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Autumn Budget 2017: Property Insight

29th November 2017

Last week the Chancellor delivered his first Autumn Budget; whether it is also his last will partly depend on the winter political winds that blow through Westminster in the coming weeks and months.  As is often the case with Budgets, the Chancellor shall giveth and the Chancellor shall taketh away, although this time, whilst the property sector may not be blessing the name of the Chancellor, it has some reasons to be thankful, albeit maybe less so if you are an overseas landlord.

We have outlined below a summary of some changes announced that affect the property sector, including freezing indexation allowance at 31 December 2017 for corporation tax which will see corporates joining individuals in paying tax on gains arising from inflationary uplifts in value.

Non-residents

Gains

The Government has announced plans that, from April 2019, non-residents will be taxed in the UK on gains arising from the disposal of all types of UK immovable property as well as on certain indirect disposals of interests in 'property rich' entities, such as companies, partnerships and property unit trusts. This represents a fundamental change to the taxation of UK real estate.

The proposals are included in a consultation document, released on Budget day and open until 16 February 2018, which makes it clear that the thrust of these measures will become law. With the scope, commencement date and core features of the reform being fixed, the consultation focuses on how the legislation can be effectively targeted, whilst not placing unnecessary burdens on taxpayers.

Currently non-residents are, generally, not taxed on gains arising on the disposal of commercial property or on indirect disposals of UK property, even though disposals of residential property have been caught in the tax net since April 2015. The announcement also extends the scope of the existing capital gains tax (‘CGT’) rules that apply to residential property by removing the exception for widely held non-resident companies.

Prima facie these changes reduce the attractiveness of the UK to overseas property investors, but we suspect that the Government is gambling on the, relatively, low rates of tax not being a sufficient deterrent to potential overseas investors. The changes will more closely align the treatment of non-residents with that for UK residents and will reduce the incentive to hold UK property through offshore structures.

Non-resident property companies

Following a consultation earlier this year, the Government has announced that non-resident companies will be brought into the corporation tax regime for UK property income and gains with effect from April 2020. Such companies are currently subject to income tax on UK property income, with any gains falling into the existing CGT regime.

In theory, this will have the effect of reducing the tax rate on rental profits and gains by such companies, especially with corporation tax rates falling from 19% to 17% in April 2020. However, a consequence of this change is that non-resident companies will be brought into the recently introduced corporate interest restriction rules, loss restriction rules and the hybrid mismatch rules.

We strongly advise non-resident landlord companies, particularly those with an annual group net interest expense in the UK of more than £2 million, to consider the impact of these changes on their financing arrangements before the new rules apply.

We expect further clarification to follow on how bringing non-resident property companies into the corporation tax regime will interact with the changes to the taxation of gains by non-residents which will apply from a year earlier (from 1 April 2019). 

SDLT

First time buyers

A welcome new SDLT relief has been introduced for first time buyers purchasing residential property with a value of £500,000 or less on after 22 November 2017.  The relief will only be available to individuals who have never owned an interest in a residential property in the UK, or abroad, at any time and are acquiring the property to occupy as their main residence.

The SDLT relief available to a first time buyer on the acquisition of a property to occupy as their main residence is now as follows:

  • No SDLT will be payable where the purchase price is £300,000 or less; and
  • The SDLT payable will be 5% on the consideration above £300,000 where the consideration is between £300,000 and £500,000.

However, no relief from SDLT is available where the total consideration exceeds £500,000.

This relief provides a saving up to £5,000 compared to the previous SDLT rates payable by a first time buyer.

SDLT payment date

The Government has confirmed that the reduction in the SDLT filing and payment window, from 30 to 14 days, will apply to land transactions from 1 March 2019.

Minor amendment to SDLT on additional properties

There will be minor amendments to provide exception from the additional 3% of SDLT where additional residential property is acquired in certain cases, including:

  • where there is a transfer between spouses;
  • where a court order prevents a main residence being sold following a divorce; or
  • where a person adds to their interest in their main residence.

Other property focused matters

CGT filing date

The requirement to pay CGT on residential property sales within 30 days of completion will be deferred until April 2020.

Corporation tax

Indexation relief available in computing chargeable gains subject to corporation tax is to be frozen at 31 December 2017 for disposals occurring on or after 1 January 2018.  This will mean corporates are under a similar regime to individuals, whereby inflationary gains on capital assets are subjected to tax, and the effective rate of tax on holding investment properties will increase in the future.

Sundry matters

The Chancellor also announced a number of other initiatives aimed at invigorating the property sector which included:

  • Councils will be given the freedom to charge a premium of up to 100% on council tax for vacant properties in order to encourage occupancy and lettings;
  • Fixed rate mileage deductions will be available for landlords who use their cars for the purposes of a property rental business in order to simplify tax compliance and remove capital allowance claims;
  • A call for evidence to determine if the rent-a-room scheme is successful in promoting long-term lettings; and
  • A technical consultation will be launched in Spring 2018 on draft legislation to combat fraud in the construction industry by introducing a VAT reverse charge with a final draft to follow in October 2018. This follows the consultation launched in the Spring 2017 Budget, a summary of responses to which will be published on 1 December.

Should you have any questions about property following the Autumn Budget, please contact Nick Jordan, or your usual haysmacintyre adviser.

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