Do HMRC Investigate Landlords?

Landlords play a crucial role in providing housing for individuals and families. However, it is essential for landlords to comply with tax regulations and declare all rental income accurately. Failure to do so can lead to investigations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the UK’s tax authority. This article explores the methods HMRC employs to trace undisclosed rental income and the consequences landlords may face if they are found to be non-compliant.

HMRC’s Methods for Tracing Undisclosed Rental Income

HMRC possesses a wide range of resources and methods to identify landlords who may be under-declaring their rental income. These include:

  • Stamp Duty Land Tax Records: When a property is purchased in England or Northern Ireland, Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is payable. HMRC maintains records of all SDLT transactions, which can indicate potential rental properties.

  • HM Land Registry: HMRC collaborates with HM Land Registry, which holds information on all property transactions in England and Wales. This data can help HMRC identify individuals who own multiple properties, which may suggest rental activity.

  • Estate Agents: Estate agents are often aware of rental properties and can provide valuable information to HMRC. HMRC may request details of properties managed by estate agents to cross-check against declared rental income.

  • Security Deposit Schemes: Landlords are required to place tenancy deposits in government-approved schemes. HMRC has access to these schemes and can use the information to identify landlords who may not have declared all of their rental income.

  • Electoral Register: The electoral register contains information on individuals’ addresses. HMRC can use this data to link individuals to properties and identify potential rental income that has not been declared.

  • Informants: HMRC encourages individuals to report suspected tax evasion, including undisclosed rental income. Informants may include tenants, former spouses, or neighbors who have knowledge of a landlord’s rental activities.

Consequences of Undisclosed Rental Income

Landlords who fail to declare all of their rental income may face significant consequences, including:

  • Financial Penalties: HMRC can impose substantial financial penalties on landlords who under-declare their rental income. These penalties can range from 10% to 100% of the undeclared income, depending on the severity of the offense.

  • Back Taxes: Landlords who have not declared all of their rental income will be required to pay back taxes on the undeclared income, plus interest. This can result in a significant financial burden.

  • Criminal Prosecution: In severe cases, HMRC may pursue criminal prosecution against landlords who have deliberately concealed their rental income. This can lead to imprisonment and a criminal record.

Voluntary Disclosure

Landlords who have undisclosed rental income can voluntarily disclose it to HMRC through the Let Property Campaign. This campaign provides an opportunity for landlords to come forward and declare their undeclared income without facing the full extent of penalties. However, it is important to note that landlords who voluntarily disclose their undeclared income may still be subject to some financial penalties.

HMRC is actively pursuing landlords who fail to declare all of their rental income. Landlords who are found to be non-compliant face significant financial and legal consequences. It is crucial for landlords to maintain accurate records of their rental income and to declare all income to HMRC to avoid potential investigations and penalties.

Everything you need to know about HMRC investigations


Is it tax evasion to not report rental income?

Short answer—yes. According to the IRS, “any payment you receive for the use or occupation of property” is rental income. All income should be reported. Even if your real estate investments are operating at a loss, you’re still required to report the revenue.

How far back can HMRC investigate?

As a basic rule, HMRC tax investigations will go back 4 years if they feel the mistake was innocent, six when it is deemed careless, and as far back as 20 years when they suspect tax evasion or fraud.

What is the fine for landlords in the UK?

Penalties for a first-time breach have skyrocketed and could mean you are liable for a fine of £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier, a considerable increase from the previous fines of £80 and £1,000 respectively. Repeat offenders can now face fines of £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier.

Does rental income count as earned income UK?

The Income Tax rates and thresholds for your rental income are the same as those for your personal income. However, adding your net rental income to any other income you receive may push you over your usual tax threshold and into a new, higher band.

Is HMRC investigating landlord tax avoidance firms?

HMRC is likely investigating the two big landlord tax avoidance firms. What should their clients do? We recently wrote about two landlord tax avoidance outfits: Less Tax for Landlords and Property118.

Why is HMRC reviewing landlords tax liabilities?

HMRC are currently reviewing all landlords tax liabilities. The aim of the review is to ensure that landlords pay the correct amount of tax due and any discrepancies be investigated, identified and paid. The focus is on a range of tax matters, including income from property rental, capital gains tax and inheritance tax.

Why is HMRC cracking down on landlords?

The crackdown on landlords comes as part of HMRC’s wider efforts to increase tax compliance across all sectors of the economy. HMRC are focusing on areas where it believes tax evasion is most prevalent and easiest to collect which means the primary target is buy-to-let landlords. So How does HMRC track rental income?

What should a landlord do when receiving a letter from HMRC?

The most important thing a landlord should do when receiving a letter from HMRC is to reply to it within the time limit provided. It will always be prudent to take advice from a property tax professional before replying, even if it is just to confirm that there is no tax to pay.

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