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SDLT

SDLT

Temporary rate reduction

Presenting the Summer Economic Update on 8 July 2020, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a much-anticipated reduction in residential stamp duty land tax (SDLT). Where completions take place between 8 July 2020 and 31 March 2021, the residential SDLT threshold is raised to £500,000 from £125,000.

The reduction will also benefit those buying second homes and investment properties who will pay 3% on the first £500,000 of the consideration where the purchase price is at least £40,000.

First-time buyers will only feel the effects where the consideration tops £300,000; prior to 8 July 2020, first-time buyers paid no SDLT on the first £300,000 of the consideration.As a result of the reduction, the rates of residential SDLT in England from 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2020 are as set out in the table below. 
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Reductions have also been announced to the residential rates of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) in Scotland and Land Transaction Tax (LTT) in Wales.

The reduction only applies to residential property rates; the rates for commercial and mixed properties are unchanged.

It is therefore important to be clear whether a property is a residential property or not.

For SDLT purposes a residential property is defined (in FA 2003, s. 116) as a building used or suitable for use as:

  • a dwelling, or is in the process of being constructed or adapted for use as a dwelling;
  • the garden or grounds of such a building, including buildings of structures on such land;
  • an interest or right over land that subsists for the benefit of such a building or land (for example, a right of way)

The test is at the effective date of the transaction.

It should be noted, particularly as regards garden and grounds, the test of what counts as residence for SDLT is not the same as that for CGT, and a separate sale of a garden (but not a subsequent sale) will be regarded by HMRC as residential property for SDLT irrespective of whether it would qualify for main residence relief for CGT purposes.

Care should also be taken when purchasing a property is a dilapidated state; as shown in the Tribunal Decision is P N Bewley Ltd v HMRC [2019] TC06951, what HMRC may consider to be a ‘dwelling’ may differ from what a lay person may regard as being suitable for use as dwelling.

Prior to the rate reduction, it was in HMRC’s interests for SDLT to be payable at the residential rates; the arguments and case law used then in their favour may help the taxpayer now.

While the reduction applies, it makes sense for completions to take place prior to 1 April 2021. However, the reduced rates only apply to residential properties defined as such for SDLT purposes

Categories
Capital Gains Tax Property

CGT on Property

30 Day Reporting

In spite of the coronavirus crisis, the new system for paying and declaring CGT within 30 days of the completion of a UK property transaction came into effect for property completions on and after 6 April 2020.

There are exceptions from the 30-day regime for transactions where there is a loss, the gain is fully covered by a CGT relief or annual exemption, and where the contracts were exchanged prior to 6th April 2020. Otherwise if the CGT is not reported and paid within 30 days of completion, late filing penalties will be imposed in the same manner as for late Self Assessment tax returns.

However, HMRC has introduced a soft landing for the new CGT regime, such that disposals made from 6 April to 30 June 2020 inclusive can be reported by 31 July 2020 with no penalties due. Transactions completed on or after 1 July 2020 must be reported within 30 days through the taxpayer’s “CGT on UK property account”.

See here for details of how to report and pay CGT on property, and here on how to manage a UK property account.

Categories
Property SDLT

SDLT Higher Rate

Home selling deadline relaxed

Second homes have been subject to a 3% SDLT surcharge since April 2016, and similar surcharges apply in Wales (3% LTT) and Scotland (4% LBTT). These surcharges are not supposed to apply to the purchase of a main home, but purchasers can be caught out if they buy a replacement main home before completing the sale on their old home.

Where the buyer holds two or more homes at the end of the day of completion the surcharge applies. But this surcharge can be reclaimed if the old home is sold within a specified window, set at three years for property purchases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but just 18 months in Scotland.

As the UK property market was effectively frozen due to the coronavirus shut-down many sales fell through and some buyers have been left holding two homes for longer than expected. The UK and Scottish Governments have reacted by extending the window for sale of the old home in slightly different ways.

