Capital allowances and property

Series of air conditioners at UNC-CH.

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Landlords of residential property are at a disadvantage when it comes to claiming capital allowances on plant and machinery. Plant in a ‘dwelling house’ does not qualify for capital allowances. It is, however, still possible to claim capital allowances on plant installed in common areas.

Common areas, for example, in a block of flats.

Commercial property landlords suffer from no such restrictions and can claim capital allowances on the cost of any plant and machinery they install.

The rates of capital allowances vary according to thetype of the plant. Most items of  plant qualifies for a ‘writing down allowance’ at a rate of 20% per year – which will reduce to 18% from April 2012, but certain items which are ‘integral’ to a building only qualify for a lower rate of 10% – reducing to 8% from April 2012.

‘Integral’ plant includes:

  • Electrical systems
  • Cold water systems
  • Systems for heating, ventilation, hot water, and air conditioning
  • Lifts, escalators, and mechanical walkways
  • External solar shading

Annual Investment Allowance (AIA)

Any of the above types of plant, qualify for the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA), which gives tax relief for 100% of expenditure on plant and machinery up to a limit of £100,000 for the year. This limit is also being reduced in April 2012, to a mere £25,000, so if you were thinking of spending substantial amounts of money on plant in your building, now is the time.

A word of warning to limited companies – if your accounting period does not end on 31 March, the allowances are time apportioned. The details are complicated and you might want to take advice on this, particularly if it going to affect your decision on spending.

Most plant installed in a building is likely to be ’integral‘ as defined above, but with the AIA allowance, in many cases the expenditure will be covered by the AIA and will never be subject to the lower rate of writing down allowance.

Additional costs to claim!

The costs of transporting the plant to your building, and of installing it, are considered part of the cost of the plant, and can thus qualify for the AIA.

Also included is the cost of alterations to an existing building which are done for the purpose of installing plant and machinery. For example, if  installing a lift in a building, the cost of the lift shaft – including the bricks and mortar – can be treated as part of the cost of the lift itself, and thus will qualify for the AIA.

Note that this only applies when altering an existing building, not constructing a new one. If installing plant and machinery involves an extension to an existing building, you might be able to show that the alterations were ‘incidental’ to the installation of the plant and machinery. ‘Incidental’ has been defined asbeing required in order to install the plant. Liaise with your architect, builder, and quantity surveyor to ensure that all relevant expenditure is identified, the plans and the invoices should indicate those works that were ‘incidental’ to the installation. An appropriate proportion of these professionals’ fees can also be treated as part of the cost of the plant.

Act now, it may soon be too late!

If you purchased a building, together with plant, and have never claimed for the plant, you can still make a claim. However, the government started a consultation process in May 2011 on whether to continue to allow capital allowances claims on purchases of commercial property regardless of the purchase date. As the legislation stands at the moment a claim may be made for qualifying “plant and machinery” within the property with no time limitations applied as to the date of purchase.

It would seem that the government have realised, if the current regime continues, it will potentially be vulnerable to the loss of millions of pounds through tax rebates and reduced tax income. Given the  state of the public finances,  the UK the government wants to retain as much money in HMRC’s tax take as possible.

If the Government does manage to reduce how far one can go back in making a capital allowances claim then many owners will have lost out without ever realising it. Many landlords of homes in multiple occupation (HMO’s) have already lost out, to a great extent, due to changes that HMRC introduced in October 2010 as will many owners of furnished holiday lets (FHL’s) if they do not review how recent changes have affected their rights to make a capital allowances claim.

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