Category: Tax Deduction

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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Do you visit other offices or are you seconded to a different workplace? Make sure you’re getting the tax benefits

Travel expenses and the 24-month rule

As a general rule, employees are denied a tax deduction for the cost of travel between home and work. Likewise, subject to a few limited exceptions, if the employer meets the cost of home to work travel, the employee is taxed on it.

One of the main exceptions to this rule is where an employee attends a ‘temporary workplace’. This is a workplace that the employee goes to in order to perform a task of limited duration or one that he attends for a temporary purposes, even if the attendance is on a regular basis.

Example 1

Polly is based in the Milton Keynes office. She is seconded to the Bedford office for 12 months to cover an employee’s maternity leave. At the end of the secondment, she will return to the Bedford office.

The Bedford office is a temporary workplace.

Consequently, Polly is allowed a deduction for travel from her home to the Bedford office.

Example 2

James is a health and safety officer. He is based in the Liverpool head office. Each week he visits factories in Manchester and Bury to carry out safety checks. The factories are temporary workplaces as each visit is self-contained.

Consequently, James is allowed a deduction for travel expenses incurred in visiting the factories, even if he travels there from home.

24-month rule

A workplace does not count as a temporary workplace if the employee attends it in a period of continuous work which lasts, or is expected to last more than 24 months. A ‘period of continuous work’ is one where the duties are performed at the location in question to a ‘significant extent’. HMRC regard duties being performed to a ‘significant extent’ at a particular location if an employee spends 40% or more of their working time there.

The upshot of this rule is that where the employee has spent, or is likely to spend, 40% of their working time at the location in question over a period of more than 24 months, that location will be a permanent location rather than a temporary location. Consequently, home to work travel is ‘ordinary commuting’ (travel between home and a permanent workplace), which is not deductible.

It is important to appreciate that both parts of the test must be met for the workplace to be a permanent workplace – more than 40% of time spent there and over a period of more than 24 months.

Example 3

George is employed full-time at a care home in Southampton, a role which he has held for four years. He is sent to full-timework at a new care home in Bournemouth for three years, after which time he will return to the Southampton care home.

Although the move to the Bournemouth posting is not permanent, the posting lasts more than 24 months and, as such, the Bournemouth home does not qualify as a temporary workplace. 

Consequently, George is not allowed a deduction for the cost of travelling from home to the Bournemouth care home.

Change of circumstances

Circumstances can and do change. If at the outset a posting is expected to last 24 months, the workplace will be treated as a temporary workplace. If later the posting is extended so that it will last more than 24 months, the workplace ceases to be a temporary workplace from the date that it becomes apparent the posting will exceed 24 months.

Fixed term appointments rule

An employee undertaking a fixed-term appointment is not entitled to relief for home to work travel, even where it lasts less than 24 months, if the employee attends the workplace for all, or almost all of the period which they are likely to hold the appointment.

Example

Imogen takes on a 12-month contract at an office in Marlow. Although the appointment is less than 24 months, the Marlow office is not a temporary workplace as Imogen works there for duration of the contract.

Tax exemption

If the employer pays or reimburses travel expenses which would be deductible if met by the employee, the payment or reimbursement is exempt from tax.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, ss. 289A, 338, 339;

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Is the summer party tax-free?

A statutory exemption exists, which allows employers to meet the cost of certain social events for staff without triggering a liability to tax or NICs, providing certain conditions are met.

The legislation refers to ‘an annual party or similar annual function’. Although HMRC do not seem to interpret this to mean that the same event must be held every year, it may be prudent to check the issue in advance where a one-off event is planned.

Conditions

A staff event will qualify as a tax-free benefit if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • the total cost must not exceed £150 per head, per year
  • the event must be primarily for entertaining staff
  • the event must be open to employees generally, or to those at a particular location, if the employer has numerous branches or departments

The ‘cost per head’ of an event is the total cost (including VAT) of providing:

  1. the event, and
  2. any transport or accommodation incidentally provided for persons attending it (whether or not they are the employer’s employees), divided by the number of those persons.

Provided the £150 limit is not exceeded, any number of parties or events may be held during the tax year, for example, there could be three parties held at various times, each costing £50 per head.

The £150 is a limit, not an allowance – if the limit is exceeded by just £1, the whole amount must be reported to HMRC.

If there are two parties, for example, where the combined cost of each exceeds £150, the £150 limit is offset against the most expensive one, leaving the other one as a fully taxable benefit.

Example

ABC Ltd pays for an annual Christmas party costing £150 per head and a summer barbecue costing £75 per head. The Christmas party would be covered by the exemption, but employees would be taxed on summer barbecue costs, as a benefit-in-kind.

Tax treatment for employers

The cost of staff events is tax deductible for the business. The legislation provides a let-out clause, which means that entertaining staff is not treated for tax in the same way as customer entertaining. The expenses will be shown separately in the business accounts – usually as ‘staff welfare’ costs or similar.

There is no monetary limit on the amount that an employer can spend on an annual function. If a staff party costs more than £150 per head, the cost will still be an allowable deduction, but the employees will have a liability to pay tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) arising on the benefit-in-kind.

