Not putting a property in joint names prior to selling is an easily avoided mistake – read our blog to see if this would benefit you.

Potential benefits of putting a property into joint names prior to sale

Where a property qualifies in full for private residence relief, it is perhaps academic, from a tax perspective at least, whether a couple own it jointly or it is the one name only. In either case, the relief shelters any gain that arises and there is no tax to pay.

However, where a gain is not fully sheltered by private residence relief, as may be the case for an investment property or a second home, there can be very different tax consequences depending on how it is owned.

Take advantage of the no gain/no loss rules for spouses and civil partners

There are some breaks in the tax system for married couples and civil partners, and one of them is the ability to transfer assets between each other at a value that gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. This can be very useful from a tax planning perspective to secure the optimal capital gains tax position on the sale of property where full private residence relief is not available. This enables a couple to utilise available annual exempt amounts and lower tax bands.

Capital gains tax on residential property gains is charged at 18% where total income and gains do not exceed the basic rate limit (set at £37,500 for 2019/20) and 28% thereafter.

Case study

Ron and Rita have been married a number of years and in addition to their main residence, they have a holiday cottage, which is owned solely by Ron. As their lives are busy, they no longer use the cottage much and decide to sell it. They expect to realise a gain of £100,000.

Rita does not work and has no income of her own. Ron is a higher rate taxpayer. Neither has used their annual exempt amount for 2019/20 (set at £12,000).

If they leave the property in Ron’s sole name, they will realise a chargeable gain of £88,000 after deducting his annual exempt amount of £12,000. As a higher rate taxpayer, this will give rise to a capital gains tax bill of £24,640 (£88,000 @ 28%).

However, as Rita has her basic rate band and annual exempt amount available, making use of the no gain/no loss rule to put the property in joint names prior to sale can save the couple a lot of tax. Each will realise a gain of £50,000.

As far as Ron is concerned, £12,000 of his gain will be sheltered by his annual exempt amount, leaving a chargeable gain of £38,000 on which tax of £10,640 will be payable.

Rita will also have a gain of £50,000, of which the first £12,000 is covered by her annual exempt amount, leaving a chargeable gain of £38,000. As her basic rate band is available in full, the first £37,500 is taxed at 18% (£6,750), with the remaining £500 being taxed at 28% (£140). Thus, Rita’s tax liability is £6,890, and the couple’s total tax bill is £17,530.

By taking advantage of the no gain/no loss rule to put the property into joint names prior to sale, the couple will be able to make use of Rita’s annual exempt amount and basic rate band, reducing the capital gains tax payable on the sale from £24,640 to £17,530 – a saving of £7,110.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 58.

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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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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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HMRC have given new guidance on how stamp duty is applied to residential property which has land. Take a look at our short blog if you’re thinking of purchasing a property that has features such as farmland, stables or orchards.

Grounds and gardens for SDLT

Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on residential property also applies to land that form the garden or grounds of the property. To ensure that the right rate of SDLT is applied, it is therefore important to ascertain whether any land purchased with a property constitutes its garden or grounds. The rules here are not the same as those applying for capital gains tax private residence relief.

HMRC have recently updated their guidance in this area.

Status of the building

The first step in determining whether land is residential land is to determine the status of the associated building. If the building is a residential property for SDLT purposes, all land forming part of the ‘garden or grounds’ is residential property. Consequently, if at the time of purchase the property is not capable of being used as a dwelling, or is in the process of being constructed or adapted for residential use, the building is not residential property for SDLT purposes and any associated land is also not residential property.

Status of the land

Land that constitutes the ‘garden or grounds’ of a building which counts as residential property for SDLT purposes will also be residential property, and therefore subject to SDLT residential property rates, even if it is sold separately from the building.

The key date is the date of the transaction. However, past use of the land is taken into account by HMRC is order to establish the relationship between the land and the building. Future or planned future use is not relevant, although where use changes over time, the status of the land may also change.

No single factor

In deciding whether land counts as ‘garden or grounds’ a range of factors will come into play – there is no single determining factor. However, not all factors will carry equal weight. It is necessary to consider how the land is used.

Questions to ask include:

  • Is there evidence that the land has been actively and substantially exploited on a commercial basis?
  • If the activity could be for leisure or commercial purposes, such as beekeeping or equestrian use, is there evidence of commercial use?
  • Has a lease been granted to a third party for exclusive use of the land? This would suggest that the land is unlikely to be ‘garden or grounds’.
  • Is the land of a type which would be expected to be ‘garden or grounds’ unless commercial use is established, such as land used as a paddock or orchard?
  • Is the land agricultural land which is sitting fallow? Such land is unlikely to be regarded as ‘garden or grounds’.

Outbuildings

The nature and layout of any outbuildings can be significant in determining whether land is ‘garden or grounds’. The presence of domestic outbuildings, areas laid out for hobbies, small orchards or stables and paddocks suitable for leisure use would indicate that the land is ‘garden or grounds’. However, the presence of commercial farming, commercial woodland, commercial equestrian use or other commercial use would suggest the contrary.

Size and proximity to dwelling

Physical proximity to the dwelling makes it more likely that the land is ‘garden or grounds’. However, land separated from the building may also fall into this category.

The size of the land in relation to the size of the building will also be relevant – a small cottage is unlikely to have a garden and grounds of many acres but a stately home may do.

The overall picture

In deciding the character of the land for SDLT purposes, it is necessary to look at the overall picture that emerges at the transaction date.

Partner note: FA 2003, s. 116(1)(a); HMRC’s Stamp Duty Land Tax Manual SDLTM00440ff.

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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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Do you have a company that owns a residential property? This might apply to you

Annual tax on enveloped dwellings

The annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) is a tax that applies, in the main, to companies owning residential property which is valued at more than £500,000.

The tax only applies on properties that are classed as ‘dwellings’. This is a property where all or part of it is used as a residence, for example a house or a flat. The ‘dwelling’ also includes the property’s gardens or grounds. However, properties such as hotels, guest houses, boarding school accommodation and student halls of residence fall outside the definition of a ‘dwelling’, and thus outside the scope of the tax.

Valuing the property

The tax only applies to dwellings with a value of at least £500,000. The amount of the charge depends on the value of the dwelling. Therefore, it is necessary to know the value of any residential property owned wholly or partly by a company (or a partnership with at least one corporate partner). The key date is the valuation date. From 1 April 2018 the valuation date is 1 April 2017. If the property was acquired after 1 April 2017, the value is the date of acquisition.

The valuation is an open market valuation.

How much is the charge?

The charge is an annual charge payable for the period from 1 April to the following 31 March.

The chargeable amount for 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 is shown in the following table.

Property valueAnnual charge
More than £500,000 up to £1 million£3,650
More than £1 million up to £2 million£7,400
More than £2 million up to £5 million£24,800
More than £5 million up to £10 million£57,900
More than £10 million up to £20 million£116,100
More than £20 million£232,350

Payment and returns

An ATED return must be filed by 30 April each year. The return should be filed using HMRC’s ATED online service. An agent can be appointed to file the return on the company’s behalf.

The tax must also be paid by 30 April.

Partner note: FA 2013, Pt. 3 (ss. 94—174, Sch. 33 – 35).

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