. An old domestic item provided for use in the dwelling-house is replaced with the purchase of a new domestic item, and:
  • The new item is provided exclusively for the lessee's use in that dwelling house.
  • The old item is no longer available for use by the lessee.
  • The expenditure on the new item would otherwise be prohibited by the capital expenditure rule, but the wholly and exclusive rule does not prohibit it.
  • Capital allowances have not been claimed for the expenditure on the new domestic item.

However, you cannot claim this relief in the following situations:

  • If you replace a domestic item in a property that qualifies as a Furnished Holiday Let, you can continue to claim capital allowances on these items.
  • If you use the Rent a Room Scheme.
  • For the initial cost of buying domestic items for a dwelling house.

Replacement of Domestic Items Relief applies to dwelling houses that are unfurnished, part-furnished, or fully furnished.

Landlords need to understand the specific rules and conditions for claiming this relief to ensure compliance with tax regulations and optimise their tax position when replacing domestic items in their rental properties. Seeking advice from a qualified tax professional can provide personalised guidance based on individual circumstances.

When the New Item is an Improvement on the Old Asset

When replacing a domestic item in your rental property, you can only claim a deduction for buying a similar item. If the replacement is an improvement, you can only claim the cost of the original item. The additional cost of the improvement is not eligible for relief.

For example, you swapped a sofa for a sofa bed that costs £550, but a regular sofa would have cost £400. You can only get tax relief for the cost of the regular sofa (£400). The extra £150 spent on the sofa bed is not eligible for relief. An item can be considered an improvement if it has significant functional changes or upgrades in quality or material or if it is noticeably different from the old item.

However, suppose the replacement item is a reasonable modern equivalent, such as a fridge with an improved energy-efficient rating compared to the old fridge. In that case, it is not considered an improvement. In this situation, the full cost of the new item is eligible for relief.

How to Work Out the Amount of Deduction

To calculate the allowable deduction for a new item, add the cost of the new item and the incidental costs of disposing of the old item or purchasing the replacement. The total is your allowable deduction.

  1. Add the cost of the new replacement item and any incidental costs associated with disposing of the old item or buying the replacement. This includes any expenses incurred, such as delivery or removal fees.
  2. Deduct any amounts received from selling or part-exchanging the old item. Subtract the money you get for the old item from the total cost in step 1.

For example, you replaced a refrigerator in your rental property with a new and improved energy-efficient one. The new fridge costs £500, and you incurred £50 in incidental costs for disposing of the old fridge and purchasing the replacement.

If you sold the old fridge and received £150 for it, the allowable deduction for the new fridge would be calculated as follows:

Total cost of new fridge + Incidental costs: £500 + £50 = £550

Amount received from selling the old fridge: £150

Allowable deduction for the new fridge: £550 - £150 = £400

In this example, the allowable deduction for the new fridge would be £400, which can be claimed against your rental income.

Pie chart breaking down types of capital expenditures, including building improvements, new appliances, and landscaping, in the context of rental property investment.

Capital Expenditure

Expenses that are considered 'capital expenses' are those that will be used in the business over an extended period, such as when you:

  • Add something to the property that was not present before, like building an extension.
  • Alter, improve, or upgrade something existing, such as renovating the property or installing a security system.
  • Include the purchase of furnishings and equipment for the property that will have a lasting benefit beyond the current tax year.

Capital expenses are not allowable and cannot be directly claimed against your rental income for tax purposes. Keep records of property expenses to offset Capital Gains Tax when selling.

Here are some examples of capital expenses that would not normally be allowable for claiming against rental income:

  • Adding an extension to the property increases the property's overall size and value.
  • Installing a security system, like CCTV cameras, if there was no security system before.
  • Replacing the existing kitchen with a higher specification enhances the property's value and features.

Landlords must distinguish between capital and allowable expenses (operational expenses) for tax purposes. Claiming allowable expenses can help reduce the tax liability on rental income, while capital expenses can have tax implications upon property sale in the form of Capital Gains Tax. 

If You Carry Out Work on a Property Before Leasing or Renting

Suppose you do substantial work on a property before leasing or renting it out. Some renovation costs may be capital expenses, not deductible from rental income.

Capital expenses are expenditures that improve the property or extend its useful life and are not eligible for immediate deduction from rental income. Instead, these costs may be used to offset Capital Gains Tax when you sell the property.

For example, if you purchase a property at a significantly reduced price due to its derelict or run-down state and then invest in extensive renovations to make it fit for rental, the expenses incurred for those works will likely be considered capital expenses. These renovations improve the property's rental value, making it capital work.

As capital expenses are not allowable for immediate deduction, keeping records of these costs for future reference when calculating Capital Gains Tax liability upon property sale is essential. You can claim regular maintenance, repairs, and replacements as expenses against your rental income for tax purposes.

How to Work Out Your Taxable Profits

When calculating your overall profit or loss from your UK property business, you should treat all the receipts and expenses as one business entity, even if you own multiple UK properties. Here's the process to calculate your profit or loss:

  • Add together all your rental income from all the UK properties you own.
  • Add together all your allowable expenses incurred in managing and maintaining those properties.
  • Subtract the total allowable expenses from the total rental income to determine your profit or loss.

