Category: Capital Gains Tax

If you’ve read anything about property and tax, you’ll probably have heard the terms ‘nominating your main residence’ and ‘flipping’. This blog takes you exactly what these terms mean and how and when they apply.

Private residence relief shelters a gain on the sale of a residence from capital gains tax while the property has been the owner’s only or main residence. Where a property has been an only or main residence at some point, the final period of ownership (currently 18 months but reducing to nine months from 6 April 2020) is also exempt from capital gains tax.

Only one main residence at a time

As the name suggests, the relief is only available in respect of the only or main residence. Thus, where a person has more than one home, only one of those homes can be the ‘main residence’ at any given time.

However, as long as certain conditions are met, the taxpayer is free to choose which property is classed as the ‘main’ residence for capital gains tax purposes – it does not have to be the one in which the owner spends the majority of his or her time.

Only one main residence per couple

A couple who are married or in a civil partnership and who are not separated can only have one main residence between them.

Property must be a residence

Only properties that are lived in as a home can be a ‘main residence’ – a property which is let out can’t be a main residence while it is let.

Making an election

Where a person has only one residence, that residence is their only or main residence. Where they acquire a second residence, they have a period of two years to nominate which residence is the main residence for capital gains tax purposes. Where residences are acquired or sold, the clock starts again from the date on which the particular combination of residences changes, and the taxpayer then has another two years in which to elect which residence is the main residence.

The election should be made in writing to HMRC. The letter should include the full address of the property being nominated as the main residence and should be signed by all owners of the property.

No election made

In the absence of an election, the property which is the main residence will be determined as a question of fact and will be the property in which the person lives in as their main home. For example, if a couple has a family home and a holiday home, in the absence of an election, the family home will be treated as the main residence.

Advantages of flipping

There are a number of advantages to a property being the main residence at some point in the period of ownership as not only is any gain while the property is the only or main residence exempt from capital gains tax; the final period of ownership is also exempt. Where the property is let, occupying the property as a main residence at some point may open up the option of lettings relief (although it should be noted that the availability of lettings relief is to be seriously curtailed from April 2020).

Once an election has been made to nominate a property as a main residence, this can be varied any number of times (‘flipping’). This can be very useful from a tax planning perspective, for example, occupying a property as a main residence after it has been let but before it is sold can shelter some of the gain. Flipping properties and making use of the capital gains tax annual exempt amount to shelter any gain that falls into charge when the property is not the main residence can be beneficial in reducing the tax bill.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 222

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Today’s blog covers the serious curtailment to letting relief for landlords coming April 2020 – read more here.

Curtailment of letting relief

Landlords have been hit with a number of tax hikes in recent years, and this trend shows no signs of abating. From 6 April 2020, lettings relief – a valuable capital gains tax relief which is available where a property which has at some point been the owner’s only or main residence is let out – is seriously curtailed.

Now

Under the current rules letting relief applies to shelter part of the gain arising on the sale of a property which has been let out as residential accommodation and which at some time was the owner’s only or main residence. The amount of the letting relief is the lowest of the following three amounts:

  • the amount of private residence relief available on the disposal;
  • £40,000; and
  • the gain attributable to the letting.

Under the current rules, periods of residential letting count regardless of whether or not the landlord also lives in the property.

From 6 April 2020

From 6 April 2020, letting relief will only be available where the owner of the property shares occupancy with a tenant. From that date, lettings relief is available where at some point the owner of the property lets out part of their main residence as residential accommodation and shares occupation of that residence with an individual who has no interest in the residence.

To the extent that a gain that would otherwise be chargeable to capital gains tax because it relates to the part of the main residence which is let out as residential accommodation, the availability of lettings relief means that it is only chargeable to capital gains tax to the extent that it exceeds the lower of:

  • the amount of the gain sheltered by private residence relief; and
  • £40,000.

Example 1

Tom owns a property which he lives in as his main residence. He lived in it for a year on his own, then to help pay the bills he let out 40% as residential accommodation.

In June 2020 he sells the property realising a gain of £189,000. He had owned the property for five years and three months (63 months).

The final nine months of ownership are covered by the final period exemption – this equates to £27,000.

For the remaining 54 months, private residence relief is available for the first 12 months and 40% of the remaining 48 months – a total of 31.2 months (12 + (40% x 48)). This is worth £93,600. (31.2/63 x £189,000).

