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HMRC Targeting PRS Landlords Again

HMRC Targeting PRS Landlords Again

Another Clampdown On UK PRS Landlords By HMRC

HMRC has turned its attention to the housing and property rental market with the intention of targeting landlords, again.

The taxman thinks that there are a number of UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords who have yet to declare any income earned from renting properties to tenants, and they are going all out to find them.

The latest clampdown on private rented sector landlords by HMRC is intended to target those landlords allegedly not paying tax and the taxman is using information provided by all UK local authorities to track rental properties.

Letting agents and landlords have already started receiving letters from HMRC requesting information on long-term and holiday rental property addresses, letting periods, tenant numbers and rental income.

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HMRC Target Tax Dodging LandlordsHer Majesties Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimate that more than 30% of UK private rental sector landlords are evading paying any tax on their rental income at a cost of £550 Million (GBP) to British taxpayers.

HMRC reckon that approximately 1 million PRS landlords failed to declare any revenue from their UK rental properties in the past tax year, compared with 1.9 million PRS landlords who paid over 1.8 Billion (GBP) in tax on their rental incomes over the same time frame.

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Tax Year Deadline is 31st January 2013

Tax Return Deadline Looms For LandlordsDespite all the awareness campaigns and TV advertising, Her Majesties Revenue & Customs (HMRC) repeatedly attempt to tell us that completing a self assessment tax return doesn’t have to be taxing!

However, as anyone who has ever completed a self assessment tax return will tell you, the evaluation of personal income for the tax year and the amount of time needed to complete a self-assessment form, either on paper or online can be very considerable.

When managing a single property or declaring a growing rental property portfolio, it can be hard work to set aside the time needed to tick all the right boxes.

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Buy to let landlords who own rental properties in the North East, Yorkshire, East Anglia and London, should be aware that they will be among businesses targeted by six new HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) taskforces.

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) report that HMRC are likely to focus on private rented sector (PRS) landlords providing temporary accommodation and landlords of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) although specific details on the scope of the taskforce have yet to be announced.

It is expected that the taskforce will initially focus on private sector landlords in specific areas, but if the taskforces are successful, their remit could be easily extended to cover the whole of the UK.

In 2011/12, HMRC launched 12 taskforces with up to 30 more set to follow in 2012/13.

The taskforces are a result of the Government’s £917m spending review investment to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and fraud which aims to raise an additional £7bn each year by 2014/15

HMRC are using specialist teams and sophisticated techniques to gather information from across Government departments, and other sources including press and internet advertisements, universities and colleges, to identify individuals who are not paying sufficient tax and the chances of going undetected are increasingly remote.

It is not just unpaid income tax that HMRC are investigating, landlords providing temporary accommodation, perhaps to seasonal agricultural labourers, students or even homeless people, may find that a sizeable VAT liability is incurred.

Some landlords may not realise that VAT is chargeable on temporary accommodation as HMRC tend to treat it in the same way as hotel or guest house accommodation.

Landlords may not be registered for VAT when they should be and so could face a back-dated VAT claim.

The HMRC taskforces undertake intensive bursts of activity in specific high risk trade sectors and locations in the UK.

Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke, said: “HMRC is on target to collect more than £50 Million (GBP) as a result of the taskforces launched in 2011/12. We have made it clear that we will not tolerate tax evasion. Everyone needs to pay the taxes they owe in full. We are determined to crack down on the minority who choose to break the rules. It is not fair that at a time when most hard-working people are paying the right tax, others are trying to get out of paying what they should.”

HMRC’s Director of General Enforcement and Compliance, Mike Eland, said: “These six new taskforces will bring together specialists from across HMRC to tackle tax dodgers. If you have paid all your taxes you have nothing to worry about. But deliberately evading tax you should be paying can land you with not only a heavy fine but possibly a criminal prosecution as well”.

Her Majesties Customs & Revenue (HMRC) is set to expand spot-checks to include landlords and small business owners across the UK in 2012.

UK Landlords and small business owners need to be prepared for an unwelcome knock on the door and a potential investigation into their business activities, by the TAXMAN!

HMRC is planning to investigate thousands more landlords and small businesses in 2012, and is expanding its investigations on several fronts.

The Business Records Check regime, trialled in selected areas of the UK in 2011 will expand its remit to the whole of the UK.

HMRC initially aimed to target 50,000 UK small businesses but have since lowered their expectations to target around 20,000 small businesses and landlords in 2012.

HMRC planned to take on around 90 extra staff in order to help it conduct its investigations, suggesting that it considers the checks to be an important priority.

The purpose of the unannounced visits is to ensure that businesses have kept sufficient records, and that those records back up their tax returns, and that could mean potential trouble for a large number of small enterprises.

Landlords and small business owners that are found to have kept insufficient or inaccurate records could be fined – heavily!

UK landlords have often mused over their immunity to such investigations, until the end of 2011, when the Revenue announced the establishment of a new task force specifically charged with investigating landlords in the North East of England and North Wales, and these investigations will now be extended across the country as part of the Revenue’s continued drive to clamp down on tax evasion, leaving UK landlords with no doubt over their position.