Scottish home-owners can enjoy a limited extension to the window for sale to three years, where the new home was purchased between 24 September 2018 and 24 March 2020. This is legislated for in the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020, Schedule 4 part 5.

Home-owners in England or Northern Ireland have been given an open-ended flexibility for the sales window where the new home was purchased on or after 1 January 2017. If the buyer can show that exceptional circumstances applied to prevent the sale of the old home, such as the covid-19 pandemic, the sales window for the old home is extended.

The taxpayer will be expected to complete the sale of their old home as soon as reasonably possible after the exceptional circumstances have ceased. HMRC will only make a judgement on whether the exceptional circumstances condition applies once the former home is sold and a SDLT refund application has been submitted.

The Welsh Government has made no similar adjustment to the rules for the LTT surcharge.

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Reorganisation

Asset Protection

The impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic (Covid-19)

There is no doubt that the current trading environment continues to place considerable pressure on businesses.

We have a number of clients, that are concerned about the impact on their businesses and the knock-on effect on assets, e.g. property, that they hold.

Their concern is clear, if the trading business fails then their assets are at risk.

In a corporate environment steps can be taken to protect those assets by moving them into a separate company without incurring any adverse tax consequences (with HMRC clearance), and in some cases achieving a mark-up of their book cost to current market value.

A spin-off is that in those cases where eligibility for entrepreneurs’ relief has been compromised by investment decisions it may be possible to restart the two year clock in respect of shares held in their trading company.

If you would like to discuss these opportunities, please do call or email.

Categories
Capital Gains Tax

Entrepreneurs’ Relief

Is the clock ticking ?

Speculation is always rife before a Budget as to what the Chancellor’s speech might contain. This year, one of the front runners is the potential abolition of entrepreneurs’ relief. Indeed, the Sunday Times reported on 1 March 2020 that the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will scrap entrepreneurs’ relief to ‘fund a spending spree in the North of England’.

If this prediction does turn out to be true, what does it mean for those who would currently qualify for the relief?

To recap, entrepreneurs’ relief provides a favourable 10% rate of capital gains tax on qualifying disposals up to the £10 million lifetime limit provided that the qualifying conditions have been met for the qualifying period. The relief is available on qualifying disposal of business assets or on shares in a personal company. Changes announced in the 2018 Budget made the qualifying conditions more stringent, including an increase in the period for which the qualifying conditions must be met from 12 months to two years for disposals on or after 6 April 2019.

If indeed entrepreneurs’ relief is abolished, an unknown is whether this will take immediate effect from Budget day, from the end of the 2019/20 tax year or from another date. Assuming a worst case scenario and an immediate abolition from Budget day, should a sale already be in progress and it is possible to accelerate it to before 11 March, this may be prudent, particularly when the tax at stake is high, Likewise, where the qualifying conditions have been met by a personal company, consideration may be given to the disposal of shares by this date, possibly into a trust. However, as time is very short, professional advice should be taken as a matter of urgency to allow for contingency planning.

It must be borne in mind that any action will only affect any gain made to date. Any future gains will not benefit should the relief be withdrawn. Additionally, of course, in order to take advantage of entrepreneurs’ relief it is necessary to trigger a capital gain which will result in a tax charge.

It may, however, be the case, that the Chancellor adopts a less extreme approach and reforms the relief rather than abolishing it. This could take the form of yet more stringent qualifying conditions, a reduced lifetime allowance or an increase in the tax rate.

While all will not be revealed until the Budget, it is likely that the window of opportunity to benefit from the relief in its current, generous form is limited. It is advisable to review options ahead of 11 March and take protective action where possible.

Categories
Disguised Remuneration Loan Charge

Loan charge update

The introduction of the loan charge and its implementation has been controversial and many people see it as deeply unjust and unfair law.

Following an independent view by Amyas Morse, HMRC has comprised on both the scope of the charge and payment terms and issued revise guidance, which can be read here.

Now where the loan was taken out before 9 December 2010 the loan charge will not apply.