Private residence relief in total is worth £120,600 (£27,000 + £93,600).

The gain attributable to the letting is £68,400 (£189,000 – £120,600). This is taxable to the extent that is exceeds £40,000 (being the lower of £40,000 and £120,600).

Thus the letting relief is worth £40,000 and the chargeable gain is £28,400.

Example 2

Lucy buys a flat for £300,000 which she lives in for one year as her main residence. She then buys a new home which she lives in as her main residence and lets the flat out for three years, before selling it and realising a gain of £96,000.

If she sells it before 6 April 2020, she will be entitled to private residence relief of £60,000 (30/48 x £96,000). The final 18 months are exempt as she lived in the flat for 12 months as her main residence. The gain attributable to letting is £36,000, all of which is sheltered by lettings relief (as less than both private residence relief and £40,000).

If she sells the property after 6 April 2020, the final period exemption only covers the last nine months, reducing the private residence relief to £42,000 (21/48 x £96,000). The remainder of the gain of £54,000, which is attributable to the letting, is chargeable to capital gains tax as letting relief is no longer available as Lucy does not share her home with the tenant.

Consider realising a gain on a let property which has also been a main residence prior to 6 April 2020 to take advantage of the letting relief available prior to that date where a landlord does not share the accommodation with the tenant.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 224; Draft legislation for inclusion in Finance Bill 2019—20 (see https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/816196/Changes_to_ancillary_reliefs_in_Capital_Gains_Tax_Private_Residence_Relief_-_Draft_legislation.pdf).

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Do you have a second home? You might want to sell up before April 2020!

Private residence relief and the final period exemption

From a capital gains tax perspective, there are significant tax savings to be had if a property has been the owner’s only or main residence. The main gains are where the property has been the only or main residence throughout the whole period of ownership as private residence relief applies in full to shelter any gain arising on the disposal of the property from capital gains tax.

However, there are also advantages if a property enjoys only or main residence status for part of the ownership period; not only are any gains relating to that period sheltered from capital gains tax, but those covered by the final period exemption are also tax-free.

The final period exemption works to shelter any gain arising in the final period of ownership from capital gains tax if the property has at any time, however briefly, been the owner’s only or main residence. This can be particularly useful if the property is, say, lived in as a main home and then let out prior to being sold, or where a person has two or more residences.

Prior to 6 April 2020, the final period exemption applies generally to the last 18 months of ownership. Where the person making the disposal is a disabled person or a long-term resident in a care home, the final period exemption applies to the last 36 months of ownership.

From 6 April 2020, the final period exemption is reduced to nine months, although it will remain at 36 months for care home residents and disabled persons.

Planning ahead

Where a property which has been occupied as a main residence at some point, it could be very advantageous to dispose of it prior to 6 April 2020 rather than after that date to benefit from the longer final period exemption.

Example

Frankie has a cottage on the coast that he brought on 1 January 2010 for £200,000. He lived in it as his main residence for two years until 31 December 2011, when he purchased a city flat which has been his main residence since that date. He continues to use the cottage as a holiday home.

He plans to sell the cottage and expects to get £320,000.

Scenario 1 – sale on 31 March 2020

If Frankie sells the cottage on 31 March 2020, he will have owned the cottage for a total of 10 years and three months (123 months). Of that period, he lived in it for 24 months as his only or main residence. As the sale takes place prior to 6 April 2020, he will benefit from the final period exemption for the last 18 months.

The gain on sale is £120,000 (£320,000 – £200,000)

He qualifies for 42 months’ private residence relief, which is worth £40,976 (42/123 x £120,000).

The chargeable gain is therefore £79,024 (£120,000 – £40,976).

Scenario 2 – sale on 30 April 2020

If Frankie does not sell the property until 30 April 2020, he will only benefit from a nine-month final period exemption. If he sells on this date, he will have owned the property for 124 months. Assuming the sale price remains at £320,000 and the gain at £120,000, the gain which is sheltered by private residence relief is £31,935 (33/124 x £120,000), and the chargeable gain is increased to £88,065 (£120,000 – £31,935).

If planning to dispose of a property which has been an only or main residence for some but not all of the period of ownership, selling prior to 6 April 2020 will enable the owner to shelter the gain pertaining to the last 18 months of ownership.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 223; Draft legislation for inclusion in Finance Bill 2019—20 (see https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/816196/Changes_to_ancillary_reliefs_in_Capital_Gains_Tax_Private_Residence_Relief_-_Draft_legislation.pdf).

