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CGT Reliefs on homes to be significantly restricted from 04/2020

By Kevin McDaid, Nov 6 2018 11:49AM

It will come as little surprise to property owners that the latest Budget has seen them hit with further tax restrictions coming into effect from 06/04/2020 that could see them pay significantly more capital gains tax (CGT) when selling a property which has, at any time, been your main residence (aka principle private residence).

This measure will impact not only those with buy-to-let properties but anyone who owns a property and moves out more than nine months before the property is sold. For example, separating couples where one party moves out before the sale of the family home.

What are the tax reliefs available on selling a former home?

What is changing?

Principal private residence (PPR) relief

Principal private residence (PPR) relief protects taxpayers from being liable to capital gains tax (CGT) during the period a property has been occupied as their main home. PPR relief covers not only periods of actual occupation but also periods of ‘deemed occupation’.

These include:

• up to 12 months on initial purchase if refurbishing the property before moving in,

• time spent working away from home (subject to certain restrictions),

• the final 18 months of ownership, regardless of occupation (aimed at protecting those who have a cross-over period when replacing their main home).

For sales after 5 April 2020 the final 18 month ‘deemed occupation’ is reducing to just nine months.

Until 05/04/2014 the final 36 months of ownership counted as ‘deemed occupation.’

This final 36 month exemption will continue to apply for those who have had to move out of their homes and into residential care.

Lettings relief

From April 2020, lettings relief will be scrapped for those not occupying the property at the same time as their tenants.

At present, it is available in addition to PPR relief where a property is let out that has, at some point during the period of ownership, been occupied as your home. The maximum relief available is £40,000 per individual. Thus, lettings relief can provide £80,000 tax relief for a couple selling their former residence. This equates to a tax saving of £22,400 for higher rate taxpayers.

Throw in x 2 annual CGT exemptions (£11,700 in the current 18/19 tax year) and gains of just over £100K can be avoided.

At present, I feel that these CGT reliefs dove tail nicely with the ability to reclaim the 3% SDLT surcharge within 3 years of replacing your PPR. For instance, after moving out the clock starts ticking for the 3-year SDLT surcharge reclaim. But the initial 18 months of non- occupation are covered by CGT PPR ‘deemed occupation’ relief whilst lettings relief and annual exemptions should take care of the vast majority of gains (£102,400 maximum per couple) inside the next 18 months. By this time, the ex PPR must be sold in order to reclaim the 3% SDLT surcharge.

How do the current rules work? (up until 5 April 2020)

Sam purchases a flat for £250,000 and occupies it immediately as her main home for five years until she moves into a house with her partner. She chooses to rent out her old flat for the next four and half years, after which time it is put up for sale, selling 6 months later (in June 2018) for £450,000.

Sam owned the PPR for 10 years (120 months).

There was actual occupation for 4.5 years (54 months) and deemed occupation in the final 18 months. Total occupation 72 months qualifying for PPR relief (72/120 = 60%).

Proceeds 450,000

Less: acquisition costs/enhancement expenditure (250,000)

Capital gain 200,000

Less: PPR relief: - 60% (120,000)

Less: Lettings relief equal to the lower of: - (40,000)

£40,000 40,000

PPR relief 120,000

Chargeable gain during let period 80,000

Chargeable gain 40,000

Less: annual exemption (11,700)

Taxable gain 28,300

Tax thereon (assuming 28%) £7,924

Although Sam only occupied the property for less than half of her ownership period, less than 15% of the gain is chargeable after PPR, Lettings relief and the annual exemption are utilised.

After changes implemented (from 6 April 2020 onwards)

If a sale took place after 5 April 2020, but all other conditions were the same as outlined above, Sam’s PPR relief would be down to 61 months (50.83%) and she would receive no letting relief.

tax liability would increase by £15,316 (even after taking into account the higher annual exemption).

Proceeds 450,000

Less: acquisition costs/enhancement expenditure (250,000)


Less: PPR relief: - (50.83%) (101,667)

Chargeable gain 98.333

Less: annual exemption (using 2019/20 level) (12,000)

Taxable gain 86,333

Tax thereon at 28% £24,173

An increase of £16,249, i.e. over twice her tax liability under the old rules.

