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Can a buy-to-let property provide a retirement income?

In 2014 the Chancellor announced a number of pension changes that are designed to give savers more freedom and flexibility over how they access their pensions. Under the new rules you can draw as much of your pension as you would like, with up to 25% taken as tax-free cash and the remainder being taxed at your usual rate of Income Tax.

Nick Reeves
21 January 2015

This new freedom opens up several opportunities for pensioners to seek alternative sources of retirement income – one of which is the purchase of a buy-to-let property. In this article we look at whether such an investment could give you a sustainable income throughout your retirement.

How much tax is there to pay?

While the prospect of regular rental income may sound appealing at first, the purchase of a buy-to-let property could prove to be highly tax-inefficient and not necessarily the best use of your pension savings. In the below example, we look at how a £400,000 pension pot can be eroded by the purchase of a buy-to-let property.

The £400,000 pension pot would be withdrawn in two parts:

  • 25% tax-free lump sum - £100,000
  • Taxable withdrawal - £300,000

The income tax liability on the taxable withdrawal of £300,000 would be approximately £120,000 (based on 2015/16 tax rates, and assuming no other sources of income). This means that the £400,000 pension is immediately reduced to £280,000 as a result of the full withdrawal.

On top of this, there is stamp duty to pay on the purchase of any property worth over £125,000. This would reduce the value of the pension by £3,750 when buying a £275,000 property. This reduces the overall value of the pension to approximately £275,000, before additional expenses such as solicitor fees and furnishing the property.

Drawing an income from your buy-to-let property

Rental yield can vary widely depending on the location of the property. The typical yield varies between 4 - 7%, before the associated costs for insurance, agency fees, maintenance of the property and so on. This would give investors a potential annual income of £11,000-19,350 on the purchase of a £275,000 property, although the income would also be subject to Income Tax.

This would mean a potential income yield of just 2.75 - 4.81% on your initial £400,000 investment, which is broadly similar to current annuity rates. However, unlike properties, annuities provide an income with no investment risk and do not come with ongoing maintenance costs.

It is also worth noting that the purchase of a buy-to-let property is a highly concentrated investment into a single asset, and as such could be exposed to additional risks. For example, there could be periods where the property is empty and no income is provided.

All things considered, at Tilney Bestinvest we would not typically recommend cashing in your pension to purchase a buy-to-let property as a source of retirement income. If you would like to discuss your own options for income at retirement, or for more information on how this year's pension changes could affect you, why not get in touch with one of our qualified financial planners today? Simply email us or call 020 7189 2400.

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The value of investments, and the income derived from them, can go down as well as up and you can get back less than you originally invested. Prevailing tax rates and reliefs are dependent on your individual circumstances and are subject to change. This article does not constitute personal advice.