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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Joint tenants v tenants in common – Which you choose will depend on whether you’d like flexibility in allocating property income, and how you want your property to be passed on.

Joint tenants v tenants in common – Does it matter?

There are two different ways of owning property jointly – as joint tenants or as tenants in common. The way in which the property is owned determines exactly who owns what and also what happens when one of the joint owners dies and how any income is taxed.

Joint tenants

Where two or more owners own a property as joint tenants, they jointly own the whole property rather than owning individual shares. Each owner has equal rights to the whole property. When one of the joint owners dies, the remaining joint owners own the whole property. The deceased is not able to pass his or her share on to someone else.

Example

Helen and Harry are married and own their family home as joint tenants. The couple have three children. If, for example, Harry dies first, his share of the property automatically passes to Helen. Harry cannot leave his share of the property to his children.

Where a property that is owned as joint tenants is rented out, the income is treated as arising in equal shares as all owners have an equal stake in the property. For spouses and civil partners this is the default position; however, there is no possibility of making a Form 17 election (see below) as the property owned as joint tenants can only be owned equally.

Tenants in common

Tenants in common own individual shares in the property and have more flexibility than joint tenants as to what they do with their stake in the property. On death, their stake does not automatically go to the other joint owners; rather it will follow the provisions of the will (or, if there is no will, the intestacy provisions).

It will be beneficial to own property as tenants in common if you want to leave your share of the property to someone other than the other joint owner.

Example

Jack and Jane are married. Each have children from previous relationships. They own a holiday cottage as tenants in common. In their wills, they have each made provision for their share to pass to their own children.

Where the property is let out, owing the property as tenants in common provides more flexibility as to how the income is allocated for tax purposes. Where the joint owners are spouses or civil partners, the income is treated as arising equally. However, where the actual beneficial ownership is unequal, they can elect (on Form 17) for the income to be taxed in accordance to their ownership shares where this is beneficial. If the tenants in common are not married or in a civil partnership, the income is taxed by reference to their actual stake in the property.

Changing ownership status

It is relatively easy to change the type of ownership, for example, if the property is owned as joint tenants it may be desirable to own it as tenants in common to enable each owner to leave their share to someone else. A property can also be changed from sole ownership to joint ownership – ether as tenants in common or joint tenants.

Partner note: Law of Property Act 1925, ss. 34, 36;. ITA 2007 ss. 836. 837.

 

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Failing to take your record keeping obligations seriously as a landlord could mean that you pay more tax than necessary, or worse that you could be on the receiving end of a penalty from HMRC.

Buying a property to let – the importance of keeping records from day one

For tax purposes, good record keeping is essential. Without complete and accurate records, it will not be possible to provide correct details of taxable income or to benefit from allowable deductions. Aside from the risk of paying more tax than is necessary, landlords who fail to take their record keeping obligations seriously may also find that they are on the receiving end of a penalty from HMRC.

Recording expenses

A deduction is available for expenses that are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the rental business. A deduction is available for qualifying revenue expenses regardless of whether the accounts are prepared on the cash basis or under the traditional accruals basis.

Revenue expenses are varied and are those expenses incurred in the day to day running of the property rental business. They include:

  • office expenses
  • phone calls
  • cost of advertising for tenants
  • fees paid to a managing agent
  • cleaning costs
  • insurance
  • general maintenance and repairs

A record should be kept of all revenue expenses, supported by invoices, receipts and suchlike.

The treatment of capital expenditure depends on whether the cash or the accruals basis is used. For most smaller landlords, the cash basis is now the default basis.

Under the cash basis, capital expenditure can be deducted unless the disallowance is specifically prohibited (as in the case in relation to cars and land and property). Under the accruals basis, a deduction is not given for capital expenditure, although in limited cases capital allowances may be available. Capital expenditure would include improvements to the property and new furniture or equipment which does not replace old items.

Records should identify whether expenditure is capital or revenue and also whether it relates to private expenditure so that it can be excluded.

Records should also be kept of replacement domestic items and the nature of those items. A deduction is available on a like-for-like basis.

Start date

Although the property rental business does not start until the property is first let, records should start as soon as expenditure is incurred in preparation for the letting.

As well as allowing relief for expenses incurred while the property is let, relief is also available for expenses which are related to the property rental business and which are incurred in the seven years prior to the start of the business. Relief is given on the same basis as for expenses incurred after the start of the property rental business; expenses can be deducted as long as they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the property rental business. Capital expenditure is treated in accordance with rules applying to the chosen basis of accounts preparation.

Relief is available under the pre-trading rules, as long as:

  • the expenditure is incurred within a period of seven years before the date on which the rental business started
  • the expenditure is not otherwise allowable as a deduction for tax purposes
  • the expenditure would have been allowed as a deduction has it been incurred after the rental business had started

Relief is given by treating the expenses as if they were incurred on the first day of the property rental business.

Expenses incurred in getting a property ready to let can be significant. It is important that accurate records are kept of all expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the let from the outset so that valuable deductions are not overlooked.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, s. 57; CTA 2009, s. 61.

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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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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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