Does Expat property Tax have to be taxing?

I have lots of property conversations with expats and there is always the thorny issue of what’s the best way to set up property investing tax-wise. So how to simplify a complex issue?

There are a few things worthy of consideration.

Should Investing be personal? Or via a Special Purpose Vehicle?

One of the challenging questions is how to set up your investing at the outset; buying personally or going down a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) route, which could be via a Limited Company (Ltd Co.) route or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) route.

Evidently everyone needs to have tailored advice for their personal situation, but are there any Rules-of-Thumb or principles that can be borne in mind?

Level of Borrowing

A key determinant is how you are going to finance the property purchase. If you plan to have a lot of borrowing, then it is worth giving serious consideration to buying via a SPV otherwise you could end up paying tax on ‘nominal’ income, given how the mortgage interest tax relief works for personal investments.

Prior to April 2017, landlords could deduct their entire mortgage interest costs as expenses against the rental income they earned. They would then pay tax at their personal tax rate on the remaining profits. Now though, mortgage costs are not treated as an expense, a 20% tax credit is used instead. This means higher-rate taxpayers are hit hardest and basic rate taxpayers could be drawn into the higher rate tax bracket unwittingly, by virtue of gross rental income being added to other forms of income.

Company structure

Limited Companies have a different tax structure, with Corporation Tax levied, currently at 19% for profits generated. And if you choose to take  dividends as a way of extracting profits from the company, dividend tax is applicable in addition (current rates), but you can time your dividend payouts for maximum tax-efficiency, or leave the profits rolling up within the company to buy the next property. A Ltd Company can help with IHT planning as well. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) still applies though.

So there is a constant tension and balancing between mortgage interest deduction, Stamp Duty Land Tax and the various other tax rates.

There are some accessible things you can do if married. You can apportion ownership between spouses – via a Declaration of Trust and assigning Beneficial Interest. Bear in mind you can’t just shift income between spouses, unless it is matched by a commensurate capital holding, or aligned with beneficial interest.

You can also do 90:10 split in a LLP vehicle.

Property Price point

The solution might be different whether you are buying at an accessible price point in the Midlands and up North, or at a higher SDLT tax band in London or the South east.

Non-resident investors used to be able to sell property free of Capital Gains Tax but that is no longer the case.

Number of properties

If someone is just starting out with 1 or 2 properties vs a portfolio landlord with 4-5+ properties, it is important to have a view at the outset of how many properties you intend invest in. It is harder and more expensive to switch from a personal investment to a Limited Company, but it is possible to hold properties in a mix of ways.

Nature of buying – trading or investing?

Are you a property trader or investor?

If you buy a property to make value-added improvements and sell on for a profit, you’re a developer or a trader. So you are likely to be better off buying as a limited company, given you have more flexibility for taking profits. As an individual you are more likely to have your gains taxed as income.

If you are a buy-to-let landlord you fall more into the investor camp. Traditionally investors have operated as personal investors, but some could benefit from using a limited company since the 2017 tax changes.

Personal vs Ltd Company mortgages

It’s important to consider the whole picture, not just tax. Lending is approached differently for a company vs personal secured borrowing so you need to also consider ability to borrow. Whilst there are more lenders who offer mortgages to Corporate bodies now, there is still more limited choice than for personal lending and what there is for Ltd Companies, usually comes at a premium to personal lending.

Top Tip – You need to take care unless you are holding – or plan to hold – a lot of properties – that you don’t end up spending more on the investment structure than you actually stand to make

Based on content from a Webinar interview by Louise Reynolds with Churchill Tax advisers

If you would like help finding the right properties or tax help then please get in contact.

My business focuses on helping time-strapped expats who don’t have the local presence, or capacity, to acquire the targeted amount of properties for them. Property Venture® is an award-winning, Boutique property consultancy that finds the right investment properties for clients.

Compliant members of the PRS scheme and on the Advisory Board of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) the business has been vetted, approved and voluntarily commits to Industry Regulation and the Professional Code of Conduct. We are known for our quality customer service and non-pressurised approach to sales. This is what our clients say

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What next for property investors in UK and Europe?

