Renting out a property at a rate below the commercial level might sound like a great idea – but it might cost you dearly if you try to seek tax relief for your expenses!

Properties not let at a commercial rent

There may be a number of reasons why a property is occupied rent-free or let out at rent that is less than the commercial rate. This may often occur where the property is occupied by a family member in order to provide that person with a cheap home. For example, a parent may purchase a house in the town where their student son attends university and let it to the student, and maybe even his housemates, at a low rent to help them out. While the parents’ motives are doubtless philanthropic, their generosity may cost them dearly when it comes to obtaining relief for the associated expenses.

Wholly and exclusively rule

Expenses can only be deducted in computing taxable rental profits if they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the property rental business. Unfortunately, HMRC take the view that unless the property is let at full market rent and the lease imposes normal conditions, it is unlikely that the expenses are incurred wholly and exclusively for business purposes. So, where the property is occupied rent-free, there is no tax-relief for expenses.

If the property is let at a rent that is below the market rent, a deduction is permitted, but this is capped at the level of the rent received from the let. This means that where a property is let at below market rent, it is not possible for a rental loss to arise, or for expenses in excess of the rent to be offset against the rent received from other properties in the same property rental business.
Periods between lets

Where there are brief periods where the property is occupied rent-free or let out cheaply, it may be possible to obtain full relief for expenses. For example, if the landlord is actively seeking a tenant and a relative house sits while it is empty, relief will not be restricted as long as the property remains genuinely available for letting. In their guidance HMRC state, that ‘ordinary house sitting by a relative for, say, a month in a period of three years or more will not normally lead to loss of relief’. However, if a relative takes a month’s holiday in a country cottage, relief for expenses incurred in that period will be lost.

Commercial and uncommercial lets

Where a property is let commercially some of the time and uncommercially at other times, expenses should be apportioned on a just and reasonable basis between the commercial and non-commercial lets. Any excess of expenses over rents in the period when commercially let can be deducted in the computing the profit for the rental business as a whole. However, an excess of expenses over rent when the property is let uncommercially are not eligible for relief.
Timing must also be considered – expenses relating to uncommercial lets cannot be deducted simply because they are incurred when the property is let commercially.

Partner note: HMRC Property Income Manual PIM 2130.

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This blog explains what qualifies for relief for finance costs, the limit on eligible borrowings, and how capital repayments work with a quick example.

Allowable finance costs

Although the way in which landlords obtain relief for finance costs on residential properties is changing, there is no change to the type finance costs that are eligible for relief.

What qualifies for relief

The basic rule is that relief is available for expenses that are incurred wholly or exclusively for the purposes of the property rental business, and this rule applies equally to finance costs. Relief is available for eligible finance costs where they meet this test.

The definition of finance costs includes mortgage interest and interest on loans to buy furnishing and suchlike. Relief is also available for the incidental costs of obtaining finance, as long as the interest on the loan is allowable. Incidental costs of loan finance include items such as arrangement fees, and fees incurred when taking out or repaying loans or mortgages.

Limit on eligible borrowings

A landlord can obtain relief for the costs of borrowings on a loan or mortgage up to the value of the property when it was first let. Buy-to-let mortgages are often more expensive than residential mortgages with interest charged at a higher rate. The loan does not have to be secured on the let property. Where a landlord wishes to buy a rental property and has sufficient equity in their own home, it may make commercial sense to release capital from the home by borrowing against it and using the money to purchase the rental property. Interest on the loan is eligible for relief, despite the fact the loan is not secured on the rental property.

No relief for capital repayments

Capital repayments, such as the capital element of a repayment mortgage or loan repayments, are not eligible for relief. Where the borrowings are in the form of a repayment mortgage, it will be necessary to split the payment between the interest and capital when working out the relief. The lender should provide this information on the statement.

Example

Mervyn wishes to invest in a buy to let property. As he only has a small mortgage on his home, he remortgages to release £150,000 of equity.
Following the remortgage, he has a mortgage of £200,000 on his own home. Using the released equity, he buys a property to let for £150,000. He spends some time renovating the property in his spare time before letting it out. When the property is first let, it has a value of £160,000.

