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 month Flat 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 importance of keeping good business records

To ensure that you pay the correct amount of tax and file correct tax returns with HMRC, it is vital that you keep complete and accurate records. This applies regardless of whether you are running a business as a sole trader or in partnership or operating a limited company.

Business records for the self-employed

The self-employed need to complete records of their business income and expenses. Where the business is operated in partnership, the responsibility of keeping records falls on the nominated partner.

It is important to keep records of:

  • all sales and income
  • all business expenses
  • VAT records if the business is VAT registered
  • PAYE if the business has employees

Records are essential to enable the business to work out its profit or less. They may also be needed to support the figures included on the tax return should HMRC ask questions.

Keeping records of expenses ensures that nothing is overlooked and tax relief can be claimed as appropriate. It is, however, important to retain proof of expenses, for example:

  • receipts
  • bank statements
  • sales invoices
  • purchase invoices
  • till rolls
  • paying-in slips

Limited companies

Where the business is operated as a limited company, records of income and expenses must be kept as for a sole trader. It is important to record income, expenses, debts owed by and to the company, details of goods brought and sold, details of stock and records of stock takes, etc.

Records must also be kept about the company itself, including details:

  • directors and shareholders
  • minutes of votes and resolutions
  • details of any charges on the company’s assets, debentures, indemnities

The company must also keep a register of persons with significant control. Broadly, anyone who has more than 25% of the voting rights, can appoint or remove a majority of directors or can influence or control the company.

How to keep records

While records can be kept manually, for many businesses it will soon become mandatory to keep digital records. Most businesses who are VAT registered and whose turnover is above the VAT registration threshold of £85,000 will need comply with the requirements of Making Tax Digital for VAT from the first VAT accounting period beginning on or after 1 April 2019. This will necessitate keeping certain VAT records digitally. Once MTD is introduced for income tax and corporation tax, it will be mandatory to keep digital business records for these purposes too.

Where there is no mandatory digital record keeping requirement to meet, records can be kept on paper, using software packages or on spreadsheets.

How long to keep records

Where a self-assessment tax return is filed before the deadline of 31 January after the end of the tax year to which it relates, records should be kept for at least 22 months of the end of the tax year (12 months from the filing deadline). Where the return is sent late, records should be retained for at least 15 months from the date the return was submitted.

Beware penalties

HMRC can charge penalties for the failure to keep accurate records. A company director can be fined £3,000 or disqualified for the failure to keep proper accounting records.

Here’s how to earn tax-free money through doing something you love.

Spare time earnings may be tax-free

The new trading tax allowance for individuals of £1,000 was introduced from 6 April 2017 and applies for the 2017/18 tax year onwards. In broad terms, the allowance means that individuals with trading income below the annual threshold may not need to report it to HMRC and may not need to pay tax on it.

This allowance may be particularly useful to individuals with casual or small part time earnings from self-employment, for example, people working in the ‘gig economy’ (Deliveroo workers and such like), or small-scale self-employment such as online selling (maybe via eBay or similar). It means that:

  • individuals with trading income of £1,000 or less in a tax year will not need to declare or pay tax on that income
  • individuals with trading income of more than £1,000 can elect to calculate their profits by deducting the allowance from their income, instead of the actual allowable expenses.

Practical implications of the allowance include:

  • where actual expenses are less than £1,000, deducting the trading allowance will be beneficial, whereas if actual expenses are more than £1,000, deducting the actual expenses will give a lower profit figure, and ultimately a lower tax bill
  • where income is less than £1,000, but the individual makes a loss, an election for the allowance not to apply may be made – in this case, the loss in the usual way and include the details on their tax return, meaning that loss relief is not wasted

Example – Income less than £1,000

Graham enjoys picture-framing in his spare time, and he occasionally frames prints for family and friends for a small fee. During the 2018/19 tax year he received income of £700 from this source, and his expenditure on framing equipment amounted to £300. As Graham’s trading income is less than £1,000, he does not need to report it to HMRC and he does not need to pay tax or national insurance contributions (NICs) on it.

Example – Income exceeding £1,000

Mary enjoys baking and makes celebration cakes to order in her spare time. In 2018/19, her income from cake sales is £1,500 and she incurred expenses of £300. As Mary’s expenditure is less than £1,000, she will be better off if she claims the trading allowance. Her taxable profit will be £500 (£1,500 less the trading allowance of £1,000).

More than one source of trading income

Although the trading allowance may work well for many small-scale traders, care must be taken where a person’s main source of income is from self-employment and their secondary income is from a completely separate small-scale business. HMRC will combine income from all trading and casual activities when considering the trading allowance. In this type of situation, where the allowance is claimed, the individual will not be able to claim for any expenditure, regardless of how many businesses they have and how much their total business expenses are.

Example – More than one income source

Mark is a self-employed car mechanic and has income of £30,000 in 2018/19. His business expenditure for the year is £10,000. In his spare time, Mark buys and sells old collectable car magazines via the internet. During 2018/19 he received net income of £1,000 from this source. If Mark claims the trading allowance against his part time income, he will be unable to claim expenses of £10,000 against his car mechanic income, and his taxable profit for the year will be £30,000. If he doesn’t claim the trading allowance, his taxable profit for the year will be just £21,000.

