It’s been revealed that HM Revenue & Customs scours the listings on both Rightmove and Zoopla to assess whether property investors are paying sufficient tax - or any tax at all.
It’s thought that HMRC cross-checks tax returns, council tax bills, Land Registry data and portal listings from the ‘big two’ as part of the government’s Let Property Campaign.
Zoopla has declined to comment on the issue but has let it be known that it had no involvement in the analysis by tax officials; Rightmove had not responded to a similar request for information by Estate Agent Today.
The use of portal listings has been identified by national accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, which says that HMRC has been particularly active to identify landlords avoiding paying tax.
The tax inspectors running the Let Property Campaign proactively email buy to let landlords suspected of avoiding tax on their rental income warning them of the consequences of tax avoidance. UHY Hacker Young says the campaign has been successful at encouraging millions to come forward and declare unpaid tax – partly to avoid a full-blown tax investigation.
The total amount of additional tax collected by HMRC through the campaign amounted to £17.7m in the last year.
UHY Hacker Young claims that HMRC’s Connect AI system detects targets for the campaign by cross-referencing data.
Neela Chauhan, partner at UHY Hacker Young, says: “HMRC sees rich pickings in the buy to let market in terms of unpaid tax. The amounts collected from landlords who have voluntarily come forward suggest they may be right in their assessment.
“Landlords leave themselves vulnerable to prosecution and even a prison sentence if they fail to declare the correct amount of rental income or pay Capital Gains Tax on the sale of buy to let properties.
“Given the consequences of laying low, proactively admitting a possible error to HMRC is unquestionably the prudent course of action.”