During the 2019/20 tax year, Mervyn pays mortgage interest of 10,000and makes capital repayments of £10,800. The property is let throughout.
Mervyn can claim relief for 80% of the interest costs – this is attributable to the borrowings of £160,000 (80% of the loan of £200,000), being the value of the let property when first let. The interest eligible for relief is therefore £8,000 (80% of £10,000). For 2019/20, 25% (£2,000) is relieved by deduction with the balance giving rise to a deduction from the tax due of £1,200 (75% x £8,000 x 20%).

No relief is available for the capital repayments.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, ss. 272A, 272B, 274A, 274B

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Property Tax

Landlords – you must file your self-assessment tax return by 31 January 2020 to avoid a late filing penalty. Here’s what you need to know:

The self-assessment deadline is looming. Self-assessment tax returns for the year to 5 April 2019 must be filed online by 31 January 2020 if a late filing penalty is to be avoided.

Landlords will need to complete the property income pages. Particular care should be taken where the landlord has a loan or a mortgage as the way in which relief is given for financing costs is changing and the position for 2018/19 is different to that for 2017/18.

The way in which relief for finance costs is given is moving from relief by deducting the finance costs when computing profits to giving relief in the form of a basic rate tax reduction. The 2018/19 tax year is a transitional year.

What costs are eligible for relief?

Interest payable on loans to buy land or property which is used in the rental business is eligible for relief, as is interest on loans to fund improvements or repairs. It should be noted that it is not necessary for the loan to be secured on the let property – the rule is that interest is allowable on borrowings up to the value of the property when first let. Thus, if a landlord borrowed against their main home to fund a buy-to-let investment property, the interest on that loan would be allowable on the loan up to the value when the property was first let. If the mortgage on the residential property is more, the allowable interest is proportionately reduced.

Relief is also available for the costs of getting a loan.

It should be noted that it is only the interest and other finance costs which qualifies for relief – no relief is available for any capital repayments which may be made.

The position for 2018/19

For 2018/19, relief for 50% of eligible finance costs is given as a deduction in computing the profits of the property rental business and relief for the remaining 50% is given as a basic rate tax reduction. This makes completing the property pages of the tax return slightly tricky as the information must go in two places.

The first box which needs to be completed is Box 26. This is where allowable loan interest and other financial costs need to be entered. Amounts entered in this box are deducted in computing rental profits. Therefore, as only 50% of the allowable finance costs for 2018/19 are relieved in this way, only 50% of the costs for that year should be entered in this box.

The remaining 50% is entered in Box 44, helpfully titled ‘Residential finance costs not included in box 26’. The amount entered in this box is used to calculate a reduction in the landlord’s tax bill. The reduction is equal to 20% (the basic rate of income tax) of the amount entered in Box 44.

If you have any unrelieved finance costs from earlier years, these should be entered in Box 45. Any balance of residential finance costs which is unrelieved may be carried forward to future years for relief by the same property business.

Partner note: Self-assessment UK Property notes (SA105); see www.gov.uk/government/publications/self-assessment-uk-property-sa105.

 

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As business owners we all want to make sure our company is a great place to work. Have you considered giving your employees or even their family members educational scholarships?

Partnership rather than a limited company. We explain why in today’s blog.

Employer-funded scholarships

Special tax rules apply to scholarships, which include exhibitions, bursaries or other similar education endowments.

Provided certain conditions are met, there will be no tax or reporting implications where an employer funds a ‘fortuitous’ scholarship for an employee’s family member. Broadly, this means that there must be no direct connection between the employee working for the employer and their family member getting the scholarship.

A scholarship is ‘fortuitous’ if all the following apply:

  • the person with the scholarship is in full-time education
  • the scholarship would still have gone to that person even if their family member did not work for the employer
  • the scholarship is run from a trust fund or under a scheme
  • 25% or fewer of the payments made by the fund or scheme are for employment-linked scholarships

If the scholarship does not qualify for exemption, the employer must report it to HMRC on form P11D and pay Class 1A NICs on the cost of providing it.