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Would you rent out a property as a long-term rental or holiday let?

Where a property is located in a holiday region, a consideration will be whether to let it as a holiday let or on a longer-term basis. As well as differing rental income profiles, there are tax differences to consider.

Furnished holiday lets

From a tax perspective, special rules apply to furnished holiday lets, which provide a number of advantages compared to the tax regime applying to other rental business.

Furnished holiday lettings:

  • benefit from capital gains tax reliefs for traders such as business asset rollover relief, entrepreneurs’ relief, relief for gifts of business assets and relief for loans to traders;
  • benefit from availability of plant and machinery capital allowances for items of furniture, fixtures and fittings; and
  • profits count as earnings for pension purposes.

To benefit from these advantages, any furnished holiday lettings are treated separately from other lets and the profits must be worked out separately for each furnished holiday lettings business.

What counts as a furnished holiday let

The property must be in the UK or the EEA and must be let furnished; the furniture provided must be sufficient for normal occupation and visitors must be able to use the furniture. The property must also be commercially let.

UK and EEA lets are treated as different furnished holiday lettings businesses.

The furnished holiday letting must also pass various tests.

The occupancy tests

There are three occupancy tests and all must be met for the property to be treated as a furnished holiday letting for tax purposes.

The pattern of occupation condition

A let will not count as a furnished holiday letting if the total of all lettings that exceed 31 days is more than 155 days in the tax year.

The availability condition

The property must be available for letting as a furnished holiday accommodation for at least 210 days in the tax year.

The letting condition

The property must be commercially let as furnished holiday accommodation for at least 105 days in the tax year. Longer lets of more than 31 days are excluded, unless the let extends beyond 31 days due to unforeseen circumstances.

If the property fails the letting condition and is not let for 105 days in the tax year, there are two concessionary routes by which the property may still qualify – by making an averaging election or a period of grace election. The elections can be used together.

Averaging election

Where a landlord has more than one property which is let as furnished holiday accommodation, the condition is treated as met where an averaging election is made as long as on average each property is let for at least 105 days in the tax year. So, for example, if a landlord has 4 properties which in total were let on lets of less than 31 days for at least 420 days, the letting conditions is met under an averaging election, even if any individual property is let for less than 105 days.

An averaging election must be made by the anniversary of 31 January following the end of the tax year, i.e. by 31 January 2021 for 2018/19.

Period of grace election

The second way in which the condition can be treated as met is by making a period of grace election where it can be shown that there was a genuine intention to let the property, but this did not happen due to unforeseen circumstances. The letting condition must have been met in the year before that for which the first period of grace election is made. A second period of grace election is permitted, but if a property does not meet the letting threshold in the fourth year after two consecutive period of grace elections, it will no longer qualify as a furnished holiday letting.

Losses

Losses can now only be carried forward and set against profits from the same furnished holiday lets business.

If the property does not qualify as a furnished holiday let, the normal tax rules for rental businesses apply.

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Amending your tax return

The deadline for filing the 2017/18 self-assessment tax return of 31 January 2019 has now passed. You filed your return on time and paid the tax that you thought was due, but you know realise that you have made a mistake. Is it too late to correct it, and if not, how do you go about it?

Time limits

A tax return can be amended once it is filed – but you only have 12 months from the filing deadline in which to file an amended return. This means that you have until 31 January 2020 to file an amended 2016/17 return where it was filed online. However, if you have found a mistake in your return for 2017/18 or an earlier year, it is no longer possible to file an amended return. Instead, you will need to write to HMRC telling them about the error and advising them of the correct figures.

Correcting the return

If you are in still in time to file an amended return (for example, you want to amend your 2017/18 tax return), the mechanism for amending the return depends on whether you filed online or whether you filed a paper return.

If you filed your return online, you can amend your return online too. To do this, you need to log into your HMRC online account and select the self-assessment from the home ‘at a glance’ page. Under the heading of ‘returns’ it will tell you that you have completed your self-assessment return for the 2017/18 tax year, and provide a number of options, including an option to ‘Amend Self-Assessment return for year 2017 to 2018’. Selecting this option, provides a number of options for amending the already-submitted return, asking the taxpayer if they would like to:

  • add a new section to your submitted return;
  • amend figures already submitted;
  • delete a section from your submitted return;
  • add/delete a section and/or amend a figure; or
  • return to tax return options.

From there it is simply a case of selecting the appropriate option, amending the return to show the correct figures and filing the amended return.

If the return was filed using a commercial software package, check whether is facilitates the filing of amended returns. If this is not possible, contact HMRC.

Where a paper return has been filed, the 12-month amendment window runs to 31 October after the filing deadline (as an earlier deadline applies to paper returns). To amend a paper return, download a new return, complete it correctly, and send it to HMRC.

Pay more tax or claim a refund

Amending your tax return will also change the amount of tax you owe. If it is more, you will need to pay this, plus interest (which runs from the due date of 31 January after the end of the tax year). If your tax bill goes down as a result of the amendment, you can claim a refund – but remember you only have four years from the end of the tax year to which it relates in which to do so.