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For grandparents wanting to help out their children or grandchildren, habitual gifts can be made free of inheritance tax. Read more on our blog post.

Give from income to save inheritance tax

Within a family scenario, there are many situations in which one family member may make a gift to other family members. However, the way in which gifts are funded and made can make a significant difference to the way in which they are treated for inheritance tax purposes.

Not all gifts are equal

There is no inheritance tax to pay on gifts between spouses and civil partners. A person can make as many lifetime gifts to their spouse or civil partner as they wish (as long as they live in the UK permanently). There is no cap on the value of the gifts either.

Other gifts may escape inheritance tax if they are covered by an exemption. This may be the annual exemption (set at £3,000 per tax year), or a specific exemption such as that for gifts on the occasion of a marriage or civil partnership or the exemption for ‘gifts out of income’.

Gifts that are not covered by an exemption will counts towards the estate for inheritance tax purposes and, if the donor fails to survive for at least seven years from the date on which the gift was made, may suffer an inheritance tax bill if the nil rate band (currently £325,000) has been used up.

Gifts from income

The exemption for ‘normal expenditure out of income’ is a useful exemption. The exemption applies where the gift:

  • formed part of the taxpayer’s normal expenditure;
  • was made out of income; and
  • left the transferor with enough income for them to maintain their normal standard of living.

All of the conditions must be met for the exemption to apply. Where it does, there is no requirement for the donor to survive seven years to take the gift out the IHT net.

What counts as ‘normal’ expenditure?

For the purposes of the exemption, HMRC interpret ‘normal’ as being normal for the transferor, rather than normal for the ‘average person’.

To meet this condition it is sensible to establish a regular pattern of giving –for example, by setting up a standing order to give a regular monthly sum to the recipient. It is also possible that a single gift may qualify for the exemption if the intention is for it to be the first of a series of gifts, and this can be demonstrated. Likewise, regular gifts may not qualify if they are not made from income.

In deciding whether a gift constitutes normal expenditure from income, HMRC will consider a number of factors, including:

  • the frequency of the gift;
  • the amount;
  • the identity of the recipient; and
  • the reason for the gift.

The amount of the gift is an important factor – to meet the test the gifts must be similar in amount, although they do not have to be identical. Where the gift is made by reference to a source of income that is variable, such as dividends from shares, the amount of the gift may vary without jeopardising the exemption.

Gifts will normally be in the form of money to the recipient, or a payment on the recipient’s behalf, such as school fees or a mortgage. The reason for making a gift may indicate whether it is made habitually – for example, a grandparent may makes a gift to a grandchild at the start of each university term to help with living costs. It is also important that having made the gift, the donor has sufficient income left to maintain his or her lifestyle.

When making gifts from income, check that they may meet the conditions to ensure that the exemption is available.

Partner note: IHTA 1984, s. 21.

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If you might want to sell a property cheaply to a family member make sure you read this first.

At first sight, the calculation of a capital gain or loss on the disposal of an asset is relatively straightforward – simply the difference between the amount received for the sale of that asset and the cost of acquiring (and, where relevant) enhancing it, allowing for the incidental costs of acquisition and disposal. However, as with all rules there are exceptions, and particular care needs to be taken when disposing of an asset to other family members.

Spouses and civil partners

The actual consideration, if any, is ignored for transfers of assets between spouses and civil partners. Instead, the consideration is deemed to be that which gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. The effect of this rule, which is very useful for tax planning purposes, is that the transferee simply assumes the transferors base cost – and the transferor has no capital gain to worry about.

Other connected persons

While the no gain/no loss rules for transfers between spouses and civil partners is useful from a tax perspective, the same cannot be said to be true for market value rule that applies to transfers between connected persons. Where two persons are connected, the actual consideration, if any, is ignored and instead the market value of the asset at the time of the transfer is used to work out any capital gain or loss.

The market value of an asset is the value that asset might reasonably be expected to fetch on sale in the open market.

Who are connected persons?

A person is connected with an individual if that person is:

  • the person’s spouse or civil partner;
  • a relative of the individual;
  • the spouse of civil partner of a relative of the individual;
  • the relative of the individual’s spouse or civil partner;
  • the spouse or civil partner of a relative of the individual’s spouse or civil partner.