Unfortunately, in a family company, directors’ children are unable to take advantage of this provision because the tax legislation deems there to be a benefit in kind. However, in some circumstances a remoter relative (for example a grandparent) could establish such a scheme provided that the student was validly employed and their parents are not involved with the company.

Sandwich courses

An employee in full-time employment may leave that employment for a period to attend an educational establishment but continue to receive payments from their employer, for example where the employee is on a ‘sandwich’ course. Such payments will be treated as exempt from income tax, provided the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. The employer must require the employee to be enrolled at the educational establishment for at least one academic year and to attend the course for at least 20 weeks in that academic year. If the course is longer, the employee must attend for at least 20 weeks on average, in an academic year over the period of the course.
  2. The establishment must be a recognised university, technical college or ‘similar educational establishment’, open to the public and offering more than one course of practical or academic instruction.
  3. The payments must not exceed a specified maximum figure for the academic year. This figure must include lodging, subsistence and travel allowances but does not include any tuition fees payable to the establishment by the employee. Note that:
  • the exemption can apply to payments of earnings payable to the student for periods spent studying at the educational establishment
  • it cannot, however, cover payments made for any periods spent working for the employer, whether during vacations or otherwise
  • the current maximum figure is £15,480 per academic year
  • in principle, the limit is all or nothing: if it is breached then the whole amount is taxable. However, if an increased payment is made during the academic year then this does not invalidate earlier payments made within the agreed limit

Qualifying payments will also be exempt for Class 1 National Insurance Contributions purposes.

Example

Jack’s employer pays for him to attend college on a course that starts in September 2018 and finishes at the end of the academic year in June 2019. Jack works for his employer over the Christmas and Easter periods, during which he is paid his normal monthly salary. His income while working during holidays will be subject to tax and Class 1 NICs, because the exemption only applies to income when attending college.

Jack’s employer pays him £3,000 in September 2018 for the first term of the academic year followed by two further payments of £3,000 each in January 2 and April 2019 to cover terms 2 and 3. These three amounts of £3,000 each will be exempt from tax and NICs because they meet the qualifying conditions, including being less than the financial ceiling of £15,480.

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It can pay off to keep track of your business mileage you incur for your rental properties – here’s why.

Using your car in your property rental business

Landlords will often use their car for the purposes of their property rental business. Where they do so, they are able to claim a deduction for the costs that they incur.

Using mileage rates

Where a landlord uses their car for business purposes, the easiest way to work out the amount that can be deducted is to make use of the simplified expenses system and use the relevant mileage rates to claim a deduction based on the business mileage undertaken.

For cars (and also vans) the rate is set at 45p per mile for the first 10,000 business miles in the tax year and at 25p per mile for any subsequent business mileage.

Example

Karen is an unincorporated landlord and has three properties that she lets out. During the tax year, she undertakes 712 business miles in her own car in respect of her property business.

She claims a deduction of 45p per mile, a total deduction for the year of £320.40.

Deduction based on actual costs

The use of simplified expenses, while generally easier from an administration perspective, is not compulsory. The landlord can instead claim a deduction based on the actual costs. However, in practice this will be time consuming. Further, where the car is used for both business and private travel, a deduction is only permitted for the business element. Separating actual costs between business and private travel can be very time consuming and will only be worthwhile where it gives rise to a significantly higher deduction than that obtained by using the mileage rates.

Capital allowances

Capital allowances cannot be claimed where mileage allowances are claimed. Where a deduction is based on actual costs, capital allowances can be claimed in respect of the car. However, the claim must be adjusted to reflect any private use. So, for example, if a car is used for the purposes of the property business 20% of the time and for private use 80% of the claim, any capital allowance claim must be restricted to 20%.

Other travel

The costs of travel on public transport or by taxi can be deducted in computing the profits of the property rental business to the extent that it constitutes business travel for the purposes of that business.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, s. 94D

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There are five conditions that need to be met to get the tax benefits of a pool car.

When is a car a pool car?

Rather than allocating specific cars to particular employees, some employers find it preferable to operate a carpool and have a number of cars available for use by employees when they need to undertake a business journey. From a tax perspective, provided that certain conditions are met, no benefit in kind tax charge will arise where an employee makes use of a pool car.

