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Ep 39 – Is buy to let dead? Is LTD for BTL a good option?

As accountants and tax advisers, we are often asked the benefits of holding residential rental properties through a limited company. Whilst there are benefits of holding residential rental properties in a corporate structure, the downsides need to be given equal airtime. In this article, we explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of holding residential rental properties in a limited company.

The reason many clients ask for this guidance is because from 6 April 2017, HMRC restricted loan interest relief available for residential landlords holding property personally. These restrictions have not been extended to properties owned via a limited company hence making the corporate route appear attractive.

The restrictions have been phased in over a period of four years, meaning the allowable loan interest between 2017/18 and 2020/21 has been reduced as follows:

  • 2017/18 – allowable loan interest – 75%
  • 2018/19 – allowable loan interest – 50%
  • 2019/20 – allowable loan interest – 25%
  • 2020/21 – allowable loan interest – 0%

The element of interest disallowed in these years and, going forward on 100% of the loan interest, will no longer be a direct deduction from the rental profits. However, a tax credit of 20% will be given on the mortgage interest payments. For example, if you have incurred mortgage interest of £10,000 you will receive an allowable deduction of £2,000 from your overall tax liability.

Questions to ask before transferring to a limited company

Each individual’s tax position is different and the therefore a ‘one size fits all approach’ is not best practice. When we are asked to provide guidance on whether to hold properties through a company, we tend to ask the following questions:

  • What is your current tax position?
    • Are you a basic rate or higher rate taxpayer?
  • Does a lower earning spouse jointly own the property?
    • If not, should tax planning to equalize assets between spouses be explored first?
  • Is the income required for personal expenditure?
    • If the income is required and is held within a company, the tax efficiency would be diluted.
  • Is the property mortgaged?
    • If not, a company structure is unlikely to be worth it.
  • Does the property currently stand at capital gain and what is the current value?
    • Capital gains tax and stamp duty land tax may become payable as a result of the transfer.
  • What are the future plans for the properties if transferred to a company?
    • There are likely to be issues if the property held in a company is ear marked to be a future main residence.

Any decision to hold residential rental property through a limited company needs to discussed with a suitable qualified professional as transactions do have some unintended consequences.

The main advantages

  • Interest relief is available to set against rental profits.
  • The corporation tax rate is currently 19% compared to 20%, 40% or 45% if held in personal names.
  • Timing of company dividends for tax efficiency.
  • Family members can be involved, reducing the tax burden.
  • Tax efficient if funds are left within the company.

The main disadvantages

  • Potential higher borrowing cost and personal guarantees may be required.
  • Potential stamp duty and capital gains tax liabilities for transferring to a limited company.
  • Increased accountancy fees.
  • If an individual needs the rental income for personal expenditure the majority of the tax efficiencies will be lost.
  • Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED) – ATED is an annual tax payable mainly by companies that own UK residential property valued at more than £500,000.

An ATED return would need to be completed if the property:

  • is a dwelling
  • is in the UK
  • was valued at more than
    • £1 million (for returns from 2015 to 2016 onwards)
      • £2 million (for returns from 2013 to 2014 onwards)
      • £500,000 (for returns from 2016 to 2017 onwards)
  • is owned completely or partly by a:
    • company
    • partnership where any of the partners is a company
    • collective investment scheme – for example a unit trust or an open-ended investment vehicle.

Returns must be submitted on or after 1 April in any chargeable period. There are reliefs and exemptions from the potential tax charge which may mean the liability is mitigated. The rules are complex and we would recommend professional advice is taken.

One point that many advisers and landlords do not always consider is future legislative changes. We cannot rule out further changes to the legislation given that residential landlords have been hit hard by the current pandemic.

In short, careful consideration needs to be applied in all cases.

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