Category: Interest Relief

Generally, tax relief is available, but the rules are different if you’re a small business using the cash basis…

Tax relief on business-related loans

Subject to certain conditions and restrictions, tax relief will generally be available for interest paid on loans to, or overdrafts of, a business in the form of a deductible expense. Different rules for loan interest relief apply to smaller businesses using HMRC’s cash basis for income tax purposes (see below).

One of the main qualifying conditions for the deduction is that the interest must be paid wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business and at a reasonable rate of interest. Tax relief is only available on interest payments – the repayment of the capital element of a loan is never tax-deductible.

Where only part of a loan satisfies the conditions for interest relief, only a proportion of the interest will be eligible, for example, interest payable in respect of, say, a car used partly for business and partly for private purposes will be apportioned accordingly. Note, however, that tax relief is not available for an employee using a privately-owned car for the purposes of his or her employment, although tax-free business mileage payments may usually be claimed.

A deduction cannot be claimed for notional interest that might have been obtained if money had been invested rather than spent on (for example) repairs.

In addition, a deduction will not be allowed if a loan effectively funds a business owner’s overdrawn current/capital account.

Anti-avoidance rules exist to prevent tax relief on loan interest paid where the sole or main benefit to the payer from the transaction is to obtain a tax advantage.

Incidental costs

In addition to loan interest relief, the incidental costs of obtaining loan finance, such as fees, commissions, advertising and printing, will also be deductible in most cases. The deduction for incidental costs is given at the same time as any other deduction in computing profits for income tax purposes.

Cash basis

From 2013/14 onwards, eligible unincorporated small businesses may choose to use the cash basis when calculating taxable income, and all unincorporated businesses have the option to use certain flat-rate expenses when calculating taxable income.

The general rule for businesses that have chosen to use the cash basis is that no deduction is allowed for the interest paid on a loan. This is however, subject to a specific exception. Where the deduction for loan interest would be disallowed under this general rule or because (and only because) it is not an expense wholly and exclusively for the trade, a deduction is allowed of up to £500.

This £500 limit does not apply to payments of interest on purchases, provided the purchase itself is an allowable expense, as this is not cash borrowing. However, if the item purchased is used for both business and non-business purposes, only the proportion of interest related to the business usage is allowable.

If a deduction is also claimed for the incidental costs of obtaining finance, the maximum deduction for both these expenses together is £500.

If a business has interest and finance costs of less than £500 then the split between business costs and any personal interest charges does not have to be calculated.

Businesses should review annual business interest costs – if it is anticipated that these costs will be more than £500, it may be more appropriate for the business to opt out of the cash basis and obtain tax relief for all the business-related financing costs.

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Do you spend more than 6 months of the year outside the UK? Make sure you’re compliant

Non-residents landlord scheme

A non-resident landlord is a landlord who lets out property in the UK but spends more than six months in the tax year outside the UK. A special tax scheme – the non-residents landlord scheme – applies to these landlords. Under the scheme, tax must be deducted by a letting agent or tenant from the rent paid to the non-resident landlord and paid over to HMRC.

Tenants

A tenant falls within the NRL scheme where the landlord is a non-resident landlord and the rent paid to the landlord is more than £100 a week. Where the rent is less than £100 a week (£5,200 a year), the tenant is not required to deduct tax from the rent (unless told to do so by HMRC). The tenant is also relieved of the obligation to deduct tax if HMRC have notified the tenant in writing that the landlord can receive the rent without tax being deducted; however the tenant must still register with HMRC and complete an annual return.

Where the tenant pays rent to a letting agent, it is the letting agent rather than the tenant who must operate the scheme.

Letting agents

Letting agents must also operate the NRL scheme where they collect rent on behalf of a non-resident landlord, regardless of how much rent they collect (unless HMRC have informed the letting agent in writing that the landlord can receive the rent without tax being deducted).

A letting agent is someone who helps the landlord run their business, receives rent on their behalf or controls where it goes and who usually lives in the UK.