The conditions

There are five conditions that must be met for a car to be treated as a pool car for tax purposes.

  1. The car is made available to, and actually is used by, more than one employee.
  2. In each case, it is made available by reason of the employee’s employment.
  3. The car is not ordinarily used by one employee to the exclusion of the others.
  4. In each case, any private use by the employee is merely incidental to the employee’s business use of the car.
  5. The car is not normally kept overnight on or in the vicinity of any of the residential premises where any of the employees was residing (subject to an exception if kept overnight on premises occupied by the person making the cars available).

The tax exemption only applies if all five conditions are met.

When private use is ‘merely incidental’

To meet the definition of a pool car, the car should only be available for genuine business use. However, in deciding whether this test is met, private use is disregarded as long as that private use is ‘merely incidental’ to the employee’s business use of the car.

HMRC regard the test as being a qualitative rather than a quantitative test. It does not refer to the actual private mileage, rather the private element in the context of the journey as a whole. For example, if an employee is required to make a long business journey and takes the car home the previous evening in order to get an early start, the private use comprising the journey from work to home the previous evening would be regarded as ‘merely incidental’. The car is taken home to facilitate the business journey the following day.

Kept overnight at employee’s homes – the 60% test

For a car to meet the definition of a pool car, it must not normally be kept overnight at employees’ homes. In deciding whether this test is met, HMRC apply a rule of thumb – as long as the total number of nights on which a car is taken home by employees, for whatever reason, is less than 60% of the total number of nights in the period, HMRC accept that the condition is met.

When a benefit in kind tax charge arises

If the car does not meet the definition of a pool car and is made available for the employee’s private use, a tax charge will arise under the company car tax rules.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 167.

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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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Today’s blog covers taxing rental deposits – what’s the most you’ve spent repairing after a tenant has moved out?

Rental deposits

A landlord will usually take a deposit from a tenant when letting a property to cover the cost of any damage caused to the property by the tenant. Where a property is let on an assured shorthold tenancy, the tenants’ deposit must be placed in an official tenancy deposit scheme.

The purpose of the deposit is to cover items such as damage to the property that extends beyond normal wear and tear. The items covered by the security deposit should be stated in the letting agreement.

The deposit charged cannot now exceed five weeks rent.

Is it taxable?

The extent to which the deposit is included as income of the rental business depends on whether all or part of the deposit is retained by the landlord. In a straightforward case where a security deposit is taken by the landlord, held for the period of the tenancy and returned to the tenant at the end of the rental period, the deposit is not included as income of the property rental business.

However, if at the end of the tenancy agreement the landlord retains all or part of the deposit to cover damage to the property, cleaning costs or other similar expenses, the amount retained is included as income of the property rental business. The retained deposit is a receipt of the business in the same way as rent received from the tenant. However, the actual costs incurred by the landlord in making good the damage or having the property professionally cleaned are deducted in computing the profits of the business.

The retained deposit is reflected as rental income of the property rental business for the period in which decision to retain the deposit is taken, rather than for the period in which the deposit was initially collected from the tenant.

Example

Kevin purchases a property as a buy to let investment. He collects a security deposit of £1,000 from the tenant. The terms of the deposit are set out in the tenancy agreement.

The let comes to an end in July 2019. When checking out the tenant, it transpires that the tenant has failed to have the carpets cleaned, as per the terms of the agreement, and also that he has damaged a door, which needs to be repaired.

After discussion, Kevin and the tenant agree that £250 of the deposit will be retained to cover cleaning and repair costs. The balance of the despot (£750) is returned to the tenant in October 2011.

Kevin spends £180 having the property professional cleaned and £75 having the door repaired.

When completing his tax return, he must include as income the £250 retained from the tenant. However, he can deduct the actual cost of cleaning the property (£180) and repairing the door (£75). As the amount actually spent (£255) exceeds the amount retained, he is given relief for the additional £5 in computing the profits of his property rental business.

The balance of the deposit returned to the tenant is not taken into account as income of the business.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2003, Pt. 2.

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