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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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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A quick guide on how to manage costs and expenses as a work from home landlord

Managing a rental business from home

A landlord will often manage their property rental business from home, and in doing so will incur additional household expenses, such as additional electricity and gas, additional cleaning costs, etc. As with other expenses, the landlord can claim a deduction for these when working out the profits of the rental business.

Most unincorporated landlords will now prepare accounts on the cash basis.

Wholly and exclusively incurred

The basic rule for an expense to be deductible in computing the profits of a rental business is that the expenses relate wholly and exclusively to that business. This applies equally to a deduction for household expenses – they can be claimed where they relate wholly and exclusively to the rental business.

Actual costs

Where the expenses are wholly and necessarily incurred, a deduction can simply be claimed for the actual expenses. In reality, this will take some working out as household bills will not be split between personal and business expenses. Any reasonable basis of apportionment can be used – such as floor area, number of rooms, hours spent etc. Records should be kept, together with the basis of calculation.

Simplified expenses

Where a landlord spends more than 25 hours a month managing the business from home, the simplified expenses system can be used to work out the deduction for the additional costs of working from home. The expenses depend on the number of hours worked in the home each month, and the deduction is a flat monthly amount, as shown in the table below.

Hours of business use per month Flat rate per month
25 to 50 hours £10
51 to 100 hours £18
101 hours or more £26

The hours are the total hours worked at the home by anyone in the property rental business.

Example

Nadeem runs his property rental business from home. In 2018/19, he spends 60 hours a month working on the business in all months except August and December, in respect of which he spends 30 hours in each on those months working on the business.

For 2018/19 he is able to claim a deduction of £200 for expenses of running his business from home (10 months @ £18 plus 2 months @ £10).

The simplified expenses rule does not cover telephone and internet, which can be claimed in addition to the deduction for simplified expenses.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2003, Pt. Ch. 5A, Pt. 3

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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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Make sure you take into account stamp duty if you’re looking to buy a commercial property.

Stamp duty land tax on non-residential properties

Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is payable in England and Northern Ireland on the purchase of property over a certain price. It applies equally to residential and non-residential properties, although the rates are different. Stamp duty land tax is devolved with land and buildings transaction tax (LBTT) applying in Scotland and land transaction tax (LTT) applying in Wales.

Non-residential property

As the name suggests, non-residential property is property other than that which is used as a residence. This includes commercial property, such as shops and office, agricultural land and forests. The non-residential rates of SDLT also apply where six or more residential properties are brought in a single transaction.

Mixed use properties

The non-residential rates of SDLT also apply to mixed use properties. These are properties which have both residential and non-residential elements. An example of a mixed use property would be a shop with a flat above it.

Rates

SDLT is charged at the appropriate rate on each ‘slice’ of the consideration. No SDLT is payable where the consideration is less than £150,000, or on the first £150,000 of the consideration where it exceeds this amount.

The rates of SDLT applying to non-residential properties are shown in the table below. They also apply to the lease premium where the property is leasehold rather than freehold.

Consideration SDLT rate
Up to £150,000 Zero
The next £100,000 (i.e. the ‘slice’ from £150,001 to £250,000) 2%
Excess over £250,000 5%

Example

ABC Ltd buys a commercial property for £320,000. SDLT of £5,500 is payable, calculated as follows.

On first £150,000 @ 0% £0
On next £100,000 @ 2% £2,000
On remaining £70,000 @ 5% £3,500
Total SDLT payable £5,500

New leasehold sales and transfers

The purchase of a new non-residential or mixed use leasehold property triggers a SDLT liability on the purchase price (the lease premium) and also on the annual rent payable under the lease (the net present value). The two elements are calculated separately and added together.

The lease premium element is calculated using the rates above, while the rent element is payable at the rates in the table below. No SDLT is payable on the rent if the net present value is less than £150,000.

Net present value of the rent SDLT rates
£0 to £150,000 Zero
£150,001 to £5,000,000 1%
Excess over £5,000,000 2%

Existing leases

SDLT is only payable on the lease price where an existing lease is assigned.

SDLT calculator

HMRC have published a handy calculator on the Gov.uk website which can be used to work out the SDLT payable on a commercial transaction. It can be found at www.tax.service.gov.uk/calculate-stamp-duty-land-tax/#/intro.

Scotland and Wales

The rates of LBTT payable on the purchase of non-residential properties in Scotland can be found at www.revenue.scot/land-buildings-transaction-tax/guidance/calculating-tax-rates-and-bands and the rates of LTT payable on the purchase of non-residential properties in Wales can be found at https://gov.wales/land-transaction-tax-rates-and-bands.

Partner note: FA 2003, s. 55, 56.

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Putting property in joint name – beware a potential SDLT charge

There are a number of scenarios in which a couple may decide to put a property which was previously in sole name into joint names. This may happen when the couple start to live together, get married or enter a civil partnership. Alternatively, it may occur if the couple take advantage of the capital gains tax no gain/no loss rule for spouses and civil partners to transfer ownership of an investment property into joint name prior to sale to reduce the capital gains tax bill.

