There are many reasons why residential property investors are now rushing to incorporate, the biggest reason being the Restriction of Mortgage Interest Tax Relief.
Clause 24 of the Finance Bill sets out plans is to restrict individuals on claiming mortgage interest as a cost against their property investment income, for individuals it will work as follows
2017/18 75% of the interest can be claimed in full and 25% will get relief at 20%
2018/19 50% of the interest can be claimed in full and 50% will get relief at 20%
2019/20 25% of the interest can be claimed in full and 75% will get relief at 20%
2020/21 100% will get only 20% relief
For a 20% tax payer that’s fine but for higher rate taxpayer its a disaster that will lead to them paying a lot more tax
These rules will not apply to Companies, Companies will continue to claim full relief.
When you sell or give a residential property to your Company you will incur Capital Gains Tax if you make a gain, its for this reason many investors and their advisers believe that they are ‘automatically’ entitled to claim Incorporation Tax Relief, but in many cases Incorporation Tax Relief will NOT be available!
In summary Incorporation Tax Relief allows Sole Traders to postpone/hold over a gain by transferring all their business assets into a limited company in return for Shares.
The key problem area is the Property Investment is generally not considered to be a Trade.
Some of the issues were resolved in EM Ramsay v HMRC  UKUT 0226 (TCC)
Mrs Ramsey carried out the following activities
- Mr & Mrs Ramsey personally met potential tenants
- Mrs Ramsey check the quarterly electric bills
- Mrs Ramsey arranged insurance
- Mrs Ramsey arranged and attended to maintenance issues (drains)
- Mrs Ramsey and her son maintained the garages and cleared rubbish
- Mrs Ramsey dealt with post
- Mrs Ramsey dealt with fire regulation issues
- Mrs Ramsey arranged for a fence to be erected
- Mrs Ramsey created a flower bed
- Shrubs were pruned and leaves swept
- The parking area was cleared of weeds
- The flag stones were bleached
- Communal areas were vacuumed
- Security checks were carried out
- She took rubbish to tip
- She cleaned vacant flats
- she helped elderly tenants with utilities
This work equated to at least 20 hours per week and Mrs Ramsey had no other employment.
It is because she did the work herself that her property investment was considered a ‘Business’ and eligible for Incorporation Tax Relief. In summing up the Judge said…
If Mrs Ramsay had employed a Property Management Company or Letting Agent to do the work she would NOT have been able to claim ‘Incorporation Tax Relief’.
Most Buy to Let Landlords with one or two properties are Passive Investors who delegate all the responsibilities to professional letting agents, they will not be doing enough to comprise a business!