Category: Tax Refund

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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Using the cash basis – is it for you?

The cash basis is a simpler way of working out taxable profits compared to the traditional accruals method. The cash basis takes account only of money in and money out – income is recognised when received and expenses are recognised when paid. By contrast, the accruals basis matches income and expenditure to the period to which it relates. Consequently, where the cash basis is used there is no need to recognise debtors, creditors, prepayments and accruals, as is the case under the accruals basis.

Example

Ben is a self-employed plumber. He prepares accounts to 31 March each year. On 28 March 2019 he fits a new shower, invoicing the customer £600 on 29 March 2019. The customer pays the bill on 7 April 2019.

He purchased the shower for £400 on 25 March 2019, receiving an invoice from his supplier dated the same date. He pays the bill on 8 April 2019 after he has been paid by the customer.

On the cash basis, the income of £600 and expenditure of £400 fall in the year to 31 March 2020 – they are recognised, respectively, when received and paid (in April 2019). By contrast, under the accruals basis, the income and expenditure falls into the year to 31 March 2019 as this is when the work was done and invoiced.

Who can use the cash basis?

The cash basis is available to small self-employed businesses (such as sole traders and partnerships) whose turnover computed on the cash basis is less than £150,000. Once a trader has elected to use the cash basis, they can continue to do so until their turnover exceeds £300,000. These limits are doubled for universal credit claimants.

Limited companies and limited liability partnerships cannot use the cash basis.

Advantages of the cash basis

The main advantage of the cash basis is its simplicity – there are no complicated accounting concepts to get to grips with. Because income is not recognised until it is received, it means that tax is not payable for a period on money that was not actually received in that period. This also provides automatic relief for bad debts without having to claim it.

Not for everyone

Despite the advantageous associated with its simplicity, the cash basis is not for everyone. The cash basis may not be the right basis for you if:

  • you want to claim a deduction for bank interest or charges of more than £500 (a £500 cap applies under the cash basis);
  • your business is more complex, for example, you hold high levels of stock;
  • your need to obtain finance – banks and other institutions often ask for accounts prepared on the accruals basis;
  • you want to claim sideways loss relief (i.e. set a trading loss against your other income) – this is not permitted under the cash basis.

Need to elect

If the cash basis is for you, you need to elect for it to apply by ticking the relevant box in your self-assessment return.

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Amending your tax return

The deadline for filing the 2017/18 self-assessment tax return of 31 January 2019 has now passed. You filed your return on time and paid the tax that you thought was due, but you know realise that you have made a mistake. Is it too late to correct it, and if not, how do you go about it?

Time limits

A tax return can be amended once it is filed – but you only have 12 months from the filing deadline in which to file an amended return. This means that you have until 31 January 2020 to file an amended 2016/17 return where it was filed online. However, if you have found a mistake in your return for 2017/18 or an earlier year, it is no longer possible to file an amended return. Instead, you will need to write to HMRC telling them about the error and advising them of the correct figures.

Correcting the return

If you are in still in time to file an amended return (for example, you want to amend your 2017/18 tax return), the mechanism for amending the return depends on whether you filed online or whether you filed a paper return.

If you filed your return online, you can amend your return online too. To do this, you need to log into your HMRC online account and select the self-assessment from the home ‘at a glance’ page. Under the heading of ‘returns’ it will tell you that you have completed your self-assessment return for the 2017/18 tax year, and provide a number of options, including an option to ‘Amend Self-Assessment return for year 2017 to 2018’. Selecting this option, provides a number of options for amending the already-submitted return, asking the taxpayer if they would like to:

  • add a new section to your submitted return;
  • amend figures already submitted;
  • delete a section from your submitted return;
  • add/delete a section and/or amend a figure; or
  • return to tax return options.

From there it is simply a case of selecting the appropriate option, amending the return to show the correct figures and filing the amended return.

If the return was filed using a commercial software package, check whether is facilitates the filing of amended returns. If this is not possible, contact HMRC.

Where a paper return has been filed, the 12-month amendment window runs to 31 October after the filing deadline (as an earlier deadline applies to paper returns). To amend a paper return, download a new return, complete it correctly, and send it to HMRC.

Pay more tax or claim a refund

Amending your tax return will also change the amount of tax you owe. If it is more, you will need to pay this, plus interest (which runs from the due date of 31 January after the end of the tax year). If your tax bill goes down as a result of the amendment, you can claim a refund – but remember you only have four years from the end of the tax year to which it relates in which to do so.

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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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