While most people are aware that stamp duty land tax is payable when they purchase a property, they may be unaware of the potential charge that may arise if they put a property in joint names – it all depends on the value of the consideration, if any.

It should be noted that Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) applies to properties in Scotland Land Transaction Tax to properties in Wales.

What counts as consideration?

The problem is that the definition of ‘consideration’ extends to more than just money – it also includes taking over a debt, the release of a debt and the provision of goods, works and services. So, while there may be no transfer of money when a couple put a property in joint names, if they also put the mortgage in joint names, depending on the amount of the mortgage taken on, they may trigger an SDLT charge.

Case study 1

Following their marriage, Lily moves into Karl’s house. They decide to put the property in joint names as well as the mortgage of £200,000. There is no transfer of money, but Lily assumes responsibility for half the mortgage. Lily is a first-time buyer having previously rented.

The valuable consideration is the share of the mortgage taken on by Lily, i.e. £100,000. As this is less than the first-time buyer threshold of £300,000, there is no SDLT to pay.

Case study 2

Anna has several investment properties in her sole name. She is planning on selling a property and expects to realise a chargeable gain of £30,000. As her wife Petra has not used her annual exempt amount, she transfers 50% of the property into Petra’s name to make use of this. There is a £50,000 mortgage on the property, which remains in Anna’s sole name.

There is no valuable consideration and no SDLT to pay.

Case study 3

Following their marriage, Helen moves into her new husband Michael’s home. The property is worth £700,000 and has a mortgage of £400,000. Helen gives Michael £100,000 from the sale of her previous home, which he uses to reduce the mortgage. They then transfer the remaining mortgage of £300,000 into joint name,

Helen had assumed that there would be no SDLT to pay as the £100,000 she had given Michael is less than the SDLT threshold of £125,000. However, the consideration also includes the share of the mortgage taken on of £150,000, so the total consideration is £250,000. As a result, SDLT of £2,500 (on the slice from £125,000 to £250,000 at 2%) is payable.

The whole picture

It is important to look at the whole picture when putting property in joint names – sharing the mortgage may trigger an unexpected SDLT bill.

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Airbnb-type lets – is rent-a-room relief available?

Many homeowners have taken advantage of sites such as Airbnb to let out a spare room on a temporary basis or their whole property while they are away. In most cases, as long as the associated conditions are met, hosts can enjoy rental income of up to £7,500 tax-free under the rent-a-room scheme. This continues to be the case as planned legislation to restrict the availability of the relief has not been introduced.

Rent-a-room relief

Rent-a-room relief is a relief that allows individuals to earn up to £7,500 per year tax-free from letting out furnished accommodation in their own home. This limit is halved where more than one person benefits from the income such that each person can enjoy rental income of up to £3,750 per year tax free.

The relief is available to owner occupiers and tenants. To qualify, the rental income must relate to the let of furnished accommodation in the individual’s only or main home. While the relief was introduced to boost the supply of cheap residential accommodation, there is no minimum period of let and applies equally to very short lets. Further, the individual can let out as much of their home as they want.

The relief can be used where a room is let furnished to a lodger. It can also be used where the letting amounts to a trade, for example, where the individual runs a guest house or a bed-and-breakfast or provides services such as meals and cleaning.

Where gross rental income is less than £7,500 (or £3,750 where the income is shared), the relief is automatic – there is no need to tell HMRC.

Where the gross rental income exceeds the rent-a-room limit, the individual has a choice of deducting the rent-a-room limit and paying tax on the excess or calculating the profits in the normal way by deducting the actual expenses. Claiming rent-a-room relief will be beneficial if there is a profit and actual expenses are less than the rent-a-room limit. This is done on the tax return.

It is not possible to create a loss by deducting the rent-a-room limit if, for example, rental income is less than the limit – the income is simply treated as being nil. Where deducting actual expenses from rental income produces a loss, it is better not to claim rent-a-room relief to preserve the loss.

Rent-a-room relief cannot be claimed where the accommodation is not in the individual’s main home, where accommodation is provided unfurnished or where a UK home is let out while the owner is working abroad.

Airbnb-type income

Rent-a-room relief is available for Airbnb-type accommodation as long as the conditions are met. The issue is not whether the income is from an Airbnb-type let; rather, whether the conditions for rent-a-room relief are met. This is likely to be the case if the nature of the Airbnb let is such that it comprises the let of a furnished spare room in the taxpayer’s home, or the whole home for a short period, such as a weekend or a couple of weeks when the homeowner is on holiday.

However, where the individual uses Airbnb or similar to let accommodation in a property which is not his or her main home, for example a holiday cottage, rent-a-room relief is not available and the normal property rental rules apply. The individual may, however, benefit from the property income allowance of £1,000.

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Claiming a deduction for pre-letting expenses

For tax purposes, a property rental business begins when the first property is let. However, it is likely that the landlord will have incurred some expenses prior to that date in getting the property ready to let and in finding a tenant and agreeing the let.

Once the letting has commenced, expenses incurred in relation to that let will be deductible in computing the taxable rental profits, as long as the conditions for deductibility are met (i.e. the expenses are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the rental business and, subject to the cash basis capital expenditure rules, are revenue in nature). It is therefore necessary to distinguish between expenses incurred as part of the letting business and preparatory expenses incurred before the property rental business began.