Well we are all expecting that not much will change in the UK during the ‘Transition Period’ in 2020, or at least have been told as much.

Given the UK is outside the Schengen Zone – which provides for unchecked border crossings in a common-visa area – border checks for holiday-makers and business travelers have been the norm travelling to and from the UK during membership of the European Union. There is anecdotal evidence that some Continental European countries are tightening up border checks, where previously they may have been more relaxed. For example some border mountain passes between France and Italy have been reported to be tightening up on identity checks for ski instructors who have, until now, traveled back and forth freely on a daily basis.

Houses of Parliament: London UK Property market

Thinking beyond the ‘Transition Period’, the renewed gusto with which the UK government is brandishing the potential ‘Hard Brexit’ mantle has been unsettling and it is hard to unpick the political rhetoric and negotiation posturing from the reality.

For expat and entrepreneur UK property investors some of the things you will want to know are:

  • Am I still going to see my investment property perform?
  • How might mortgages be affected?
  • How will the economy and job creation fare?
  • How much red tape will be stripped away or created when investing for European-based expats?
  • How might my portfolio in UK and Continental Europe be affected?
  • What will be the changes, if any, travelling to and from the UK?

So just to focus on a few of these..

Am I still going to see my investment property perform?

Your property’s investment performance, whether a buy-to-let or HMO or Serviced Accommodation, that potentially serves an international tenant base, depends a lot on attracting the right type of tenants and minimising voids. Arguably many of the Europeans who intended to leave, may already have done so and the situation may not get that much worse. In 2018 it was estimated 3.35 million people with EU, EEA, or Swiss nationality were living in the UK. Of these 2.8m people had applied for Settled Status, about 80% of the total number. If the relationship between the UK and Europe worsens significantly this could be exacerbated in the short term. However the UK will remain an attractive place to be for non-European nationals.

Raising finance – mortgages how will they be affected?

The City and financial markets could be hit by the renewed talk of a ‘Hard Brexit’. The stance has been that the city wants to continue trading with the EU as now, meaning equivalence rules across fund management and investment banking. Divergence could have an impact on savings and pensions. There might be a sweet spot where some divergence could work and could be acceptable to EU regulators, which could make a difference to British savers and mortgage borrowers. There is now more talk of ‘outcomes-based equivalence’ meaning third-country regimes do not need to be identical but must have the same “outcomes” as EU rules to give access to its markets.

How this might affect mortgages at this point in time is difficult to assess, but affordability tests could be affected.

In the short term we might notice some subtle differences when travelling, but it might not be until the end of 2020 we get to see what is political-posturing versus economic reality.

As for the economy and red tape it might be too early to tell. However it does feel as though the UK is far more engaged since the December 2019 General Election in pro-actively shaping its future.

If you would like to discuss your situation or find out more then please get in contact.

I work with time-strapped expats and entrepreneurs who don’t have the capacity, local presence or gaps in their know-how to build property portfolios in the right way for them. (Or who are simply stuck with little progress). This means you can carry on your day-to-day lives without spending disproportionate time getting sucked into investing.

Our clients get regular updates on hot deals and the latest changes in the property market. Want these? Go here

Property Venture® is an award-winning, European investment property specialist and sits on the Advisory Board of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) the business has been vetted, approved and voluntarily commits to Industry Regulation and the Professional Code of Conduct. We are known for our quality customer service and non-pressurised approach to sales. Take a look at what our clients say

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What does ‘Alternative Investing’ mean for entrepreneurs and Expats?

I recently participated in a panel on how to be a ‘Savvy Investor’ with a core topic of conversation being Alternative Investing.

What is it? It is investing in non-regulated areas, which means they aren’t fully regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). This captures a lot of property and property-related investing, such as peer-to-peer lending for property activities. By way of example, this can be lending to a specific developer in the form of a mini bond, (non-tradable on an Exchange) or it can be investing via a Crowdfunding Platform, a regulated ‘website’ that facilitates this process.

Unfamiliar with peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding?

This is a relatively new sector in the market, under ten years’ old and it is an interesting time to be investing this way.

