From a real estate perspective, the stamp duty land tax concession for first time buyers was the first Autumn Budget announcement to hit the headlines. It took a little more time to absorb the unheralded statement by the government that from April 2019, tax will be charged on all gains made by non-UK residents on the disposal of commercial and residential UK property, extending existing rules that apply to residential property only.
The charge will arise not only on direct, but also indirect disposals. In broad brush terms, if a non-UK resident sells their interest in a property-holding vehicle that is “property rich” and at the date of the disposal the seller holds 25 per cent or more of that entity, there will be a UK tax charge by reference to the increase in the value of the seller’s interest in the vehicle. The vehicle is “property rich” if 75 per cent or more of its value at disposal is derived from UK land and property.
If the seller is a company, the gain will be subject to UK corporation tax (currently 19 per cent, but falling to 17 per cent by 2020). If the seller is an individual or an entity otherwise not subject to UK corporation tax, the gain will be subject to UK capital gains tax (currently 28 per cent for individuals disposing of land).
Entities that are currently exempt from, or outside the scope of, UK capital gains tax will remain so. This will include overseas pension funds.
These changes represent a significant change in the way in which non-UK residents are taxed when they dispose of UK property or their interest in a property-holding vehicle. It remains to be seen what impact they will have.
Budget footnote: there was good news for business ratepayers tucked away in the small print where it was announced that the controversial “staircase tax” has been reversed. Business tenants occupying separate spaces in an office or other non-domestic building will no longer be taxed as though each space is a separate taxable unit, which will generally result in a considerably lower overall rates bill.
For further information please contact Sian Skerratt-Williams or your usual contact at Norton Rose Fulbright.