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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The letting of a jointly-owned property in itself does not give rise to a partnership, so what does?

Property partnerships

A person may own a property jointly that is let out as part of a partnership business. This may arise if the person is a partner of a trading or professional partnership which also lets out some of its land and buildings. A less common situation is where the person is in a partnership that runs an investment business which does not amount to a trade, but which includes or consists of the letting of property.

When is there a property partnership?

The letting of a jointly-owned property in itself does not give rise to a partnership – and indeed a partnership is unlikely to exist where joint owners simply let a property that they own together. Whether there is a partnership depends on the degree of business activity involved and there needs to be a degree of organisation similar to that in a commercial business. Thus, for there to be a partnership where property is jointly owned, the owners will need to provide significant additional services in return for money.

Separate rental business

A partnership rental business is treated as a separate business from any other rental business carried on by the partner. Thus, if a person owns property in their sole name and is also a partner in a partnership which lets out property, the partnership rental income is not taken into account in computing the profits of the individual’s rental business – it is dealt with separately.

Further, if a person is a partner in more than one partnership which lets out property, each is dealt with as a separate rental business – the profits of one cannot be set against the losses of another.

Example

Kate has a flat that she lets out. She is also a partner in a graphic design agency, which is run from a converted barn. The partnership lets out a separate barn to another business.

Kate has two property rental businesses. One business comprises the flat that she owns in her sole name and lets out, and the partnership rental business consisting of the barn which is let out as a separate rental business. This is a long-term arrangement.

Kate must keep her share of the profits or losses from the partnership property business separate from those relating to her personal rental business. She cannot set the profits from one against losses from the other. They must be returned separately on her tax return.

Partner note: HMRC’s Property Income Manual at PIM1030.

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Make the most of your allowances

The tax system contains a number of allowances which enable individuals to enjoy income and gains tax free. In seeking to maximise your tax-free income, it makes sense to take advantage of available allowances. The following are a selection of some of the allowances on offer.
Personal allowance
Individuals are entitled to a personal allowance each year, set at £11,850 for 2018/19, rising to £12,500 for 2019/20. However, not everyone can benefit from the allowance – once income reaches £100,000 it is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds more than £100,000 until it is fully abated. Reducing income below £100,000 will help preserve the allowance.
The personal allowance is lost if it is not used in the tax year – it cannot be carried forward (although in certain circumstances it is possible to transfer 10% to a spouse or civil partner). To prevent the allowance being wasted, various steps can be taken depending on personal circumstances, including:
• paying dividends to use up both the dividend allowance and any unused personal allowance;
• transferring income earning assets from a spouse to utilise the unused allowance;
• paying a bonus from a family or personal company;
• accelerating income so that it is received before the end of the tax year.
Marriage allowance
The marriage allowance can be beneficial to couples on lower incomes, particularly if one spouse or civil partner does not work. The marriage allowance allows one spouse or civil partner to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (as rounded up to the nearest £10) to their spouse or civil partner, as long as the recipient is not a higher or additional rate taxpayer. The marriage allowance is set at £1190 for 2018/19 and £1250 for 2019/20, saving couples tax of, respectively, £238 and £250. The allowance must be claimed: see www.gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance.
Trading allowances
Individuals are able to earn income from self-employment of up to £1,000 tax-free and without the need to declare it to HMRC. Where income exceeds £1,000, the allowance can be claimed as a deduction from income in working out the taxable profit, rather than deducting actual costs. Where allowable expenses are less than £1,000, claiming the treading allowance instead will be beneficial.
Property allowance
A similar allowance exists for property income, allowing individuals to receive property income of up to £1,000 tax-free without the need to tell HMRC. Where property income is more than £1,000, the individual can deduct this rather than actual costs when computing profits for the property rental business if this is more beneficial.
Rent-a-room
The rent-a-room scheme allows individuals to earn up to £7,500 tax-free from letting a furnished room in their own home. The limit is halved where two or more people receive the income.
Savings allowance
Basic rate taxpayers are entitled to a savings allowance of £1,000, while higher rate taxpayers benefit from a savings allowance of £500. Additional rate taxpayers do not get a savings allowance. ISAs provide the opportunity to earn further savings income tax free.
Dividend allowance
All taxpayers regardless of the rate at which they pay tax are entitled to a dividend allowance, set at £2000 for both 2018/19 and 2019/20. This can be useful in extracting profits from a family company in a tax-efficient manner.
Capital gains tax annual exempt amount
Individuals can also realise tax-free capital gains up to the exempt amount each year – set at £11,700 for 2018/19 and at £12,000 for 2019/20. Spouses and civil partners have their own annual exempt amount. Time sales of assets to make best use of the annual exemption.