What would happen if Sam kept the property for another 10 years?

If Sam decided to keep the property a further 10 years, her entitlement to PPR relief over the total period of ownership would be significantly diluted (& no letting relief). Consequently, CGT would be considerably increased.

It, therefore, follows on that we can probably expect to see a glut of properties coming on to the market from Spring 2019, with some bargains to be had the closer we get to April 2020 as vendors have to balance lower sale proceeds against higher tax liabilities.

As one would assume that many residential landlords will be considering their property portfolios in light of loan interest relief restrictions reaching 75% from 04/2019 (100% from 04/2020), it surely can be no coincidence that these CGT restrictions are occurring at the same time as the income tax restrictions. An attempt to kick start the housing market?

Also, don’t forget that from 06/04/2020, CGT will be payable within 30 days of the sale compared to 31 January following the year of transaction, under the current regime. This can produce a bizarre situation whereby a sale occurring on 06/04/19 would see any tax owing payable by 31/01/2021 but a sale exactly a year later (06/04/2020) would require the tax to be settled by 06/05/2020.

How long do you need to live in a property before it becomes your PPR?

The question of how long one needs to reside in a property for it to qualify as the main home for PPR purposes is one which is frequently raised, but, as is so often the case with tax, the answer is not clear cut. In practice it is the quality of occupation not length of occupation that matters.

A taxpayer must have intended to occupy the property with a degree of permanence. Consequently, where there are only short periods of occupation, the difficulty can be evidencing this permanence to HMRC.

Evidencing intention has proved the defining factor in many recent cases, such as Susan Bradley v HMRC [2013] TC02560. When Mrs Bradley separated from her husband, she moved into their second property and immediately placed the property on the market. This was taken to be evidence that the property was not intended to be occupied as a home with any degree of permanence and PPR relief was denied.

Conversely, if a property is acquired to be lived in long-term but subsequent factors make this impossible, such as a relationship breakdown, then a short-term occupation can be sufficient to provide entitlement to PPR relief.

How do you know which property is your PPR?

A married couple can only have one PPR between them, so if a couple have multiple properties which meet the conditions of a home, an election can be submitted to HMRC indicating which property is to be treated as the main residence for PPR purposes. It does not necessarily have to be the one that is occupied the most. Once an election has been submitted, it is possible to vary the lection at any point in the future.

An election can be made whenever there is a change in circumstances such as the acquisition of a new property, marriage or divorce. Such an election should be made in writing (jointly for spouses) within two years of the change in circumstance.

Sometimes which property should be chosen as the PPR is an obvious choice, for example, a home which will not be sold during lifetime will not benefit from CGT relief. Contrast this this to the MP with a London apartment (family home elsewhere) who is unsuccessful in defending his/her seat in the next election and returns to regular work in the constituency in which the family home is.

In such a case, judicious use of an election could see the London apartment entirely covered by PPR relief (including the final 18 months of deemed occupation under the current regime). This period could then qualify as actual occupation for the family home, probably ensuring that no more than a couple of years PPR relief would be lost on the family home, if ever that is sold.

Otherwise, the suggestion would be that it is the property that is most likely to go up in value quickly that should be nominated as the PPR.

If no elections have been made then which property is an individual’s PPR will be determined on the facts of each case. In some cases which property has been occupied as the main home will be obvious, but if the position is fluid this can help with keeping options for relief open.

The onus is on the taxpayer to provide the evidence of occupation, but with HMRC’s ever increasing ability to access information through its powerful Connect database the number of HMRC enquiries is rising where contradictory information is provided.

HMRC has been known to compare the utility bills of each property and request details of an owner’s diary to enable them to determine the ‘real’ PPR. It is therefore important that taxpayers who may wish to claim PPR relief are able to prove their occupation such as by diarising time spent at each property, ensuring utilities and other household bills are registered in their name, and generally evidencing their occupation.

These changes will no doubt trigger individuals to review the benefits of selling property before the reliefs are withdrawn, especially given the large gains which usually accompany residential property sales.

