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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A quick guide to what should be included when calculating the profit or loss for a property rental business.

Property income receipts – what should be included?

When calculating the profit or loss for a property rental business, it is important that nothing is overlooked. The receipts which need to be taken into account may include more than simply the rent received from letting out the property.

Rent and other receipts

Income from a property rental business includes all gross rents received before any deductions, for example, for property management fees or for letting agents’ fees. Other receipts, such as ground rents, should be taken into account.

Deposits

The treatment of deposits can be complex. A deposit may be taken to cover the cost of any damage incurred by the tenant. Where a property is let on an assured shorthold tenancy, the tenants’ deposit must be placed in a tenancy deposit scheme.

Deposits not returned at the end of the tenancy or amounts claimed against bonds should normally be included as income. However, any balance of a deposit that is not used to cover services or repairs and is returned to the tenant should be excluded from income.

Jointly-owned property

Where a property is owned by two or more people, it is important that the profit or loss is allocated between the joint owners correctly. Where the joint owners are married or in a civil partnership, profits and losses will be allocated equally, even if the property is owned in unequal shares, unless a form 17 election has been made for profits and losses to be allocated in accordance with actual ownerships shares where these are unequal.

Where the joint owners are not spouses or civil partners, profits and losses are normally divided in accordance with actual ownership shares, unless a different split has been agreed.

Overseas rental properties

Where a person has both UK and overseas rental properties, it is important that they are dealt with separately. The person will have two property rental business – one for UK properties and one for overseas properties. Losses arising on an overseas let cannot be offset against profits of a UK let and vice versa. Proper records should be kept so that the income and expenses can be allocated to the correct property rental business.

Furnished holiday lettings

Different tax rules apply to the commercial letting of furnished holiday lettings and where a let qualifies as a furnished holiday let it must be kept separate from UK lets that are not furnished holiday lettings. Likewise, furnished lets in the EEA must be dealt with separately from UK furnished holiday lets.

Getting it right

Good record keeping is essential to ensure that not only that all sources of income are taken into account, but also that any income received is allocated to the correct property rental business.

Partner note: HMRC’s property rental toolkit (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-property-rental-toolkit).

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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 monthFlat 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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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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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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Do you own a holiday cottage? You could get favourable tax treatment.

Furnished holiday lettings – is it worth qualifying?

When it comes to taxing rental income, not all properties are equal. Different rules apply to properties which meet the definition of ‘furnished holiday lettings’ (FHLs). While the rules now are not as generous as they once were, they still offer a number of tax advantages over other types of let.

Advantages

Properties that count as FHLs benefit from:

  • capital gains tax reliefs for traders (business asset rollover relief, entrepreneurs’ relief, relief for business assets and relief for loans for traders); and
  • plant and machinery capital allowances on items such as furniture, fixtures and fittings.

In addition, the profits count as earnings for pension purposes.

What counts as FHLs?

For a property to count as a FHL it must meet several tests. It must be in the UK or the European Economic Area (EEA), it must be furnished and it must be let commercially (i.e. with the intention of making a profit).

The property must also pass three occupancy conditions. The tests are applied on a tax year basis for an ongoing let, the first 12 months for a new let and the last 12 months when the let ceases.

The pattern of occupancy condition

The total of all lettings that exceed 31 continuous days in the year cannot exceed 155 days. If continuous lets of more than 31 days total more than 155 days in the tax year, the property is not a FHL.

The availability condition

The property must be let as furnished holiday accommodation for at least 210 days in the tax year. Periods where the taxpayer stays in the property are ignored as during these times the property is not available for letting.

The letting condition

The property must be commercially let as furnished holiday accommodation for at least 105 days in the year. Periods where the property is let to family or friends at reduced rate or free of charge are ignored as they do not count as commercial lets. Lets of longer than 31 days are also ignored, unless the let only exceeds 31 days as a result of unforeseen circumstances, such as the holidaymaker being unable to leave on time as a result of a delayed flight or becoming too ill to travel.

Second bite at the cherry

If seeking to secure FHL status, but the property does not meet the letting condition, all is not lost. Where the landlord has more than one property let as a FHL and the average rate of occupancy across the properties achieves the required 105 let days in the year, the condition can be met by making an averaging election.

A property may also be able to qualify if there was a genuine intention to meet the letting condition but this did not happen and the other occupancy conditions are met by making a period of grace election.

Further details on making averaging and period of grace elections can be found in HMRC helpsheet HS253 (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/furnished-holiday-lettings-hs253-self-assessment-helpsheet).

Is it worth it?

While FHLs do enjoy favourable tax treatment, these are only available if the associated conditions are met. While FHLs, particularly in prime tourist locations, may be able to command high rental values in high season, the properties may lay empty for several weeks in the off season. By contrast, a longer term let will offer an element of security that multiple short lets may not provide. The decision as to whether striving to meet the conditions is worth it, is, as always, a personal one.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, Pt. 3, Ch. 6.

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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.

ConsiderationSDLT rate
Up to £150,000Zero
The next £100,000 (i.e. the ‘slice’ from £150,001 to £250,000)2%
Excess over £250,0005%

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 rentSDLT rates
£0 to £150,000Zero
£150,001 to £5,000,0001%
Excess over £5,000,0002%

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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If you might want to sell a property cheaply to a family member make sure you read this first.

