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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Here’s how to earn tax-free money through doing something you love.

Spare time earnings may be tax-free

The new trading tax allowance for individuals of £1,000 was introduced from 6 April 2017 and applies for the 2017/18 tax year onwards. In broad terms, the allowance means that individuals with trading income below the annual threshold may not need to report it to HMRC and may not need to pay tax on it.

This allowance may be particularly useful to individuals with casual or small part time earnings from self-employment, for example, people working in the ‘gig economy’ (Deliveroo workers and such like), or small-scale self-employment such as online selling (maybe via eBay or similar). It means that:

  • individuals with trading income of £1,000 or less in a tax year will not need to declare or pay tax on that income
  • individuals with trading income of more than £1,000 can elect to calculate their profits by deducting the allowance from their income, instead of the actual allowable expenses.

Practical implications of the allowance include:

  • where actual expenses are less than £1,000, deducting the trading allowance will be beneficial, whereas if actual expenses are more than £1,000, deducting the actual expenses will give a lower profit figure, and ultimately a lower tax bill
  • where income is less than £1,000, but the individual makes a loss, an election for the allowance not to apply may be made – in this case, the loss in the usual way and include the details on their tax return, meaning that loss relief is not wasted

Example – Income less than £1,000

Graham enjoys picture-framing in his spare time, and he occasionally frames prints for family and friends for a small fee. During the 2018/19 tax year he received income of £700 from this source, and his expenditure on framing equipment amounted to £300. As Graham’s trading income is less than £1,000, he does not need to report it to HMRC and he does not need to pay tax or national insurance contributions (NICs) on it.

Example – Income exceeding £1,000

Mary enjoys baking and makes celebration cakes to order in her spare time. In 2018/19, her income from cake sales is £1,500 and she incurred expenses of £300. As Mary’s expenditure is less than £1,000, she will be better off if she claims the trading allowance. Her taxable profit will be £500 (£1,500 less the trading allowance of £1,000).

More than one source of trading income

Although the trading allowance may work well for many small-scale traders, care must be taken where a person’s main source of income is from self-employment and their secondary income is from a completely separate small-scale business. HMRC will combine income from all trading and casual activities when considering the trading allowance. In this type of situation, where the allowance is claimed, the individual will not be able to claim for any expenditure, regardless of how many businesses they have and how much their total business expenses are.

Example – More than one income source

Mark is a self-employed car mechanic and has income of £30,000 in 2018/19. His business expenditure for the year is £10,000. In his spare time, Mark buys and sells old collectable car magazines via the internet. During 2018/19 he received net income of £1,000 from this source. If Mark claims the trading allowance against his part time income, he will be unable to claim expenses of £10,000 against his car mechanic income, and his taxable profit for the year will be £30,000. If he doesn’t claim the trading allowance, his taxable profit for the year will be just £21,000.

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