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Don’t pay for expenses that your employer should be paying for – here’s how and when to claim a tax deduction.

Employees – claim a tax deduction for expenses

Employees often incur expenses in doing their job – this may be the cost of a train ticket or petrol to visit a supplier, or purchasing stationery or small tools which are used in their job. Employers will frequently reimburse the employee for any expenses that they incur, but where such a reimbursement is not forthcoming, the employee may be able to claim a tax relief.

The test

Employment expenses are deductible only if they are incurred ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of the employment’. The test is a harsh test to meet; the ‘necessary’ condition means that ‘each and every’ jobholder would be required to incur the expense. Consequently, there is no relief if the expense is not ‘necessary’ and the employee chooses to incur it (even if the ‘wholly and exclusively’ parts of the test are met). The rules for travel expenses are different, but broadly operate to allow relief for ‘business travel’.

In the performance of the job v putting the employee in a position to do the job

A distinction is drawn between expenses that are incurred in actually performing the job and those which are incurred in putting the employee in the position to do the job. Expenses incurred in travelling from the office to a meeting with a supplier and back to the office are incurred in performing the job. By contrast, childcare costs or home to work travel are incurred to put the employee in a position to do the job. Relief is available only for expenses incurred as part of the job, and not for those which incurred, albeit arguably necessarily, to enable the employee to do the job.

Expenses for which relief may be claimed

A deduction can be claimed for any expense that meets the ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily’ test. Examples include professional fees and subscriptions, travel and subsistence costs, additional costs of working from home, cost of repairing tools or specialist clothing, phone calls, etc.

Where the expense is reimbursed by the employer, a deduction cannot be claimed as well; however, the amount reimbursed is not taxable and is ignored for tax purposes.

Using your own car

Where an employee uses his or her own car for business travel, the employer can pay tax-free mileage payments up to the approved rates. For cars and vans, this is 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles in the tax year and 25p per mile for any subsequent miles.

If the employer does not pay mileage allowances or pay less than the approved amount, the employee can claim tax relief for the difference between the approved amount and the amount paid by the employer.

Flat rate expenses

Employers in certain industries are able to claim a flat rate deduction for certain expenses in line with rates published by HMRC (see www.gov.uk/guidance/job-expenses-for-uniforms-work-clothing-and-tools#claim-table). Although claiming the flat rate removes the need to keep records of actual costs, employees can claim a deduction based on actual costs where this is more beneficial.

How to claim There are different ways to make a claim depending on your circumstances. Claims can be made online using HMRC’s online service, by post on form P87, by phone or, where a self-assessment return is completed, via the self-assessment return.

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Overdrawn director’s loan accounts

In a personal or family company, the lines between the directors as individuals and the company are often blurred – the director may lend money to the company when cashflow is tight and the company may lend money to the director or pay personal bills on the director’s behalf. Transactions between the director and the company are tracked via the director’s account.

If the director’s account is overdrawn at the end of the accounting period (such that the director owes the company money) and the company is close, there are tax consequences to consider. Broadly, a close company is one that is controlled by five or fewer shareholders (participators).

Potential tax charge

A tax charge arises on the company if the director’s loan account is overdrawn at the end of the accounting period and remains overdrawn nine months and one day after the end of that accounting period. This is the date on which corporation tax for the accounting period is due. The overdrawn amount constitutes a loan to the director from the company

The tax charge (known as the ‘section 455 charge’ after the section of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 which imposes the charge) is 32.5% of the amount of the loan. The rate of section 455 tax is the same as the higher dividend rate.

The tax is paid with, but is not the same as, the corporation tax for the period.

Example

Nigel is the director of his personal company N Ltd. Accounts are prepared to 31 March each year.

On 31 March 2018, Nigel’s director’s loan account is overdrawn by £20,000. The account remains overdrawn on 1 January 2019 (the date on which corporation tax for the period is due).

The company must pay section 455 tax of £6,500 (£20,000 @ 32.5%).

Avoiding the charge

Even if the loan account was overdrawn at the end of the accounting period, the section 455 charge can be avoided if the loan is cleared by the corporation tax due date of nine months and one day after the end of the period. This can be done in various ways:

  • the director can pay funds into the company to clear the loan;
  • the company can declare a dividend to clear the loan balance;
  • the director’s salary can be credited to the account to clear the loan balance;
  • the company can pay a bonus to clear the loan balance.

It should be noted that with the exception of the director introducing funds into the company, the other options will trigger their own tax bills.

Clearing the loan may not always be the best option – it may be preferable to pay the section 455 tax instead. This will be the case if the tax on the dividend or bonus credited to the account to clear the loan is more than the section 455 tax.

A temporary tax

Section 455 tax is a temporary tax in that it is repayable nine months and one day after the end of the tax year in which the loan is cleared.

Anti-avoidance provisions It should be noted that anti-avoidance rules apply to prevent the director clearing the loan shortly before the section 455 trigger date, only to re-borrow the funds shortly thereafter