For these purposes, a relative is a brother, sister or ancestor or lineal descendant. Fortunately, the term ‘relative’ in this context does not embrace all family relationships and excludes, for example, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins (and thus the actual consideration is used in calculating any capital gain).

As noted above, the deemed market value rule does not apply to transfers between spouses and civil partners (to which the no gain/no loss rules applies), but it catches those to children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings – and also to their spouses and civil partners.

Example 1

Barbara has had a flat for many years which she has let out, while living in the family home. Her granddaughter Sophie has recently graduated and started work and is struggling to get on the property ladder. To help Sophie, Barbara sells the flat to her for £150,000. At the time of the sale it is worth £200,000.

As Barbara and Sophie are connected persons, the market value of £200,000 is used to work out Barbara’s capital gain rather than the actual consideration of £150,000. If she is unaware of this, the gain will be higher than expected (by £14,000 if Barbara basic rate band has been utilised), and Barbara may find that she is short of funds to pay the tax.

This problem may be exacerbated where the asset is gifted – the gain will be calculated by reference to market value, but there will be no actual consideration from which to pay the tax.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, ss. 17, 18, 272, 286.

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What makes a property a residence?

Capital gains tax private residence relief is available where a property is occupied as the taxpayer’s only or main residence. The question of what constitutes ‘occupation as a residence’ was considered recently by the Tribunal, with perhaps surprising results.

Quality not quantity

There is no minimum period of residence that is needed for private residence relief to be in point; rather it is necessary to look at the quality of the occupation. The term ‘residence’ is not defined in the legislation is relation to private residence relief, and thus takes its ordinary everyday meaning, i.e. the place where a person lives – their home.

Need to cook, eat, sleep and do laundry

In Hezi Yechiel TC06829 the Tribunal considered whether the taxpayer occupied the property in question as his main home. He had purchased it 2007 intending to make it a home for himself and his then fiancée. The property required a significant amount of work and planning permission was sought to extend the property. The taxpayer got married in 2008, but the couple separated in early 2011 having never lived in the property. Mr Yechiel moved into the property in April 2011. It was advertised for rent or sale in October 2011 and sold in August 2012. Mr Yechiel moved in with his parents, who lived 15 minutes away, in December 2011.

A builder who had been engaged by Mr Yechiel to work on the property had ‘kitted up’ a bedroom and kitchen. Mr Yechiel slept in the property every night from April 2011 to July 2011 and was present at the property every morning during that period. He brought a bed and a side table for the property. While he used the kitchen for basics, he did not cook there – he mainly ate at his parents, having a takeaway if he ate at the property. His mother did his laundry.

While the Tribunal accepted that Mr Yechiel occupied the property, they found that his occupation lacked the sufficient quality to constitute residence – it did not have the necessary degree of permanence. Mr Yechiels intentions were of importance, and he had no clear plan – he moved into the property as he needed somewhere to live, with the intention of living there for a period of time.

The Tribunal considered not only his intention, but also what he did and did not do in the property. He slept there, but spent a considerable part of the day at his parents’ home. He did not cook at the property and his laundry was done by his mother.

The Tribunal considered ‘that to have a quality of residence, the occupation of the house should constitute not only sleeping, but also periods of ‘’living’’, being cooking, eating a meal sitting down, and generally spending some periods of leisure there’. They found that Mr Yechiel’s occupation lacked sufficient quality to be considered a period of residence, and as such he was not entitled to private residence relief and lettings relief.

The moral of the story

Merely sleeping at a property is not enough to qualify it as a ‘residence’ – you must also do your laundry and cook there to satisfy the Tribunal.

The CGT annual exemption – use it or lose it!

Capital gains tax (CGT) is normally paid when an item is either sold or given away. It is usually paid on profits made by selling various types of assets including properties (but generally not a main residence), stocks and shares, paintings, and other works of art, but it may also be payable in certain circumstances when a gift is made.

Some assets are exempt from CGT, including assets held in an Individual Savings Account (ISA), betting, lottery, or pools winnings, cash held in sterling, jewellery, antiques, and other personal effects that are individually worth £6,000 or less.

The most common method for minimising a liability to capital gains tax is to ensure that the annual exemption is fully utilised wherever possible. Whilst this is relatively straight-forward where only capital gains are in question, the computation can be slightly more complex where capital losses are also involved.

Most people are entitled to an annual CGT exemption, which means that no CGT is payable on gains up to that amount each year. For 2018/19, the limit is £11,700 and it will rise to £12,000 in 2019/20.

