Business Rates
Business rates became due on most vacant business property from 1 April 2008 when previously such properties were exempt from rates. In last year’s Pre Budget report the Chancellor announced an exemption from business rates for empty properties which had a rateable value of less than £15,000, but only for the 2009/10 financial year.This exemption is now to be extended for the year to 31 March 2011, and boosted to include empty properties with a rateable value of less than £18,000.

Stamp Duty
A stamp duty ‘holiday’ was announced for residential property in September 2008, which effectively raised the lower threshold property values where SDLT is imposed at 1%, from £125,000 to £175,000. The lower threshold (£125,000) will apply once again from 1 January 2010. Where the residential property is located in a disadvantaged area the threshold from which the 1% rate of SDLT is imposed is £150,000.

SDLT is normally imposed at the completion date for the property sale, not the date on which contracts are exchanged. If the buyer takes possession of the property before the completion date, SDLT is charged on that earlier date. To take advantage of the zero rate of SDLT on a property costing no more than £175,000 you need to complete or take possession of the property before 1 January 2010.

CGT on Homes
There is a relaxation of the rules on principle private residence relief where part of the home is occupied exclusively by an adult in care, and the owner of the property is paid to care for that adult. In such cases the whole of the property will qualify for exemption from capital gains tax.

Furnished Holiday Letting

Tax concessions for the commercial letting of furnished holiday lets will be removed with effect from 6 April 2010 for unincorporated businesses and from 1 April 2010 for companies. Hoteliers and bed and breakfast proprietors are not affected by these changes.

the impact is:-
Losses – future profits and losses from furnished holiday lettings will be treated as income from a property business, and thus relief for losses will be available only against the property lettings business. Any current losses from the furnished holiday lettings, which have not been used before April 2010, will be carried forward to be set against the future property lettings business.
Pensionable income – from 6 April 2010 income from a furnished holiday lettings business will not count as pensionable income, which may reduce the amount of pension contributions available for tax relief in any tax year.
CGT – the capital gains relief associated with disposing of a property used in a commercial furnished holiday letting business will cease to apply for disposals made after 5 April 2010. Consider a disposal to a trust or family member before this date.

IHT – the business property relief exemption on property will cease to apply from 5 April 2010

Owners of FHL property are currently treated as traders and the income, losses and gains on sale are potentially available for a number of tax advantages compared to non-FHL property owners. These advantages include:

  • Profits are deemed to be trading income and are taken into account for pension purposes
  • Certain capital expenditure will qualify for the Annual Investment Allowance. (100% tax deduction)
  • Losses are deemed to be trading losses and available to set off against any other income of the owner(s).
  • Gains on sale may qualify for rollover relief and entrepreneurs’ relief.

For 2009-10 and certain earlier years, property owned in the EEA (European Economic Area) was included as FHL property as long as the usual qualifying conditions were met. This was announced in the 2009 Budget.

It is also worth mentioning that FHL is not treated as trading for all tax purposes. For example, there is no special treatment for business property relief for inheritance tax purposes. Generally speaking FHL will not qualify for business property relief unless part of an enterprise incorporating other facilities.

What to do?

If you are contemplating the sale of FHL property it may make sense to complete the transaction before the present capital gains tax concessions expire on the 5 April 2010. Potentially the gain on the sale may qualify for Entrepreneurs’ Relief. This could reduce your tax on any gain to just 10%, as long as the sale meets the required criteria.

If you are a long term investor and have no intention of selling, you could consider bringing forward any capital expenditure that may qualify as part of your Annual Investment Allowance. For 2009-10 you are allowed to claim a 100% deduction for expenditure up to £50,000. If this claim either created or enhanced an overall loss, you could set off the loss against your other earnings and reduce your liability for 2009-10. (You may also be able to carry losses back if this is more advantageous.)

Planning pointer.

If you own FHL property, now would be a good time to take a hard look at the tax planning advantages that are still in date. As soon as we cross the 5 April 2010 threshold all the present options are lost! Please call if you would like more information on this topic.