Complying with the scheme

To comply with the scheme, tenants and letting agents must

  • register with the HMRC Charity, Savings and International department within 30 days of the date on which they are first required to operate the scheme– letting agents should use form NRL4i and tenants should write to HMRC
  • work out the tax to be deducted each quarter
  • send quarterly payments of tax deducted to HMRC Accounts Office, Shipley
  • send a report to HMRC and the landlord by 5 July after the end of the tax year on form NRLY
  • provide the non-resident landlord with a certificate of tax deducted each year (on form NRL6)
  • keep records for four years to show that they have complied with the scheme

Calculating the tax

Tax should be calculated on a quarterly basis on:

  • any rental income paid to the landlord in the quarter
  • any payments that they make in the quarter to third parties which are not ‘deductible payments’

Deductible payments are those that the tenant or letting agent can be ‘reasonably satisfied’ will be deductible in computing the profits of the landlord’s property rental business. Reassuringly, in their guidance, HMRC state that they ‘do not expect letting agents and tenants to be tax experts’.

The quarters run to 30 June, 30 September, 31 December and 31 March. The tax deducted must be paid over to HMRC within 30 days of the end of the quarter.

The non-resident landlord

The non-resident landlord can set the tax deducted under the scheme against that payable on the profits of his or her property rental business. Partner note: The Taxation of Income from Land (Non-residents) Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/2002).

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A quick guide to what should be included when calculating the profit or loss for a property rental business.

Property income receipts – what should be included?

When calculating the profit or loss for a property rental business, it is important that nothing is overlooked. The receipts which need to be taken into account may include more than simply the rent received from letting out the property.

Rent and other receipts

Income from a property rental business includes all gross rents received before any deductions, for example, for property management fees or for letting agents’ fees. Other receipts, such as ground rents, should be taken into account.

Deposits

The treatment of deposits can be complex. A deposit may be taken to cover the cost of any damage incurred by the tenant. Where a property is let on an assured shorthold tenancy, the tenants’ deposit must be placed in a tenancy deposit scheme.

Deposits not returned at the end of the tenancy or amounts claimed against bonds should normally be included as income. However, any balance of a deposit that is not used to cover services or repairs and is returned to the tenant should be excluded from income.

Jointly-owned property

Where a property is owned by two or more people, it is important that the profit or loss is allocated between the joint owners correctly. Where the joint owners are married or in a civil partnership, profits and losses will be allocated equally, even if the property is owned in unequal shares, unless a form 17 election has been made for profits and losses to be allocated in accordance with actual ownerships shares where these are unequal.

Where the joint owners are not spouses or civil partners, profits and losses are normally divided in accordance with actual ownership shares, unless a different split has been agreed.

Overseas rental properties

Where a person has both UK and overseas rental properties, it is important that they are dealt with separately. The person will have two property rental business – one for UK properties and one for overseas properties. Losses arising on an overseas let cannot be offset against profits of a UK let and vice versa. Proper records should be kept so that the income and expenses can be allocated to the correct property rental business.

Furnished holiday lettings

Different tax rules apply to the commercial letting of furnished holiday lettings and where a let qualifies as a furnished holiday let it must be kept separate from UK lets that are not furnished holiday lettings. Likewise, furnished lets in the EEA must be dealt with separately from UK furnished holiday lets.

Getting it right

Good record keeping is essential to ensure that not only that all sources of income are taken into account, but also that any income received is allocated to the correct property rental business.

Partner note: HMRC’s property rental toolkit (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-property-rental-toolkit).

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If you use the property rental toolkit, do you think it’s useful?

Using the property rental toolkit to avoid common errors in returns

HMRC’s property rental toolkit highlights errors commonly found in tax returns in relation to property income. The toolkit can be used to help avoid those errors, some of which are discussed briefly below.

Computation

For unincorporated property businesses, the default basis is the cash basis where the qualifying conditions are met and the landlord does not elect to use the accruals basis. Where the business has moved into or out of the cash basis, transitional adjustments may be needed.

In some circumstances, a trade of providing services may be carried on in addition to the let of the property; and in some cases, the letting may amount to a trade.

It is important the correct computational rules are used.

Record keeping

Poorly-kept records may mean that things are overlooked – income may not be taken into account and allowable expenses not claimed. Property disposals may also be missed.