At first sight, the calculation of a capital gain or loss on the disposal of an asset is relatively straightforward – simply the difference between the amount received for the sale of that asset and the cost of acquiring (and, where relevant) enhancing it, allowing for the incidental costs of acquisition and disposal. However, as with all rules there are exceptions, and particular care needs to be taken when disposing of an asset to other family members.

Spouses and civil partners

The actual consideration, if any, is ignored for transfers of assets between spouses and civil partners. Instead, the consideration is deemed to be that which gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. The effect of this rule, which is very useful for tax planning purposes, is that the transferee simply assumes the transferors base cost – and the transferor has no capital gain to worry about.

Other connected persons

While the no gain/no loss rules for transfers between spouses and civil partners is useful from a tax perspective, the same cannot be said to be true for market value rule that applies to transfers between connected persons. Where two persons are connected, the actual consideration, if any, is ignored and instead the market value of the asset at the time of the transfer is used to work out any capital gain or loss.

The market value of an asset is the value that asset might reasonably be expected to fetch on sale in the open market.

Who are connected persons?

A person is connected with an individual if that person is:

  • the person’s spouse or civil partner;
  • a relative of the individual;
  • the spouse of civil partner of a relative of the individual;
  • the relative of the individual’s spouse or civil partner;
  • the spouse or civil partner of a relative of the individual’s spouse or civil partner.

For these purposes, a relative is a brother, sister or ancestor or lineal descendant. Fortunately, the term ‘relative’ in this context does not embrace all family relationships and excludes, for example, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins (and thus the actual consideration is used in calculating any capital gain).

As noted above, the deemed market value rule does not apply to transfers between spouses and civil partners (to which the no gain/no loss rules applies), but it catches those to children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings – and also to their spouses and civil partners.

Example 1

Barbara has had a flat for many years which she has let out, while living in the family home. Her granddaughter Sophie has recently graduated and started work and is struggling to get on the property ladder. To help Sophie, Barbara sells the flat to her for £150,000. At the time of the sale it is worth £200,000.

As Barbara and Sophie are connected persons, the market value of £200,000 is used to work out Barbara’s capital gain rather than the actual consideration of £150,000. If she is unaware of this, the gain will be higher than expected (by £14,000 if Barbara basic rate band has been utilised), and Barbara may find that she is short of funds to pay the tax.

This problem may be exacerbated where the asset is gifted – the gain will be calculated by reference to market value, but there will be no actual consideration from which to pay the tax.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, ss. 17, 18, 272, 286.

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SDLT and first-time buyers

Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is payable where you buy a property in England or Northern Ireland and the amount paid is more than a certain amount. SDLT does not apply in Scotland, where Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) applies instead, nor in Wales, where Land Transaction Tax (LTT) is payable.

As far as residential property is concerned, the rates depend on whether a person is a first-time buyer or not and whether the property is a second or subsequent property. The current residential threshold is £125,000. However, a 3% supplement applies to second and subsequent homes where the purchase price is more than £40,000. Relief is available for first time buyers.

First time buyer rates

Since 22 November 2017, first time buyers buying a residential property do not pay any SDLT if the purchase price is less than £300,000. Where the purchase price is between £300,000 and £500,000, first-time buyers pays SDLT at the rate of 5% on the excess over £300,000. First-time buyers buying a property for more than £500,000 do not get any relief – instead they pay the normal residential rates.

Case study 1

Kieran buys his first flat for £200,000. As the consideration is less than £300,000 and he is a first-time buyer, no SDLT is payable.

Without the relief he would have paid SDLT of £1,500.

Case study 2

Orla is a first-time buyer. She buys a two-bedroom cottage costing £420,000. She benefits from first-time buyer relief, paying SDLT at 5% on the excess over £300,000. She must therefore pay SDLT of £6,000 (5% (£420,000 – £300,000)).

Without the relief, she would pay SDLT of £11,000. She saves £5,000 as a result of the relief for first-time buyers.

Case study 3

Connor and Daniel are first time buyers. They buy a flat in London for £700,000.

As the purchase price is more than £500,000, they do not benefit from first-time buyer relief. Consequently, SDLT is calculated at the normal residential rates as follows:

On first £125,000 @ 0%£0
On next £125,000 @ 2%£2,500
On next £450,000 @ 5%£22,500
SDLT payable£25,000

Shared ownership schemes

Changes announced in the 2018 Budget with retrospective effect extended the availability of first-time buyer relief to first-time buyers buying a property through a qualifying shared ownership scheme. Relief is available to the first share purchased as long as the market value of the shared ownership property is less than £500,000. No SDLT is payable where the first-time buyer pays less than £300,000 for their share, with SDLT being payable at the rate of 5% on the excess over £300,000 where their share costs between £300,000 and £500,000.

First-time buyers who purchased a property through a shared ownership scheme between 22 November 2017 and 29 October 2018 who did not benefit from the relief can claim a refund. Where the transaction was completed before 29 October 2018, those affected have until 28 October 2019 to file an amended SDLT return.

 

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