While no relief is available for preparatory expenses at the time that they are incurred, relief may be available under the special rules for pre-letting expenses once the business has commenced.

Relief for pre-letting expenses

For relief to be available in respect of expenses incurred before the start of the property rental business, the expenditure must meet all of the following conditions:

  • the expenditure is incurred within a period of seven years before the date on which the rental business started
  • the expenditure is not otherwise allowable as a deduction for tax purposes
  • the expenditure would have been allowed as a deduction had it been incurred after the rental business had started

Consequently, to be allowed under the pre-letting expenditure rules, the expenditure must be incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business and (otherwise than in accordance with the cash basis rules permitting a deduction for capital expenditure) must be revenue in nature.

The type of expenditure which might qualify for relief under the pre-letting expenses rules would include the costs of advertising for a tenant, cleaning the property, tidying up the garden, and suchlike.

Where expenditure qualifies for deduction under the pre-letting expenses rules, the expenditure is treated as if it were incurred on the day on which the property rental business began. In this way, it is deducted from the rental income of the first accounting period of the property rental business.

Example

Teresa buys a house to let out. The property costs £250,000, and the associated costs of the purchase are £4,000. The purchase completes on 28 February 2019.

Teresa arranges for some work to be undertaken on the property prior to letting it out. This comprises painting the property (£2,000) and some minor repairs (£400). She also buys carpets and curtains (£3,000) and arranges for the property to be cleaned (£200) and the garden to be tidied up (£150).

She incurs costs of £400 on advertising for a tenant.

A tenant is found, and the property is let from 1 May 2019.

The property rental business starts on 1 May 2019. Relief is available under the pre-letting rules for the following expenses:

  • repairs and maintenance (decorating and minor repairs): £2,400;
  • cleaning: £200;
  • gardening: £150; and
  • advertising: £400.

These costs are treated as if they were incurred on 1 May 2019 and are deducted from the rental income if the first period of letting.

The cost of property and associated expenses are not allowable (relief will be given on the eventual sale under the capital gains tax rules). Likewise, no relief is available for the initial purchase of the carpets and curtains, although relief will be available if at some future point they are replaced in accordance with the relief for the replacement of domestic items.

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Expenses that landlords can deduct

Landlords must pay tax on any profit from their property rental business (although income from property of less than £1,000 a year can be ignored). In working out the profits, expenses are deducted from rental income. To ensure that the landlord does not pay more tax than is necessary, it is important to deduct all allowable expenses. Remember, the profit calculation is undertaken for the property income business as a whole, not on a property by property basis. Consequently, it does not matter whether the expenses incurred in relation to an individual property exceed the rental income from that property – it is the overall result that matters.

Cash basis

From 6 April 2017, the cash basis is the default basis for eligible landlords. Where accounts are prepared on the cash basis, it is the date that the expenditure was incurred that is the key date.

Allowable expenses

An expense is an allowable expense if it is incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of renting out the property.

Common examples of expenses which may be allowable include:

  • repairs and maintenance
  • water rates
  • council tax
  • gas and electricity
  • insurance (e.g. landlords’ buildings and contents insurance)
  • gardening costs
  • cleaning costs
  • letting agents’ fees
  • accountants’ fees
  • rents where the property is sub-let
  • office expenses, such as phone calls, stationery, etc.
  • cost of advertising for new tenants

Interest and other finance costs

Relief is available for interest on a loan up to the value of the property when it was first let. However, the way in which relief is given for interest is changing from relief as a deduction from income to relief as a deduction at the basic rate from the tax that is due.

For 2017/18, relief for 75% of the interest costs is available as a deduction and relief for the remaining 25% as a basic rate tax reduction, for 2018/19, relief for 50% of the interest costs is available as a deduction, with relief for the remaining 50% as a basic rate tax reduction. For 2019/20, only 25% of the interest costs are deductible, with relief for the remaining 75% being given as a basic rate tax reduction. From 2020/21 onwards, relief for all interest costs is given as a basic rate tax reduction.

Vehicles

A deduction for vehicle costs can, from 6 April 2017 onwards, be claimed using the approved mileage rates. This is generally easier than working out the deduction based on actual costs (although this method can be used if preferred). The rates are as follows:

Vehicle Rate
Cars and vans 45p per mile for first 10,000 business miles in the tax year 25p per mile for subsequent miles
Motorcycles 24p per mile

Capital expenditure under the cash basis

Under the cash basis, expenditure for capital items is deductible unless specifically disallowed. Capital items for which a deduction is not allowed include land and cars.

Domestic items

Where the property is let furnished, a deduction is allowed for replacement domestic items, as long as they are of an equivalent standard to the item being replaced. A deduction is not allowed for enhancement expenditure.

Property allowance A property allowance of £1,000 is available. Property income of less than £1,000 does not need to be reported to HMRC. Where income exceeds £1,000, the £1,000 allowance can be deducted instead of deducting actual expenses. This will be beneficial where actual expenses are less than £1,000.