In essence, it’s all about the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test – could it be time to invest in some branded sweatshirts?

Dual purpose expenditure – can landlords claim a deduction?

Landlords are able to claim tax relief for expenses that are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the property rental business. However, some expenses have both a private and a business element. Where this is the case, is any relief available?

Business element separately identifiable

If it is possible to separate the business and the private expenditure, a deduction can be claimed for the business element. This may be the case, for example, in relation to a car which is used for both private journeys and for the purposes of the property rental business, to visit tenants or to check on the properties. Likewise, a landlord may use his or her mobile phone for private calls and also for business calls. From the call log, it will be possible to identify the business calls and to apportion the bill between business and private calls.

Business element cannot be separately identified

If the expenditure is dual purpose in nature and it is not possible to identify the business element, no deduction is allowed. The expenditure does not meet the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test, and as such is not deductible in computing the profits of the property rental business. An example of expenditure that may fall into this category is clothing, even if only worn for working in the property rental business. The clothing fails the wholly and exclusively test as it also provides the landlord with warmth and decency (a private purpose). However, it should be noted that a deduction is allowed for clothing that bears a conspicuous advert for the business, such as a sweatshirt featuring the name of the property rental business and the logo.

Example

Dave is a landlord and has a number of properties that he rents out to students. He uses the same car for the purposes of the property rental business as for private journeys.

Dave undertakes the decorating and much of the maintenance on the properties himself. He has purchased overalls specifically for this purpose, which he wears only when undertaking work on the let properties. In the tax year, he spends £80 on overalls.

In the tax year in question, Dave drove 6,800 miles of which 4,200 were for the purposes of his property rental business.

A deduction is allowed for the business mileage. Dave uses the simplified mileage system, claiming a deduction of £1,890 (4,200 miles @ 45p per mile).

However, although he only wears the overalls when working on his let properties, the private benefit cannot be distinguished from the business use. Consequently, the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test is not met, and the £80 which Dave spent on overalls cannot be deducted in computing the taxable profit for his property rental business.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, s, 34.

 

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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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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:

VehicleRate
Cars and vans45p per mile for first 10,000 business miles in the tax year 25p per mile for subsequent miles
Motorcycles24p 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.