The above is only a small selection of the allowances available.

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Rent-a-room: Can you benefit?

Rent-a-room relief was introduced to encourage people to let spare rooms in their own home in order to increase the supply of low-cost rental accommodation. In return, the recipient is able to earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free.

Plans to restrict the relief so that it was only available where the occupation by the tenant overlapped with that of the landlord for at least one night have been abandoned – meaning that it is still possible to benefit from the relief for Airbnb-type lets where the property may be rented out for a short time in the landlord’s absence. It can also be used by those running a bed-and-breakfast.

Qualifying accommodation

To qualify the accommodation must be let furnished in the landlord’s home – it does not matter whether the home is owned or rented (but where rented, check that sub-letting is permitted). Where more than one person benefits from the income, the tax-free limit is halved, regardless of how many people share the income.

The relief

Rental income up to the rent-a-room limit is tax-free and does not need to be reported to HMRC. Where the rental income is more, the landlord has a choice:

  • work out rental profit in the usual way by deducting expenses from the rental income;
  • deduct the rent-a-room limit from the rental income and pay tax on the difference.

Using the rent-a-room limit will be beneficial where this is more than actual expenses. Where this route is taken, the relief should be claimed on the self-assessment tax return by ticking the appropriate box.

Case study 1

John is single and has a two-bedroom house. He lets out his spare room for £400 a month. He qualifies for rent-a-room relief. As his rental income of £4,800 is less than the rent-a-room limit, he does not need to declare it to HMRC.

Case study 2

Rob and Fiona are keen hikers and go away each weekend in the summer. They let out their Brighton flat via Airbnb while they are away. In 2018/19 they earned rental income £6,000, which they shared equally.

Rob and Fiona share the income and each have a rent-a-room limit of £3,750. As the rental income from letting out the flat (£3,000 each) is less than their rent-a-room limit, they are eligible for rent-a-room relief and do not need to report the income to HMRC.

Case study 3

Julie runs a B and B in Cheltenham. In 2018/19, she receives rental income of £12,000. Her expenses are £3,000.

As her rental income is more than £7,500 she must report it to HMRC. However, she can still benefit from rent-a-room relief by opting to work out her profit by deducting the rent-a-room limit of £7,500 rather than actual costs of £3,000. Thus, her taxable profit is only £4,500, rather than £9,000 (which would be the profit in the absence of rent-a-room relief). By claiming the relief, she will save tax of £900 if she is a basic rate taxpayer and tax of £1,800 if she is a higher rate taxpayer.

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Interest relief for renovation or development costs

Often, when a property is purchased there is work to be done before it can be let out or sold. Where this work is financed by a mortgage or other loan, the way in which and the extent to which relief is available for the interest costs depends whether it falls with the property income or trading income tax rules.

The following case studies illustrate the different approaches.

Case study 1: Buy-to-let investment

Simon buys a property as an investment, with the intention to let it out long term. The property has been neglected and needs doing up before he can put it on the rental market. The property costs £250,000 and Simon has budgeted £40,000 to renovate it. The purchase and refurbishment work are financed with savings of £70,000 and a mortgage of £220,000. Interest on the mortgage is £800 per month.

The purchase completes on 1 May 2018. The renovation work takes six months and the property is let from 1 November 2018. At the time the property is let, it is valued at £280,000.

Under the property income rules interest is allowed as a deduction or tax reduction (as appropriate) to the value of the property when first let. In this case the value of the property when first let (£280,000) is more than the mortgage of £220,000, so relief for the full amount of the interest is allowed in computing the rental profit. For 2018/19, 50% of the interest costs are deductible from the rental income, with relief for the remaining 50% being given as a basic rate tax reduction. For 2019/20, 25% of the interest costs are eligible as a deduction, with relief for the remaining 75% being given as a basic rate tax reduction.

Relief for the interest incurred in the renovation period before the property was first let is available under the pre-commencement provisions. These allow relief to the extent that it would be available had the interest been incurred while the property was let. The interest in the pre-letting period (i.e. that relating to the period from 1 May 2018 to 31 October 2018 of £4,800) is treated as incurred on the day that the property rental business commences, i.e. 1 November 2018.

Case study 2

David also buys a property to do up. However, his intentions are different to Simon in that he wishes to do the property up as quickly as possible and sell at a profit, buying a further property to do up with the proceeds. David is a property developer rather than a landlord and any interest costs incurred in funding the development are deductible under the trading provisions in computing his trading profit. This would be the case regardless of whether David operates as a sole trader or other unincorporated business or forms a company through which to carry out his property development business. Availability of the interest deduction depends on the ‘wholly and exclusively’ rule being satisfied.

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