A few weeks ago, the London Borough of Newham revealed that 13,000 local landlords had failed to declare their rental income, prompting estimates that £200m of tax was being evaded in London alone.
Today, Parliament has published an answer from the Treasury Minister Mel Stride to Frank Field, who asked what assessment the government had made of this. The Minister directed him (and us) to this information on tax gaps (pp54-5).
The last time the government looked into landlords failing to complete self-assessment was 2009-10, and based on the increase in GDP since then they reckon it now stands at £550m.
The trouble is, the private rented sector has increased by way more than GDP - 35% between 2009-10 and 2015-16, according to the English Housing Survey. In the same period, GDP rose by 13%, according to the Office for National Statistics. If my maths is right, the tax shortfall from landlords is probably closer to £657m.
Newham Council had a reason for going public with their findings - they were made possible because of the landlord licensing scheme the council launched, which is up for renewal. They are currently waiting for the Secretary of State for Communities to say yes or no. Not only does licensing help councils root out landlords who mistreat their tenants, it also tackles those who are cheating the rest of us.
The government must allow Newham to continue its good work on landlord regulation, but it also needs to do more to identify landlords throughout the country. Support our campaign for a national register here.