If you have a holiday let but are worried you won’t meet the occupancy test this year, all is not lost. There are two routes by which it may be possible to reach the required occupancy threshold – an averaging election or a period of grace election.

Furnished holiday lettings – What can you do if you fail to meet the occupancy tests due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Lets that qualify as furnished holiday lettings (FHL) enjoy special tax rules compared to other types of let, allowing landlords to benefit from certain capital gains tax reliefs for traders and to claim plant and machinery capital allowances for items such as furniture, fixtures and equipment. Profits from an FHL business also count as earnings for pension purposes.

To qualify as an FHL the property must be in the UK or (for the time being at least) in the EEA. It must also be let furnished and meet various occupancy conditions.

Occupancy conditions

To qualify as an FHL, all three occupancy conditions must be met. Where the let is continuing, the tests are applied on a tax-year basis; for a new let, the must be met for the first 12 months of letting.

Test 1 – Pattern of occupancy condition

This test is met if the total of all lettings that exceed 31 days is not more than 155 days in the year.

Test 2 – The availability condition

The property must be available for letting as furnished holiday accommodation for at least 210 days in the tax year (excluding any days in which the landlord stays in the property).

Test 3 – The letting condition

The property must be let commercially as furnished holiday accommodation to the public for at least 105 days in the year. Lets of more than 31 days are not counted unless the let exceeds 31 days as a result of unforeseen circumstances. Lets to family or friends on a non-commercial basis are also ignored.

Impact of Coronavirus

The hospitality and leisure sectors have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown means that many landlords with holiday lets will fail to meet the letting condition in 2020/21. However, all is not lost and there are two routes by which it may be possible to reach the required occupancy threshold – an averaging election or a period of grace election.

Averaging election

An averaging election can be used where a landlord has more than one holiday let and one or more of the properties does not meet the letting condition. Instead of applying this test on a property by property basis, it can be applied by reference to the average rate of occupancy across all properties let as FHLs. Thus, the test is treated as met if on average the holiday lets are let for 105 days in the tax year.

While, at the time of writing, it was unclear when all the restrictions may be lifted, an averaging election may help landlords with mixed portfolios including some winter holidays lets as well as those that are popular in the summer.

Period of grace election

A period of grace election can be used where the landlord genuinely intended to meet the letting condition but was unable to. The Coronavirus pandemic is a prime example of where this may be the case.

To make a period of grace election, the pattern of occupation and availability conditions must be met. Also, the letting condition must have been met in the year before the first year in which the landlord wishes to make a period of grace election. If the letting condition is not met again in the following year, a second period of grace election can be made. However, if the test is not met in year 4 after two period of grace elections, the property will no longer qualify as a furnished holiday letting.

The election provides a potential lifeline to landlords of holiday lets unable to meet the letting condition in 2020/21 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It can be made either on the self-assessment tax return or separately (either with or without an averaging election). A period of grace election for 2020/21 must be made by 31 January 2023.

Partner note: Self-assessment Helpsheet HS253.

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For landlords, the impact that unpaid or late paid rent has on the calculation of taxable profits depends on whether you prepare accounts on the cash basis or under the accruals basis. We go through some case studies in today’s blog

Late or unpaid rent – Impact on the calculation of a landlord’s taxable profits

As with other sectors, landlords may be adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tenants suffering cashflow difficulties may be unable to pay their rent in full or on time. The impact that unpaid or late paid rent has on the calculation of taxable profits depends on whether the landlord prepares accounts on the cash basis or under the accruals basis.

Cash basis

The cash basis is the default basis of preparation for most landlords whose cash receipts for the tax year are £150,000 or less. Under the cash basis income is recognised when the money is received not when it is earned, and expenses are accounted for when the money is paid not when the expenses is incurred. Receipts are income of the period in which the money is received, and expenses are outgoings of the period in which they are paid. Consequently, there are no debtors or creditors.

This provides automatic relief where rent is not paid or is paid late, protecting the landlord from having to pay tax on money he or she has yet to receive.

Example 1

Harry is a landlord and lets a flat for £800 a month, payable on 25th of each month. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his tenant does not pay the rent that was due on 25 March 2020. The tenant eventually pays £200 of the overdue rent in June 2020 and the remaining £600 in September 2020.