Where a settlement agreement in respect of a pre 9 December 2010 arrangement has already been made and the charge does not now apply the tax paid will be refunded. However HMRC will not be able to process refunds until these changes have become law, expected in September this year. Until that time if the agreement resulted in the tax being paid in instalments those instalments are to continue to be paid.

However, if the taxpayer’s affairs for those years are under investigation, subject to an APN, or a settlement is being negotiated, those tax collection procedures will continue, with a recalculation of the tax due.

Loans taken out from 10 December 2010 to 5 April 2016 will not be subject to the loan charge if the taxpayer fully disclosed the use of the loan scheme, and HMRC failed to take action as a result of that disclosure. Where HMRC did open an enquiry or take some other action to collect the tax, that action will continue to its conclusion.

What “full disclosure” means will be defined in future legislation. HMRC say the taxpayer should have provided all necessary information on the appropriate tax return to allow a tax officer to identify the nature of the loan arrangement, and to conclude that an income tax liability arose in respect of that loan.

Loans which were taken out on or after 6 April 2016 and which were outstanding on 5 April 2019 remain within the loan charge. Those taxpayers will have to pay the loan charge for 2018/19 and declare it on their Self Assessment 2018/19 tax returns.

Individual taxpayers who are subject to the loan charge can now spread the charge over three tax years: 2018/19 to 2020/21. This means the loans assessed as income may not push the taxpayer into the highest tax bands for those years.

The government will introduce legislation to implement the changes to the loan charge. Draft legislation and more detailed guidance will be published in early 2020, alongside a timetable for implementing the changes. 

Categories
Capital Gains Tax

Entrepreneurs Relief under threat?

All three of the main Political Parties included a commitment in their pre 2019 General Election manifestos to either abolish or “review and reform” entrepreneurs’ relief (ER). This sounds like the death knell for ER to apply to the proceeds from company liquidation.

There may be opportunities to take advantage of Entrepreneurs’ relief now to protect the position should the availability of relief be compromised.

However, before any action is taken it would be prudent to ensure that relief would in fact be due and that all the conditions have been in place for the required 24 months prior to the disposal. In particular :

Unincorporated Businesses

For an unincorporated business who owned what proportion of the business, and for which periods? For ER to apply there is a 5% ownership threshold to meet for company and partnership shares, although this is subject to variations for retiring partners and diluted shareholdings.

Periods of low activity

The Potter case, examined whether a period of very low activity with no actual sales could be considered to be trading. The FTT decided the minimal activity was trading, and crucially there was no investment activity in that period, so the Potters’ ER claim was upheld.

Where the trade wound down it may have changed location or nature in the last few years. In that case it can be difficult to define exactly when the trade ceased. This problem was examined in the Jeremy Rice case.

Property LettingTrading?

Letting out property is nearly always regarded as an investment activity rather than trading, so where the business has been letting property you need to look for other activities which could be trading. The recent case of Stephen & Lynne Reneaux illustrates this problem.

The couple jointly owned two commercial units which were used for Stephen’s business until 2003. For the next 10 years the income from letting the units was reported as rental income inequal shares on the couple’s tax returns. The units were sold in 2013, and the individuals both claimed entrepreneurs’ relief on their share of the gain.

The FTT looked for substantial activity associated with the letting of the units which could be regarded as a trade, but concluded that the activities required to generate income from the units did not amount to a trade. The ER claims were rejected.

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Share scheme arrangements

Share Schemes – Annual Reporting Requirement

All employee share schemes need to be registered with HMRC in order to qualify for the tax advantages, and an annual return must be submitted to HMRC for each registered share scheme by 6 July following the tax year end.

This annual return must be submitted online through the ERS system, even if there is no activity in the scheme during the tax year. The penalties for not submitting the ERS annual return are similar to those for a late SA return: £100 for missing the deadline and £300 if the return is still outstanding after three months. 

