Chancellor’s Autumn budget has sting in tail for landlords and expats

December 2013

Property owners and landlords caught the eye of the Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn statement, which included a package of measures designed to stimulate the housing market whilst bringing in more taxes from the property sector. 

The budget was delivered by George Osborne against a more positive economic backdrop, which saw the forecast for growth in 2013 from The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) upgraded from 0.6% to 1.4%, and for 2014 upgraded from 1.8% to 2.4%.

Catching the headlines in the Autumn statement was the introduction of Capital Gains Tax for overseas investors in UK property, who will face a tax bill on profits after the Chancellor closed a loophole.

Currently, capital gains tax (CGT) is paid only by people who are resident in the UK. It is charged on gains made from the sale of any property that is not the owner's main home, with basic rate taxpayers handing over 18% of their profits, and 28% for higher rate taxpayers. For 2014 the annual exemption allowance before CGT is payable is £11,000, and £5,000 for most trustees, rising to £11,100 and £5,500 respectively in 2015. 

The rule change will come into effect in April 2015 and will apply to future increases in value, not any previous growth.

But below the headline grabbing image of multi-millionaire foreign investors being made to cough up on CGT, the rule change will also hit any UK expats looking to sell property while they are living overseas, though many ex-pats will be able to claim relief if they are living abroad because of their job.

Also further down in the small print of Mr Osborne’s speech there was news of a change in the CGT rules for UK  property owners, who in future will benefit from less tax relief when they eventually sell up if they are claiming any private residence relief. 

At present, if a property has been occupied at any time as an individual’s private residence, then the last three years of ownership are disregarded for CGT purposes, even where the individual is not living in the property when it is sold.   

But from 6 April 2014 this final period exemption will be reduced to 18 months, leading to higher tax bills in future for any property owners who, for one reason or another, are slow to sell a property that was once their residence.

Said Parrott & Coales LLP’s tax and property law expert John Leggett of Aylesbury town solicitors: “Any property owners considering selling a property that has been a private residence at some time should be thinking about the impact of this change on any future sale. It’s worth considering an early sale if they can sell before 6 April 2014, as they will still be able to claim exemption for the last three years of ownership from CGT.”

In other property-related news, some local authorities may be turning to housebuilding once again after the Chancellor announced there would be a limited relaxation on local authority borrowing caps, to boost building and help achieve his target of 10,000 new affordable social homes over the next four years.

Other measures aimed at increasing housing supply, included speeding up the planning process and making it easier for developers to push ahead with new schemes.

But the Chancellor did not make any move on stamp duty on lower price houses, despite lobbying from many quarters.

John  added:  “It’s a disappointment not just to those trying to get on the property ladder but those looking to downsize as well. Many retirement housing providers say it’s holding back sales.” 

The Chancellor also announced a new reoccupation relief to encourage the use of vacant town centre shops, halving rates for new occupants. There will be a discount on business rates worth £1,000 to every retail premises in England with rateable value up to £50,000.