The employer may agree to settle any tax charge arising on behalf of the employees. This may be done using a HMRC PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA), which means that the benefits do not need to be taxed under PAYE, or included on the employees’ forms P11D. The employer’s tax liability under the PSA must be paid to HMRC by 19 October following the end of the tax year to which the payment relates.

It should also be noted that whilst the £150 exemption is mirrored for Class 1 NIC purposes, (so that if the limit is not exceeded, no liability arises for the employees), Class 1B NICs at the current rate of 13.8%, will be payable by the employer on benefits-in-kind which are subject to a PSA.

The full cost of staff parties and/or events will be disallowed for tax if it is found that the entertainment of staff is in fact incidental to that of entertaining customers.

VAT-registered businesses can claim back input VAT on the costs, but this may be restricted where this includes entertaining customers.

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Simplified deductions where your business is based at home

Many small businesses are run from home. Where a business is run from home, household costs will be incurred which are attributable to the business. These may include additional costs of gas and electricity to provide heat and light to the home office or workshop and to power the computer or equipment, the costs of additional cleaning, and suchlike.

Expenses which are wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of the business can be deducted in working out the profits of the business. This will inevitably involve a certain amount of record keeping in order to identify what those expenses are. As far as household bills are concerned, it is permissible to deduct a proportion of the total household expenses in computing the business profits, with the apportionment being made on a ‘just and reasonable’ basis.

Claim simplified expenses instead

Businesses can save themselves the hassle of working out the proportion of household costs that relate to the business by instead using HMRC’s simplified expenses to claim a deduction for the costs of working from home. The deduction is a set amount per month, depending on the number of hours worked at home on the business each month. The hours include not only hours worked by the proprietor, but also hours worked in the home by any staff.

The monthly deduction is shown in the table below.

Hours of business use per month Monthly flat rate deduction
25 to 50 £10
51 to 100 £18
101 or more £26

The simplified expenses do not cover telephone and internet costs, in respect of which a separate deduction can be claimed.

Example

Luke is self-employed as a graphic designer. He runs his business from his house.

He normally works at home for 120 hours a month, except in August when he works 20 hours and December when he works 60 hours. He is able to claim a deduction for the year of £288 (being 10 months @ £26, one month @ £10 and one month @ £18).

Actual or simplified?

While claiming a deduction based on simplified expenses is a lot less hassle, it may not necessarily give the greatest deduction. Where the trader thinks the time spent working out a deduction based on actual costs is worthwhile, only they can decide.

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Don’t pay for expenses that your employer should be paying for – here’s how and when to claim a tax deduction.

Employees – claim a tax deduction for expenses

Employees often incur expenses in doing their job – this may be the cost of a train ticket or petrol to visit a supplier, or purchasing stationery or small tools which are used in their job. Employers will frequently reimburse the employee for any expenses that they incur, but where such a reimbursement is not forthcoming, the employee may be able to claim a tax relief.

The test

Employment expenses are deductible only if they are incurred ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of the employment’. The test is a harsh test to meet; the ‘necessary’ condition means that ‘each and every’ jobholder would be required to incur the expense. Consequently, there is no relief if the expense is not ‘necessary’ and the employee chooses to incur it (even if the ‘wholly and exclusively’ parts of the test are met). The rules for travel expenses are different, but broadly operate to allow relief for ‘business travel’.

In the performance of the job v putting the employee in a position to do the job

A distinction is drawn between expenses that are incurred in actually performing the job and those which are incurred in putting the employee in the position to do the job. Expenses incurred in travelling from the office to a meeting with a supplier and back to the office are incurred in performing the job. By contrast, childcare costs or home to work travel are incurred to put the employee in a position to do the job. Relief is available only for expenses incurred as part of the job, and not for those which incurred, albeit arguably necessarily, to enable the employee to do the job.

Expenses for which relief may be claimed

A deduction can be claimed for any expense that meets the ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily’ test. Examples include professional fees and subscriptions, travel and subsistence costs, additional costs of working from home, cost of repairing tools or specialist clothing, phone calls, etc.

Where the expense is reimbursed by the employer, a deduction cannot be claimed as well; however, the amount reimbursed is not taxable and is ignored for tax purposes.

Using your own car

Where an employee uses his or her own car for business travel, the employer can pay tax-free mileage payments up to the approved rates. For cars and vans, this is 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles in the tax year and 25p per mile for any subsequent miles.

If the employer does not pay mileage allowances or pay less than the approved amount, the employee can claim tax relief for the difference between the approved amount and the amount paid by the employer.

Flat rate expenses

Employers in certain industries are able to claim a flat rate deduction for certain expenses in line with rates published by HMRC (see www.gov.uk/guidance/job-expenses-for-uniforms-work-clothing-and-tools#claim-table). Although claiming the flat rate removes the need to keep records of actual costs, employees can claim a deduction based on actual costs where this is more beneficial.

How to claim There are different ways to make a claim depending on your circumstances. Claims can be made online using HMRC’s online service, by post on form P87, by phone or, where a self-assessment return is completed, via the self-assessment return.

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