When running a property business, the tax you'll pay on your profits is influenced by your total income from other sources like employment, self-employment, pensions, and other income. Therefore, it's crucial to take these into account. Your total income and any applicable Capital Gains Tax Allowance and deductions will determine your final tax liability for the year.

Diagram showing the process of reporting taxable profits, from compiling financial records to submitting tax forms.

How to Report Your Taxable Profits

When you make money from renting out property, it's important to let HMRC know about your taxable profits. Here are some essential things to remember:

  1. Option for Adjustment in PAYE Code: If you’re employed, and rental profits are below a threshold, ask HMRC to adjust your PAYE code.
  2. Self-Assessment Tax Return: If HMRC asks you to do so, you must report your rental profits on a Self Assessment tax return. They are likely to request a tax return if your income meets certain criteria:
  • More than £2,500 after allowable expenses.
  • £10,000 or more before allowable expenses.
  1. Determining Tax Return Requirement: You may need to complete a tax return based on several factors. These factors include the rent you receive, the profit you earn, and any additional income sources, such as employment or pensions.
  2. Reporting Rental Income and Expenses: If asked, you must report rental income and expenses on your tax return, even if you don't owe tax.
  3. Let Property Campaign: If you have undisclosed property income you haven't previously informed HMRC about, you can use the "Let Property Campaign" to declare and regularise your tax affairs.

If You’re Not Registered for Self Assessment

If you receive rental income that must be reported but do not usually file a tax return, you need to sign up for Self Assessment with HMRC by October 5th of the tax year when you received rental income. Not registering on time could lead to penalties.

Here are some key points to consider regarding the registration process:

  • You need to register for Self Assessment if you have rental income requiring tax return reporting.
  • Failing to register on time may result in penalties or fines from HMRC.
  • Different registration methods are available for various situations. The registration process will differ if you are self-employed, a sole trader, not self-employed, or a member of a partnership.
  • To make sure you can submit your tax return by the deadline, it's important to give yourself enough time to finish the registration process.

Losses

If your allowable expenses exceed your rental income, you will incur a loss in your property rental business. Normally, you can offset this loss against any future profits from the same rental business in subsequent tax years.

If you are letting out more than one property, you should combine the income and expenditure from all properties to calculate an overall profit or loss for the entire year. This means that the expenses from one property can be offset against the income from another. If there is a loss from one property, it will be automatically offset against the profits from other properties, reducing your overall tax liability.

Uncommercial Lets

Relief for losses in a property rental business is only available when the loss arises from commercial letting. Commercial letting refers to renting out the property on market terms to unrelated parties at a market rent. If you incur losses from commercial letting, you can offset these losses against your other income, reducing your overall tax liability.

However, suppose you let out a property on non-commercial terms, such as to a friend or a relative, at a reduced rent. However, suppose you let out a property on non-commercial terms, such as to a friend or a relative, at a reduced rent. You can only deduct property expenses up to the amount of rent received. Excess expenses cannot be carried forward to future tax years and are lost.

How to Report Losses

If HMRC requests a tax return, you must provide details of your rental income and expenses, even if you made a loss during the year.

If You Stop Renting Property

When your rental business ends, any losses carried forward are usually lost and cannot be offset against other income.

If you start renting again within 3 years and continue the same property business, you may be able to claim earlier property losses against any profits from the new property, depending on your situation.

When selling a property that is not your main home and you make a profit, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax on the gains from the sale.

Houst - Simplifying Rental Management for Increased Revenue

Houst is a professional rental property management company that handles every aspect of managing rental properties, providing property owners with a seamless and hassle-free experience. Our team of experts handles everything from property marketing and tenant screening to rent collection and maintenance, ensuring your properties are well taken care of and attracting the right tenants. Using cutting-edge analytics, we set optimal rental rates that keep your income thriving and your tenants happy. 

A user-friendly platform gives you real-time access to essential data, empowering you to make informed decisions and enjoy complete transparency in your rental business. Whether you own one property or a whole portfolio, trust Houst to simplify your rental journey. 

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider team at Houst is dedicated to providing up-to-date and relevant information on short-term rentals. If you have hosting inquiries, please write to us at expert@houst.com. For guest inquiries, reach out at guest@houst.com. We are here to help you navigate the world of short lets and look forward to assisting you with your needs.

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider team at Houst is dedicated to providing up-to-date and relevant information on short-term rentals. If you have hosting inquiries, please write to us at expert@houst.com. For guest inquiries, reach out at guest@houst.com. We are here to help you navigate the world of short lets and look forward to assisting you with your needs.

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"I have a philosophy in life called keep it simple. I don't live to work, I work to live. This is the first time I've leased this property on Airbnb. A house allows me to have vision of all the revenue and all the expenses associated with the apartment. They work as a well-oiled machine. They strive very hard to keep both myself and the tenants happy."

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