UK landlords are legally obliged to keep comprehensive records detailing rental income and related expenditure. Landlords must keep these for at least six years following the end of the tax year to which they relate. Accurate record-keeping is the most important way in which landlords can protect themselves.

UK landlords should ensure the accuracy of their tax returns. HMRC has dished out fines for relatively minor infractions, and it is therefore important that a landlords tax return is fully supported by detailed records.

Her Majesties Revenue & Customs is set to mount a court challenge to determine the legality, or otherwise, of stamp duty tax avoidance schemes.

Central to the challenge will be the use of limited companies to buy properties, and then sell them to individuals – something which does appear to be completely legal.

Essentially, the purchaser sets up a Special Purpose Vehicle, a company or a trust with a property as its sole asset. The purchaser then buys shares in the company and is subjected to a tax rate of just 0.5%.

There are many companies offering stamp duty tax avoidance: a Google search yielded over 3,200 results.

The taxman’s move follows this year’s Budget when Chancellor George Osborne announced that he would be clamping down on stamp duty avoidance, whilst law firms have also warned that HMRC is on the prowl.

HMRC estimates the tax avoidance schemes have cost it millions in lost revenue. It is investigating 1,200 people it suspects of having underpaid stamp duty by a collective total of £35m, whilst it will also go after others who have avoided the tax altogether.

The many schemes that claim to legally exploit stamp duty loopholes frequently charge fees of around half the amount that would have been paid in tax.

It is thought that a number of property investors have set up a limited liability company to buy the property to sell back to the individual.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “The schemes rely on an interpretation of law that produces an outcome different from that envisaged when the law was enacted, and that HMRC does not accept.”

Many Law firms have also warned against avoidance schemes of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).

Ian Montgomery, a solicitor at Boodle Hatfield, said: “There is a growing belief that it is possible to avoid paying stamp duty on the purchase of a property or land, but unless particularly aggressive tax planning is undertaken that is just not the case. It is a common misconception that it is possible to purchase a property using a company and avoid stamp duty. When a property is purchased through a company, whether based offshore or in the UK, it pays the same rate as if it were an individual. SDLT may be avoided by future purchasers when the company decides to sell the property. This is done by the owner selling shares in the company rather than the property itself, but SDLT will be paid on the initial purchase.”

Stamp duty on the purchase of shares stands at 0.5%, rather than the higher rate levied on property. If the company is based offshore, the purchase of shares is exempt from stamp duty entirely.

People who try to reduce stamp duty by paying separately for fixtures and fittings may have to prove to the taxman that what they paid for these assets did not exceed their true value

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Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is mounting a legal challenge to stamp duty tax avoidance schemes set up for home buyers.

Central to George Osbourne and the Taxman’s challenge will be the use of private limited companies to buy properties, and then sell them to individuals – something which is currently completely legal.

Essentially, the purchaser sets up a Special Purpose Vehicle, (SPV), a company or a trust with a property as its sole asset. The purchaser then buys shares in the company and is subjected to a tax rate of just 0.5%.

A Google search yielded over 3,200 results of companies offering stamp duty tax avoidance.

HMRC’s move follows this year’s Budget when Chancellor George Osborne announced that he would be clamping down on stamp duty avoidance, whilst law firms have also warned that the Taxman is on the prowl.

HMRC estimates the tax avoidance schemes have cost it millions in lost UK revenue.

It is investigating 1,200 people it suspects of having underpaid stamp duty by a collective total of £35 Million (GBP), whilst it will also go after others who have avoided the tax altogether.

Thousands of websites offer schemes that claim to legally exploit stamp duty loopholes. The schemes frequently charge fees of around half the amount that would have been paid in tax.

Loopholes include the well-known dodge of paying an artificially high price for fixtures and fittings so that the price of the property itself falls below a certain threshold; or setting up a limited liability company to buy the property to sell back to the individual.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “The schemes rely on an interpretation of law that produces an outcome different from that envisaged when the law was enacted, and that HMRC does not accept.”

Ian Montgomery, solicitor at Law firm Boodle Hatfield, said: “There is a growing belief that it is possible to avoid paying stamp duty on the purchase of a property or land, but unless particularly aggressive tax planning is undertaken that is just not the case. It is a common misconception that it is possible to purchase a property using a company and avoid stamp duty. When a property is purchased through a company, whether based offshore or in the UK, it pays the same rate as if it were an individual. SDLT may be avoided by future purchasers when the company decides to sell the property. This is done by the owner selling shares in the company rather than the property itself, but SDLT will be paid on the initial purchase.”

Stamp duty on the purchase of shares stands at 0.5%, rather than the higher rate levied on property. If the company is based offshore, the purchase of shares is exempt from stamp duty entirely. So, on a residential property valued at £2m, the purchaser could thus save £90,000 from purchasing the shares in a UK company holding the property as opposed to purchasing the property direct.

People who try to reduce stamp duty by paying separately for fixtures and fittings may have to prove to the taxman that what they paid for these assets did not exceed their true value.

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