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Updated on 6 April 2024

Working out property income

On this page, we look at how you calculate your property income for tax purposes – in other words, your profit from renting out property. This includes identifying your income and understanding your allowable expenses, all of which are important when calculating your taxable profit. There are also some complex rules relating to mortgage interest and other finance costs that you need to be aware of.

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Basis of assessment

If you are an individual and your total gross income (rents) from letting out property is less than £150,000, you will normally work out rental profits on the cash basis. However, you can choose to work them out on the accruals basis if you prefer – if so, you need to elect to use this basis on your tax return.

Cash basis

The cash basis means that you take into account gross income (rent) that you have actually received from your tenant during the tax year less expenses that you have actually paid during the tax year.

Example – cash basis

Colin is renting a property from you and you agree he will pay you £500 a month, but he gets behind with rent and misses a month. At the end of the year, you have only received 11 months’ rent. So, you only have to include 11 months’ rent when calculating your rental profit for the year.

Accruals basis

The accruals basis means that you take into account the rental income receipts that were due to be paid to you for the period. You also include expenses relating to the tax year, regardless of when they are actually paid. 

Example – accruals basis

Simon is renting a property from you and you agree he will pay you £600 a month, but he gets behind with the rent. You still have to pay tax on the £600 a month he was due to pay you, even though you did not actually get all of it.

But if it becomes clear that you are never going to recover the money you are owed, you might be able to claim this as an expense against the rent – this is known as a ‘bad debt’.

Allowable expenses

Allowable expenses are basically expenditure (other than capital expenditure, like improvements to the property) incurred ‘wholly and exclusively’ for the purposes of the rental 'business'.

Typical allowable expenses for a rental property include:

  • the cost of repairs and renewals which are necessary to maintain the property in a suitable condition to let out. Note that if you spend money on improving a property, such as adding an extension, or have to do work to the property to make it suitable to rent out when you first let it, this is not allowable for income tax purposes (although may be for capital gains tax purposes)
  • the cost of insurance
  • costs of finding a tenant, such as advertising
  • legal costs on the renewal of a letting agreement
  • letting agents’ fees, if you use one
  • re-decorating
  • council tax and water charges
  • interest on money borrowed to purchase or improve the property

Note that if you have a repayment mortgage, the amount you pay off the loan balance – the ‘capital’ element – is not an allowable expense. Note, however, that tax relief on interest is restricted and is not deducted from rental profits in the same way as other expenses – we explain this in more detail below.

Replacement items

You can also deduct the costs you actually incur on replacing furnishings, appliances and kitchenware in the property. You can claim relief for a like-for-like replacement, or nearest modern equivalent. You can also claim the costs of disposing of the old asset, although you have to set off anything you receive for the old asset against those costs first. This replacement relief for furnishings is available to all landlords, not just those who let out fully furnished properties.

HMRC’s information for the public on allowable property rental expenses can be found on GOV.UK.

Interest and other finance costs

Tax relief on interest and other finance costs is restricted in relation to residential properties. Tax relief is restricted to the basic rate of income tax.

This means that residential property finance costs are not taken into account when calculating taxable rental profits. Instead, your income tax liability is reduced by a basic rate tax reduction – for most individuals this will be the interest and other finance costs at the basic rate of tax.

The tax reduction is the basic rate of tax (currently 20%) multiplied by the lower of:

  • the appropriate proportion of interest and other finance costs
  • property profits
  • adjusted total income

‘Adjusted total income’ means your total taxable income after deducting personal allowances but excluding savings and dividend income. The tax reduction cannot create a tax refund, so if the reduction is calculated using either of the property profits or the adjusted total income then the difference between that and the finance costs is carried forward to future tax years.

The restriction applies to interest on mortgages, loans and overdrafts and other finance costs.

Example – finance costs

Carrie, who lives in England, has gross rental income of £12,000 in 2024/25. Her allowable rental expenses are £1,000. Her mortgage interest is £4,000. She also has employment income of £15,000.

Her income tax liability for 2024/25 is:




Rental income receipts



Rental expenses



Mortgage interest (not deductible)






Rental profits



Employment income



Total income



Less: Personal allowance



Income on which tax is charged



Basic rate tax £13,430 at 20%


Tax reducer for finance costs £4,000 at 20%


Income tax liability



If you are a Scottish taxpayer, the basic rate of tax used will be the rate set by the Scottish Parliament, but otherwise, the same principles apply.


Often a tenant will pay a deposit to the landlord, to cover any potential damage over the course of the tenancy.

You do not include the deposit as income at the time you receive it, because the money is not really ‘yours’ anyway (you will usually have to pay it back if there is no damage or rent arrears at the end of the tenancy) and you have to protect it in a government scheme.

But when the tenant moves out, let us say you agree that you will keep £200 of the deposit for repairing the plaster on the hallway wall, which has been damaged when the tenant was moving furniture. At that point, the £200 you keep is included in your taxable rental income, but the rest of the deposit returned to the tenant is not. The cost of repairing the wall is also an allowable expense, so effectively the two are likely to cancel each other out.


If you lose money (make a ‘loss’) from renting out a property – that is, your allowable expenses are more than your income – you may be able to take it off a profit from renting out another property, as generally all your rental income in the UK is treated as one ‘rental business’.

Otherwise, the loss will generally be carried forward to the next tax year and deducted against the profit for that year, if you make one. 

Example – losses

Terry lets out a flat and in the 2023/24 tax year makes a loss of £500 – the old windows were rotten, so he had to pay for replacements which exceeded his rent for the year. He elects not to use the property allowance of £1,000, so that he can claim the loss.

In 2024/25, there are no major costs so his rental profit from the flat is £4,000.

Terry can carry forward the 2023/24 loss of £500 to 2024/25, meaning he only has to pay tax on £3,500 of rental profit in 2024/25. That is, the £4,000 profit he made for 2024/25, minus the loss of £500 from the year before.

Terry could opt to make use of the property allowance in 2024/25 – if he does this, he will not be able to deduct any of his actual rental property expenses relating to 2024/25. If we assume that there were no expenses deducted in reaching the rental profit figure of £4,000, Terry could deduct the property allowance of £1,000, leaving him with taxable profits of £3,000, which could then be reduced to £2,500 by the loss of £500 from the year before.

Selling a rental property or long-term lease

Capital gains tax can arise if you dispose of an asset. That might not be selling it altogether, but it could be giving away part of it or even giving someone a partial interest in a property – which could mean granting someone a ‘lease’ and them continuing to pay you some rent.

The rental rules we explained above assume that you are only letting out property on a short-term basis. If you are granting a let or lease for a longer term – 50 years or more – you will need to consider taking professional advice from a solicitor and a tax adviser.

If the property has ever been your own home, you might qualify for some amount relief from capital gains tax should you sell it. Note that, for disposals after 5 April 2020, the ability to get capital gains tax relief for periods where the property is let is restricted. If you are at all uncertain about this, we would suggest you take advice.

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