In the case of Talkative Ltd v HMRC the Company registered two employee share schemes in January and March 2018, but failed to submit the annual returns for these schemes by 6 July 2018. The £100 penalty notices were issued on 17 July 2018. As neither annual return had been submitted by 6 October 2018, further £300 penalties were issued for both schemes.

At the FTT the company’s accountant claimed he wasn’t aware that annual returns were required. He also said that no return was filed because no notice to file was received. Neither of these arguments was well received by the FTT, which upheld the penalties.

Unlike for SA returns, a notice to file is not required to be issued to trigger an obligation to file an ERS return. The adviser should have been aware of the need to file the ERS returns for the share schemes which were only registered a few months earlier.

If you have registered employee share schemes, make sure the ERS returns are submitted on time. If the share scheme is no longer needed, deregister it by following the steps set out in the link below.

Talkative Ltd v HMRC TC07172

How to deregister a share scheme 

Categories
Capital Gains Tax

Entrepreneurs’ relief changes

FA 2019, Schedule 16 has introduced four changes to entrepreneurs’ relief (ER). The new conditions for an individual’s shareholding in their personal company to qualify for ER took effect from 28 October 2018. The three other changes to ER take effect for disposals made after 5 April 2019.

Qualification period

For disposals after 5 April 2019 all the qualifying conditions for ER must be in place for at least 24 months to the date of disposal, or to the date the business ceases to trade.

Look through incorporation

Where a business incorporates the qualification clock for the ER conditions is set back to zero on the issue of the shares, or on date the on which the company starts trading, whichever is the later. Where the shareholders receive an offer for the company shortly after incorporation, they will be denied ER as they won’t have built up full qualification period of share ownership.

For disposals after 5 April 2019 the qualification period for ER can look through the incorporation and include the period during which the unincorporated business was owned by the current shareholders. This look-through only applies if the shares were acquired wholly or partly in exchange for the transfer of the business as a going concern, and all the assets of the business, other than cash, must have been transferred to the company. These are the conditions under which incorporation relief applies.

If it is planned to incorporate the business, make sure that incorporation relief does apply as an insurance policy against a quick sale of the company.

Dilution of shareholding

Where equity investment is raised from outside investors, it can dilute the holdings of existing shareholders to below 5% of ordinary share capital, stripping away their rights to ER.

For new share issues made from 6 April 2019, the existing shareholders can preserve their ER by making two elections . The first election creates a deemed sale and reacquisition of their shares, crystallising the gain on which ER can be claimed, and the second election defers the CGT due until their shares are sold. These elections must be made by the first anniversary of 31 January following the tax year in which the additional shares are issued.

Categories
Capital Gains Tax Tax Avoidance

What tax is paid on winding up a company?

In 2016 a targeted anti-avoidance rule (TAAR) was introduced to prevent individuals from winding-up their close company, taking out the retained cash at capital gains tax rates and then continuing the same business in another vehicle.

In HMRC Spotlight 47 HMRC declare that schemes designed to step around this TAAR, which involve selling the company to a third party rather than winding it up, don’t work, so the TAAR would apply with the result that the withdrawn cash would be subject to tax at income tax rates.

HMRC’s view is misleading to say the least.

The TAAR only applies if a company is wound-up, it can not apply if the company is sold to a third party. If a business owner decides to sell their cash-rich company to a third party in order to release the funds, and within two years (the period defined in the TAAR), starts a similar trade or activity, the income tax charge imposed by the TAAR cannot apply. It is disingenuous for HMRC to imply that it could.

What’s more HMRC say that the general anti-abuse rule (GAAR) would apply in these circumstances if the TAAR doesn’t apply. This is also nonsense, as it was not the intention of Parliament for the TAAR to apply on the sale of a company to a third party.

Clearly if there is a non commercial arrangement with a third party undertaken with the primary aim of sidestepping the TAAR then it is to be expected that the transaction will come under scrutiny.  

HMRC is trying to frighten people away from using tax avoidance schemes, which is a good thing, but it needs to use this power in a responsible way. 

You can read Spotlight 47 here