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Buy-to-let faces new tax attack! That’s why I’m investing in FTSE 100 shares instead

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For several years I have been advocating investing in FTSE 100 shares rather than buy-to-let, and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind yet. Now I think the balance is swinging even stronger in favour of UK shares as Chancellor Rishi Sunak hunts for ways to fund his Covid-19 bailout.

Capital gains tax (CGT) seems likely to be right at the top of his list. Politically, this will be a relatively painless tax to hike, as it will only hit a small part of the electorate. Unfortunately, buy-to-let investors are among their number. Anybody wondering whether to invest in FTSE 100 shares or property needs to bear this into account. It would certainly affect my thinking.

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Currently, there are two levels of CGT for those selling an investment property. Basic rate taxpayers pay 18%, while higher rate and additional rate tax payers pay 28%. Sunak is likely to increase these rates in line with income tax. In other words, to 20%, 40% or 45%, depending on your tax bracket. That’s quite a hike.

Here’s why I’m buying FTSE 100 shares

CGT is also charged on share disposals. Here the tax rates are lower, at 10% and 20% respectively. So the CGT increase would actually be higher if aligned with income tax, but there’s a difference. You can escape CGT altogether, by investing in FTSE 100 shares using your Stocks and Shares ISA allowance. You can’t do that with buy-to-let.

We won’t know for sure what the Chancellor will do until March, but some buy-to-let investors aren’t hanging around to find out. They are looking to sell property now, while the housing market is hot thanks to the stamp duty holiday.

Buy-to-let investors already face a massive tax burden. They pay stamp duty on their purchase, even during the current holiday, thanks to the 3% surcharge on second homes. Rental income is also subject to income tax. While they can offset some costs against that, 40% taxpayers can no longer claim basic rate tax relief on mortgage interest. By contrast, if you buy FTSE 100 shares in an ISA, the only tax in your lifetime is 0.5% stamp duty. You don’t even need to mention your holdings on your tax return, either. It’s so simple. 

There is another reason why I would be wary of investing in property today. Once the Chancellor’s stamp duty holiday ends, house prices may crash. Stock markets are also being propped up by false stimulus, in the shape of low interest rates and quantitative easing, but there is a difference. This is going to continue for years and years and FTSE 100 shares will reap the benefit. No government can afford to withdrawal the stimulus now.

I also think FTSE 100 shares could get a real lift if Brexit is resolved. Global investors have been holding back, due to the uncertainty. That could soon change.

That’s why I will continue to buy FTSE 100 shares today, and shun buy-to-let.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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