Eligible individuals each have their own exemption, so for jointly owned assets, there is scope for spouses and civil partners to exempt £23,400 worth of gains in 2018/19, rising to £24,000 in 2019/20.

However, the annual exemption is good only for the current tax year – you can’t carry it forwards or backwards – so if it isn’t used in a particular tax year, it will be lost. If you are planning to make a series of disposals, for example disposing of a portfolio of shares, you may want to consider the timing of sales between two or more tax years to use up as much and as many annual exemptions as possible.

Moving gains

Although inter-spouse/civil partner transfers are not technically exempt from CGT, the mechanics of computation are such that no CGT charge arises on such transfers. This treatment requires the spouses/civil partners to be married and living together. It should also be noted that if the spouse or partner later sells the asset, they may have to pay CGT at that time.

Example

Grace, a higher rate taxpayer, disposes of 500 shares in ABC plc in 2018/19 making a capital gain of £30,000. After deducting the annual exemption (£11,700), her chargeable gain is £18,300. As Grace is a higher rate taxpayer, she will pay CGT at the 20% rate, and £3,660 will be payable on the gain.

If prior to sale, Grace transferred half of the shares to her spouse Bob, a basic rate taxpayer, the capital gains tax situation would be significantly different. Both Grace and Bob will be able to use their annual CGT exemptions. They will each have a chargeable gain of £3,300 (after the annual exemption). Since Bob is a basic rate taxpayer, subject to his taxable income and chargeable gain being below the basic rate band, he will pay CGT at 10%.

Capital gains tax on the sale of the shares would be charged as follows:

 Grace:            Chargeable gain of £3,300 at 20% = £660

Bob: Chargeable gain of £3,300 at 10% = £330

Total CGT payable £990

Transferring half the shares to Bob potentially saves tax of £2,670.

Whilst it is permissible to organise your financial affairs in such a way as to minimise tax payable, strict anti-avoidance rules do exist. Seeking professional advice is always strongly recommended prior to undertaking any transactions of this nature.

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Year-end tax planning tips

As the end of the 2018/19 tax year approaches, it is worthwhile taking time for some last-minute tax planning. Here are some simple tips that may save you money.

  1. Preserve your personal allowance: the personal allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds £100,000. For 2018/19, the personal tax allowance is £11,850, meaning that it is lost entirely once income exceeds £123,700. Where income falls between £100,000 and £123,700, the effect of the taper means that the marginal rate of tax is a whopping 60%. Where income is over £100,000, consider making pension contributions or charitable donations to reduce income and preserve the personal allowance. Where this is an option, consider also deferring income until after 6 April 2019 to reduce 2018/19 income.
  2. Claim the marriage allowance: the marriage allowance can save a couple tax of £238 in 2018/19. Where an individual is unable to utilise their personal allowance, they can make use of the marriage allowance to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (rounded up to the nearest £10) to their spouse or civil partner, as long as neither pay tax at the higher or additional rate. The marriage allowance must be claimed.
  3. Pay dividends to use up the dividend allowance: family and personal companies with sufficient retained profits should consider paying dividends to shareholders who have not yet used up their dividend allowance for 2018/19. The dividend allowance is set at £2,000 and is available to all individuals, regardless of the rate at which they pay tax. The use of an alphabet share structure enables individuals to tailor dividend payments according to the individual’s circumstances.
  4. Make pension contributions: tax relieved pension contributions can be made up to 100% of earnings, capped at the level of the annual allowance. The annual allowance is set at £40,000 for 2018/19 (subject to the reduction for high earners). Where the annual allowance is not used up in year, it can be carried forward for up to three years.
  5. Transfer income-earning assets to a spouse or civil partner: where one spouse or civil partner has unused personal allowances or has not fully utilised their basic rate band, considering transferring income earning assets into their name to reduce the combined tax liability (but non-tax considerations such as loss of ownership should be taken into account).
  6. Put assets in joint name prior to sale: spouses and civil partners can transfer assets between them at a value that gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. This can be useful prior to selling an asset which will realise a gain in order to take advantage of both partners’ annual exempt amount for capital gains tax purposes.
  7. Make gifts for inheritance tax purposes: individuals have an annual exemption for inheritance tax of £3,000, allowing them to make gifts free of inheritance tax each year. Where the allowance is not used, it can be carried forward to the next year, but is then lost.

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