Expected changes to have a significant impact for UK resident taxpayers!

Significant changes to capital gains tax for UK resident tax payers on the disposal of UK residential property have been announced.  They take effect from 6 April 2020 and will have a substantial impact for:

  • The payment date for capital gains tax
  • Reducing the final period for main residence exemption
  • Restricting lettings relief

In a small compromise, two extra statutory concessions will become law.

Capital Gains Tax Changes

30 Day Payment for Residential Property Gains

From 6 April 2020, UK residents will be required to pay tax on UK residential property gains within 30 days of completion.  Alongside making payment, a tax return will generally have to be submitted to HMRC within the same timeframe.  Helpfully, no tax return will be required for no gain / no loss disposals, nor for disposals where no tax is due.

The tax return is only for the capital gains tax computation for the asset disposed of.  That might seem reasonable at first blush, but if the tax payer has capital losses on the disposal of other assets, they will not be taken into account.  The tax payment will therefore be a payment on account of the total capital gains tax liability for the tax year with a further payment or refund due on submission of the Self Assessment tax return. 

The introduction of this tax return is an additional obligation in the sales process.  Currently, a return for Stamp Duty Land Tax is required within 14 days of completion, and is usually completed by the lawyers dealing with the conveyance.  It is likely that early advice from your tax advisor will be necessary to get a full grasp of the intricacies of the capital gains tax computation, particularly where only partial main residence exemption is available.

UK Tax Return

Final Exempt Period for Main Residence Exemption

If a property has been the owner’s only or main residence throughout the entire period of ownership, then the capital gain arising is wholly exempt from capital gains tax.  If however there is more than one property used as a residence, there is the possibility that the property disposed of may not qualify for main residence exemption if another property has been nominated as the one to be regarded as the main residence. 

When nominations are involved, quite often only part of the period of ownership will qualify for the exemption, although in all cases where the property qualifies in part for the exemption, the final period of ownership will be deemed to be occupied as the main residence in any event and will therefore qualify for exemption in respect of this final period of ownership.

This final period of ownership has been 18 months since 6 April 2014.  From 6 April 2020, the final exempt period will in most cases be further reduced to 9 months only.  For disabled persons and those living in care homes, the final exempt period will continue to be three years after 6 April 2020, which was the position existing for all tax payers prior to 6 April 2014.

Main Residence Exemption

Restriction of Letting Relief

In addition to the main residence exemption, there was a further relief, known as “letting relief” which homeowners often claimed when selling a property which had been their main residence but which they had vacated and let to tenants.  Letting relief was up to £40,000 per individual, and therefore for a couple could be up to £80,000.  In addition, the letting relief could be available on multiple properties, if they had each qualified for the main residence exemption.  From 6 April 2020, whilst letting relief continues at £40,000, it will only apply to those who share occupancy with the tenant.  It is expected that this will significantly reduce the number of disposals to which lettings relief is available.

Late Nominations

The first concession to be legislated relates to late nominations specifying which of two of more residences are to be treated as the main one qualifying for the main residence exemption.  Normally, a period of two years from the date on which more than one residence is available is allowed for making the nomination. 

Delay in Commencing Occupation

The second concession to be legislated concerns delays in taking up occupation of a main residence.  Normally, the main residence exemption only accrues from the date occupation commences.  If the property has not been the residence of another individual between the date of acquisition and the taking up of occupation, then that period will be a period of deemed occupation if the property is subject to building works (for up to 24 months), or the individual is disposing of their previous or only or main residence (for up to 12 months).

Planning Points

There are a number of planning points:

  • On almost any analysis, if a sale of a property is contemplated, then it should be completed before 6 April 2020.
  • The sale of a buy to let property which has previously been a main residence is most likely to be affected by at least one of these changes.
  • You will need to plan ahead to ensure that the capital gains tax computation can be prepared in time to meet the new 30 day deadline for filing the tax return and payment of the capital gains tax following a sale.

Whilst representations have been submitted to HMRC in response to these changes by the accountancy and taxation bodies, it is expected that legislation enacting these changes will come into force on 6 April 2020, although it is possible that some amendments to the current draft legislation may be made.

Summary

The government’s focus on extracting capital gains tax from residential properties is now firmly on UK resident taxpayers.  For the multiple residential property owner, these changes will have a significant impact and professional advice is most likely to be needed.