Property income receipts

All income which arises from an interest in land should be included as receipts of the property rental business. Receipts can include payments in kind (maybe work done on the property in lieu of rent). It should be noted that casual or one-off letting income is still treated as income from a property rental business.

Profits and losses from overseas lets, from furnished lettings and from properties let rent-free or below market rent should be dealt with separately. For other UK lets owned by the same person or persons, income and expenses are combined to work out the overall profit or loss for the property rental business.

Deductions and expenses

Expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the property rental business can be deducted in the computation of profits. Problems may arise where an expense has both a business element and a private element (for example, a car or phone used both privately and for the business). A deduction can be claimed only for the business part where this can be identified and meets the wholly and exclusively test.

The way in which relief for finance costs is being given is shifting from relief by deduction to relief as a basic rate tax reduction. Ensure that the split is correct for the tax year in question and relief given in the right way.

Allowances and reliefs

There are various reliefs that may be available to those receiving rental income.

Rent-a-room relief is available where a room is let furnished in the taxpayer’s own home, enabling receipts of £7,500 a year to be enjoyed free of tax.

The property income allowance of £1,000 means that rental income below this level does not need to be returned to HMRC. Where income exceeds this level, the allowance can be deducted instead of actual expenses where this is beneficial.

Capital allowances can be claimed in certain circumstances. They are available on certain items that belong to the landlord and which are used in the business, for example, tools, ladders, vehicles, etc. However, they are not available for domestic items in a residential property for which a replacement relief is available instead. Capital allowances are similarly not available for plant and machinery in a residential property unless it is a furnished holiday let.

Losses

Property rental losses must be treated correctly. They can only be carried forward and set against future property profits of the same property rental business.

Checklist

The checklist within the toolkit can be used to ensure that everything has been taken into account and that nothing has been overlooked.

Partner note: HMRC’s property rental toolkit (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-property-rental-toolkit).

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Interest relief for renovation or development costs

Often, when a property is purchased there is work to be done before it can be let out or sold. Where this work is financed by a mortgage or other loan, the way in which and the extent to which relief is available for the interest costs depends whether it falls with the property income or trading income tax rules.

The following case studies illustrate the different approaches.

Case study 1: Buy-to-let investment

Simon buys a property as an investment, with the intention to let it out long term. The property has been neglected and needs doing up before he can put it on the rental market. The property costs £250,000 and Simon has budgeted £40,000 to renovate it. The purchase and refurbishment work are financed with savings of £70,000 and a mortgage of £220,000. Interest on the mortgage is £800 per month.

The purchase completes on 1 May 2018. The renovation work takes six months and the property is let from 1 November 2018. At the time the property is let, it is valued at £280,000.

Under the property income rules interest is allowed as a deduction or tax reduction (as appropriate) to the value of the property when first let. In this case the value of the property when first let (£280,000) is more than the mortgage of £220,000, so relief for the full amount of the interest is allowed in computing the rental profit. For 2018/19, 50% of the interest costs are deductible from the rental income, with relief for the remaining 50% being given as a basic rate tax reduction. For 2019/20, 25% of the interest costs are eligible as a deduction, with relief for the remaining 75% being given as a basic rate tax reduction.

Relief for the interest incurred in the renovation period before the property was first let is available under the pre-commencement provisions. These allow relief to the extent that it would be available had the interest been incurred while the property was let. The interest in the pre-letting period (i.e. that relating to the period from 1 May 2018 to 31 October 2018 of £4,800) is treated as incurred on the day that the property rental business commences, i.e. 1 November 2018.

Case study 2

David also buys a property to do up. However, his intentions are different to Simon in that he wishes to do the property up as quickly as possible and sell at a profit, buying a further property to do up with the proceeds. David is a property developer rather than a landlord and any interest costs incurred in funding the development are deductible under the trading provisions in computing his trading profit. This would be the case regardless of whether David operates as a sole trader or other unincorporated business or forms a company through which to carry out his property development business. Availability of the interest deduction depends on the ‘wholly and exclusively’ rule being satisfied.

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