Harry prepares the accounts for his rental property business on the cash basis, accounting for rental income only when the rent has been received. The rent due for March 2020 (falling in the 2019/20 tax year) is not received until June and September 2020 – which fall in the 2020/21 tax year. As a result, the rent for March is taken into account in computing Harry’s taxable profits for 2020/21 rather than 2019/20.

Accruals basis

Rental profit must be determined under the accruals basis in accordance with UK GAAP where the landlord is not eligible for the cash basis (for example, because rental receipts for the tax year are more than £150,000) or because the landlord elects for the cash basis not to apply. Under the accruals basis, rental income is taken into account in the period to which it relates, rather than when the rent is paid. Likewise, expenses are deducted when the expense is incurred not when the bill is paid, if different. There is no automatic relief if rent is not paid on time as under the cash basis.

Example 2

Louisa has a number of rental properties and as her rental receipts exceed £150,000 a year, she prepares the accounts of her rental business under the accruals basis. One of her tenants fails to pay the rent of £2,000 for March 2020 which was due on 1 March 2020. The tenant eventually pays the late rent in September 2020.

As accounts are prepared under the accruals basis, the rent due for March 2020 is taken into account in working out the taxable profit for 2019/20, regardless of the fact that it was paid in 2020/21 rather than in 2019/20.

There is, however, relief available where the rent remains unpaid and is not recovered, as opposed to being paid late – a deduction is permitted for a debt which is genuinely bad or doubtful.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, ss. 271A to 271D.

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It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that legal and professional costs can be computed in calculating taxable profits if they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business; however this is only part of the story.  

Legal and professional fees – Capital or revenue?

At some point, a landlord is likely to incur legal and professional fees in connection with the running of their property rental business. It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that these costs can be computed in calculating taxable profits if they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business; however this is only part of the story. The landlord must also determine whether the costs are revenue or capital in nature. The rules also differ depending upon whether the accounts are prepared on the cash basis or using traditional accounting under the accruals basis.

The rule

The nature of the legal fees follow that of the matter to which they relate – so if the fees are incurred in relation to an item which is itself revenue in nature, the legal and professional fees are also revenue in nature. Likewise, legal fees that are incurred in connection with a matter that is capital in nature are also capital in nature.
Legal fees that are revenue in nature would include, for example, fees incurred to recover unpaid rent, while legal fees that are capital in nature would include fees incurred in connection with the purchase of a property.

Cash or accruals basis

Revenue items are deductible in computing profits regardless of whether they are prepared under the cash or accruals basis, although the time at which the relief is given will differ. Under the cash basis, the deduction is given for the period to which the expenditure relates, for the cash basis the deduction is given for the period for which the expenditure is incurred.
For capital expenditure different rules apply. No deduction is allowed for capital expenditure under the accrual basis, whereas under the cash basis, the treatment depends on the nature of the item – capital expenditure is deductible under the cash basis unless the expenditure is of a type for which a deduction is expressly forbidden. Items of the forbidden list include expenditure in or in connection with lease premiums and the provision, alteration or disposal of land (which includes property).

Example of allowable revenue items

A deduction for legal and professional fees will normally be allowed where they relate to:
• costs of obtaining a valuation
• normal accountancy costs incurred in preparing accounts of the rental business and agreeing the tax liabilities
• costs of arbitration to determine the rent
• the costs of evicting an unsatisfactory tenant to re-let the property

Example of capital expenses

The following are examples of legal and professional fees which are capital in nature:
• legal costs incurred in acquiring or adding to a property
• costs in connection with negotiations under the Town and Country Planning Act
• fees incurred in pursuing debts of a capital nature, such as the proceeds due on sale

Leases

Leases can be tricky. The expenses incurred in connection with the first letting or subletting for more than one year are deemed to be capital and therefore not deductible – this would include the legal fees incurred in drawing up the lease, surveyors’ fees and commission. However, if the lease is for less than one year, the associated expenses can be deducted. Normal legal and professional fees on the renewal of a lease are also deductible if the lease is for less than 50 years; although any proportion of the fees that relate to the payment of a premium are not deductible.
If a new lease closely follows the previous lease, a change of tenant will not render the associated fees non-deductible. However, if the property is put to other use between lets, or a long lease, say, replaces a short lease, the associated costs will be capital and non-deductible.

Partner note: HMRC’s Property Income Manual PIM 2120

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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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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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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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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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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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