Archive | May, 2015

Pension Freedoms – Is Buy to Let a Stupid Option With My Pension Fund?

22 May



I have been investigating this due to the discussions in the tabloids but rarely with clients. If I cash in my pension fund, pay the tax and invest the residue in a property – is this a good idea? I have heard that near a university there are student flats available with a guaranteed rental for the first 12 months, etc etc

The details below are for all of those thinking of entering this market….

Image result for buy to let pictures confused

Since the change of Pension Legislation in April 2015, the press has been fully of “spiffy” ideas – why not use your pension to buy a Property and let it out. Much better than one of those silly ‘pension’ things. How can you lose? Property prices always go up??? Hurray for pension freedom! – if I made these statements in my professional life, I’m sure I’d be strung up …. seems madness just focusing on what might go right; what about the risks??? – there I go – typical financial adviser trying to offer a balanced representation – naughty, naughty

Firstly, unless you are going to get involved in timeshare and fractional ownership, we are talking about proper money here. I’d say £200,000 and more.

At that level, we can assume that the client is a higher rate taxpayer, and will probably have other assets.

So let’s run the numbers. Let’s see what this looks like.

If we accept the premise that pensions do and will perform worse than property, and that property can never fall – ‘stupid’ assumptions, but go on – then the simplified figures go something like this

£300,000 pension pot, assuming 6% gross growth, minus 1% fund and platform charges, and 1% adviser charge. A bit high, but OK.

Value of pot in 10 years is a bit under £447,250.

Instead, attracted by the publicity, we take the £300,000 and cash it in. That makes it worth £211,250, using the ‘tax free cash’.

Not great, but we are looking at higher returns. So 4% year on year compound capital growth and 5% income yields – both gross, but 9% total return as a starting point, 50% more than a pension portfolio.

Assuming that the client is a higher rate taxpayer throughout, and that the property is always occupied, and that there are never any capital events required (boilers, roof painting), there are no legal fees, there are no ‘void’ periods, that all tenants pay their rent and look after the property, and the property is sold at the imagined market value, then the net total value returned to the client – including income is… (drum roll) …. just under £399,438. So another £47,812 loss after the original £88,750 tax take.

So I guess the revenue will be supportive of this particular brilliance. Always remember there are other fees to consider, such as, Agents fees (they can be chunky as well), Stamp Duty, Legal Fees,m Contracts, Tenant Vetting, Property Maintenance, Property and Landlord Legislation, costs due to voids and periods of the property being empty, utility costs, tenants non-payments maybe, etc.

As a point of interest, any idea what the gross return needs to be for the Buy To Let to actually break even with the pension? A ‘critical return required?

Its actually nearer 14.5%.

Can you imagine if I tried to take this plan to our compliance for approval?

“I’ve got this great idea! We take a well diversified, flexible and secure portfolio, and cash it in. The client then pays at his highest marginal income tax rate (mainly 40% tax but a bit in the additional rate of 45%) and then invests in a single illiquid asset, which may well require them to add further funds, and take time to manage the asset themselves. There may be court costs involved at some point and we get to pay lots of agents fees and tax. And to match the boring, diversified portfolio, in a low inflation, low risk environment, this single, risky asset only has to grow by at least 14.5% every year to break even!! What a great wheeze!

Excuse me, why are you ringing the FCA……?”

In all the above I have ignored the effects of Inheritance Tax. Promises have been made. They have been before. This time they may be kept. Who knows?

But the BTL is assessable for Inheritance Tax, the pension is not. So if we look at Inheritance Tax, then an additional 40% tax knocks us down by another lump. A real and substantial loss after 10 years.

If your belief is, we all need to give extra coppers to the national pot – then this could be a good option – not only a loss through initial tax payable of £88,750, relative loss in capital value net of Capital Gains Tax of £47,812 but if Inheritance Tax applies then a further £159,775. This could provide £296,337 of tax and relative losses that you could have avoided.

I believe emotionally, some clients will be vulnerable to this suggestion, and clearly some will actually do OK. The numbers are brutal for the majority and I see my role must be to make people aware and protect them from the circling speculators, who are not held responsible for their wild and ill though through counsel.