Consideration should also be given as to how any sale proceeds will be reinvested, especially if the desire is to remain in the UK property market in which case the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) cost will need to be taken into account.

If you have more than one UK property which qualifies as a home, it is worth contacting me to consider the tax implications, even if there is no immediate intention to sell up.

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What our clients said about us:

I have a portfolio of over 50 residential properties throughout the North of England.

I first came across Kevin in 2010 when he was performing capital allowances valuations in respect of houses of multiple occupation (HMO). At that point, not many accountants that I spoke to, had much of a clue about the ability to claim the allowances whilst many of those organisations who were in the know, were keen to do the valuations for a hefty fee but then really did not instil me with any confidence about the tax implications.

Kevin was different; we had an initial chat over the phone, there was no big sell and no hefty fee. Because he has a tax and surveying background, not only was he able to undertake the valuations he was able to liaise with my accountant to fully explain the tax implications and talk him through the reporting procedure.

There is no question that the tax savings I made hugely outweighed his fees.

Fast forward 5 years and there is no surprise that, once again, he seems to have a far greater understanding of the latest tax changes than the accountants of other landlords that I regularly speak with.

He has kept me fully updated on the tax implications of the loss of wear and tear and the changes in the allowability of loan interest. He has provided me with an in depth report showing how much post tax income I would have from the present day right through until 20/21 when the restriction is fully in force. It did not paint a pretty picture. In fact, I would go so far as to say, that I would almost certainly no longer be able to continue to operate as a property investor by 20/21 in a sole trader capacity. Consequently, as of 01/04/16, I am now operating as a limited company, Kevin guiding me and my accountant through the tricky incorporation maze and explaining the best profit extraction method going forward.

I would point out that we had been discussing the SDLT implications of incorporation on the run up to the Budget on 16/03/16. With over 50 properties this was going to be a hefty charge for me. We had anticipated there would be a relief for the transfer of more than 15 properties into company ownership. When it was announced in the Budget that this would not apply, Kevin contacted me on Budget day whilst I was in South America to break the news and to push for the transfer to take place by 31/03/16 in order to save an extra 3% SDLT, which I duly did.

Once again, big tax savings for reasonable costs but, most importantly to me, I know exactly where my business is going, how much money I can personally extract from the company & how much should be left in to help pay off existing mortgages or to expand the business.

It really is a no brainer to work with Kevin whether you are a large or small property investor.


JC, Leeds


We first used the tax services of Kevin almost 10 years ago when he was working for a local firm of chartered accountants. Having received an excellent service from him for a number of years (including expanding from a partnership to a limited company) we were delighted to hear that Kevin had set up on his own and had no hesitation in signing up as a client in 2012. He continues to offer a very personable and cost effective service. We would absolutely recommend him to any other small company like ours.  

In addition to our company, we have a small residential property portfolio and were contemplating disposing of one of the properties in 2014/15. Had we not consulted with Kevin prior to the sale, we would have been facing an unwelcome Capital Gains Tax Liability. However, by transferring the property from sole into joint ownership we were able to benefit from a second CGT exemption which saved us almost £2,000’.  


Mrs S (Company Director, Bingley)

I first met with Kevin in July 2015 because I was worried that I had been receiving rental income for 3 years but had not declared anything to the tax man. The reason I had not done so was because I had spent quite a bit doing it up when I first purchased it and, by my calculations, I had only just started to make a profit in the tax year ended 05/04/2015.

Kevin explained that not all the expenses would be allowable because some counted as improvements. He provided a fact sheet on ‘Revenue versus  Capital’ indicating that those costs that counted as improvements would, ultimately, be available to set against any gains on disposal of the BTL. He also clarified the other expenses I was entitled to claim.

He calculated the net profit from letting. Even though no tax was payable he advised that the income still needed to be reported to HMRC which he duly did via a letter as, he said, the amounts involved were below the level for which a tax return was required. Apparently, this saved me penalties for failing to submit tax returns by the due date.

A tax return will be required for 2015/16 and I will be using Kevin to prepare this as, last year, he took away my concerns in sorting out my tax in a professional manner. He is not expensive and I feel comfortable dealing with him.

I would be happy to recommend him based on my experience.


RT, Bradford.


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