When you sell your home, you might reasonably expect to pay no Capital Gains Tax (“CGT”) on the disposal due to the Principal Private Residence (“PPR”) Relief.  And for most homeowners selling their home, that must be right as the PPR relief will exempt any gain from CGT if:

  • the house has been your only or main residence throughout your period of ownership;
  • you have not been absent for more than an allowed period of absence;
  • the garden or grounds are not greater than the permitted area; and
  • no part of your home has been used exclusively for business purposes.

The third requirement relating to the garden or ground has been in the spotlight recently as it is one of the methods by which HM Revenue and Customs (“HMRC”) can enhance tax revenues from higher value residential property.

Image showing stables and yard.

The five step process

This brings into focus the procedure for determining your garden and grounds.  There is a little known five step process whereby you should:

  • determine the entity of the dwelling house or in other words which buildings qualify as your main residence;
  • determine the extent of the garden or grounds or in other words which land occupied with the garden or grounds can be described as garden or grounds;
  • determine the size of the permitted area, in other words if the garden or grounds are in excess of half a hectare, how much of the land is required for the reasonable enjoyment of the dwelling house as a residence;
  • determine the location of the permitted area, in other words which part of the garden or grounds would be the most suitable for occupation and enjoyment with the residence; and finally
  • apportion the proceeds of disposal and the acquisition cost between the part of the property qualifying for relief and the remainder.

This five step process needs to be followed in strict order to avoid the naturel process of going straight to step four and determining the location of the permitted area.  Care should also be taken to avoid mixing up the requirement test in the third stage and the most suitable test in the fourth stage.  It is also important to have addressed the first and second stages with larger properties or estates where there may be cottages, stables or outbuildings in addition to the main house which together may properly be regarded as the entity of the dwelling house.

The basic position is that if the garden and grounds of the residence, including the site of the dwelling house, do not exceed 0.5 of a hectare (5,000sq m or just under 1.25 acres), then relief is automatically due for the whole area.  In some limited cases involving larger properties, if the site of the dwelling house exceeds 5,000 sq m, then an area in excess of 5,000 sq m will qualify for PPR relief, being the site of the dwelling and its garden and grounds.

If, as is more normally the case with larger properties, the garden and grounds of the residence exceed 0.5 of a hectare then relief may be available for a larger area if that larger area can fulfil the statutory test. Garden or grounds will include any enclosed land surrounding or attached to your dwelling house and serving chiefly for ornament or recreation. However, not all land you hold with your dwelling house is treated as the garden or grounds of that residence. You are not entitled to relief for land let or used for a business, for example, surrounding farm land. Similarly, land which at the date of disposal has been fenced or divided off from your garden for development, or has been developed or is in the course of development (for example, excavations under way for foundations, roads, services, and so on) won’t qualify.  Fencing off land for equestrian purposes which it is intended is retained may point to land unfenced but being sold for development being regarded as part of the permitted location and therefore exempt from CGT.  This is but one of many opportunities to reduce the impact of CGT on your garden and grounds when you sell your main residence.

Image showing large house in pretty grounds.

Future changes to CGT and residential property

Looking to the future, HMRC has had a consultation titled “CGT – Payment window for residential property gains”.  As you might guess, HMRC are changing the date on which CGT is payable on the sale of residential property.

Presently, any CGT due is payable on the 31 January after the tax year of the disposal.  This represents a 10 to 22 month delay where you can put your tax money to your own use.  The proposal is that from 6 April 2020, CGT will be payable on residential property gains 30 days after the disposal is completed.  And you should remember a disposal includes not only a sale to a third party but also exchanges of property and gifts of property within your family.

If there is no gain due to PPR, then as for now, there will continue to be no CGT due.

Where that is not the case, you will need to get focused on calculating the gain either in the run up to the disposal or immediately after the sale, as late filing penalties and interest will apply in cases of not making the return or failing to pay within the 30 days allowed.

Good records will need to be kept to calculate the gain, for example the purchase price, subsequent acquisitions, any improvements expenditure and incidental professional fees.  It may also be necessary to instruct a valuer to assist in calculating the gain and any apportionment between permitted area and non-permitted area.

Do you need help with the CGT on your garden and grounds?

If you would like to discuss these issues with Capital Gains Tax, and how they may affect you, please contact a member of our team today on 020 3195 1300.

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