On the one hand it is ‘democratising’ the investment process, it offers property investing in bite-size chunks, with lower threshold entry levels for investment and easy access. Because of all of these things, it is starting to become a more popular way of investing in property and more mainstream, providing serious competition to mainstream bank lenders.

It has been given more of a cloak of legitimacy since the launch of IFISAs in 2016 (Innovative Financial ISAs which allow property investing as part of the tax-free wrapper).

But we mustn’t forget there are risks associated with these types of investments. There are no guarantees so everyone has to weigh up their own situation and risk profile. And make sure they are not over-stretching themselves financially.

Why might entrepreneurs invest in property via a crowdfunding platform?

Some landlords and property investors are seeking ways of continuing their property businesses in a way that will give some reprieve from the landlord red tape and tax that has become burdensome in the UK.

Investors can be attracted because it is a way of diversifying their activity, getting exposure to a number of different investment categories; either different geographies, or different types of property, for example commercial vs residential property, or the opportunity to work with a developer they might otherwise not be able to.

They can also do this in a measured way, in bite sized chunks. Some investments start at £5,000 or £10,000, some lower, particularly if part of an IFISA, where entry levels can be £1,000. Investing via an IFISA, (Innovative Finance Isas) can be tax-efficient, when used as part of a personal Isa allowance, so returns can be tax free for UK residents.

What are the upsides of Crowdfunding or investing via a property mini bond?

The returns on offer can be inflation-busting and much higher than other forms of investing. They are not always correlated with economic returns, so help spread risk during different economic cycles.

They also usually offer defined timeframes (although there are no guarantees) so this can help with planning.

Investing via a Crowdfunding website or platform can make the process quick, easy and accessible. Progress can usually be checked through a console. Many Crowdfunding platforms also do a level of due diligence which some investors like, but it is important to check what level and type of due diligence they do, so you are not lulled into a false sense of security.

What to remember when investing via Crowdfunding or developer mini bonds?

These types of investments aren’t guaranteed so it is important to check on the type of security offered for if things don’t work out as expected. Is it a registered charge on the property or land, or assets?

And how is this set up, via an independent Security Trustee holding and administering it on behalf of investors or something else?

What type of investing is being made? Are you seeking a share of equity, so that you get the upside and downside risk of a development project through shares in a company set up for a particular development?

Or lending money to a developer for a fixed return, over a fixed timeframe and the capital returned at the end of the term?

It is important to note that alternative investing provides an alternative way for entrepreneur investors to get exposure to all that property can offer, but this way of investing is not guaranteed. Capital is at risk and returns are projected, not guaranteed (or shouldn’t be claimed to be). These investments are also not very liquid, should you wish to cash in early, or redeem an investment. This is why many of these types of investments, whilst being accessible, tend to be appropriate for individuals with a certain asset base or income, or who aren’t investing too much of their money in any one of these investment types.

If you would like to talk then please e-mail info@property-venture.com with a telephone number to arrange a conversation.

I work with time-strapped Expats and Entrepreneurs who don’t have the time, local presence or have gaps in their know-how to build property portfolios in the right way for them. (Or who are simply stuck with little progress). This means they can carry on their day-to-day lives without spending disproportionate time getting sucked into investing.

If you want to talk through your plans and get clarity then please get in contact by telephone +44 (0)1932 849 536 or contact us

Our clients get regular updates on hot deals and the latest changes in the property market. Want these? Go here

Property Venture® is an award-winning, European investment property specialist and sits on the Advisory Board of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) the business has been vetted, approved and voluntarily commits to Industry Regulation and the Professional Code of Conduct. We are known for our quality customer service and non-pressurised approach to sales. Take a look at what our clients say

Property Venture® is not a member of, nor regulated by, the Financial Conduct Authority and does not provide regulated advice. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance and should not be relied upon when making an investment decision. Investors should carry out their own Due Diligence and seek independent financial advice.

Property Venture® acts as an introducer. Neither Property Venture® nor any of its Directors, employees or representatives will be liable for damages arising out of or in connection with the use of any information provided or any action taken in reliance on any information appearing on this website, in information sent out in printed or written format, or verbally.

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