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Are you thinking of selling your UK property or have you sold one recently?

By Tony Delvalle - Topics: France, Property, Tax, UK property
This article is published on: 17th September 2018

17.09.18

Some UK solicitors have failed to inform clients of changes in UK legislation from April 2015, resulting in unexpected late payment penalties from HMRC for failure to complete a form following the sale of their UK property.

Recap of the new legislation
Prior to 6th April 2015, overseas investors and British expats were not required to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the sale of residential property in the UK, providing that they had been non-resident for 5 years. New legislation was introduced on 6th April 2015 that removed this tax benefit.

Since 6th April 2015, any gains are subject to CGT for non-UK residents. The rate of CGT for non-residents on residential property is, as for UK residents, determined by taxable UK income i.e. 18% basic rate band and 28% above, charged only the gain.

Reporting the gain and paying the tax
You must fill out a Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax (NRCGT) return online and inform HMRC within 30 days of completing the sale.

Those who do not ordinarily file a UK tax return must pay the liability within 30 days. Once you have notified HMRC that the sale has taken place, a reference number is given to make payment.

As a French resident you must also declare to the French tax authority.

The Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France means that you will not be taxed twice as you will be given a tax credit for any UK CGT paid, but you will be liable to French social charges on any gain.

There is little to mitigate French tax on the sale of property that is not your principal residence. So, it is important to shelter the sale proceeds and other financial assets wherever possible to avoid unnecessary taxes in the future.

One easy way is by using a life assurance policy, a Contrat d’Assurance Vie, which is the favoured vehicle used by millions of French investors. Whilst funds remain within the policy they grow free of Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax. This type of investment is also highly efficient for Inheritance planning, as it is considered to be outside of your estate for inheritance purposes and you are free to name whoever and as many beneficiaries as you wish.

Is Buy To Let still a good investment?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: Buy to Let, France, Property, UK property
This article is published on: 11th April 2018

11.04.18

Given concerns over the effect of Brexit on UK house prices, together with recent changes to the tax treatment of UK rental income and the various tax increases and reforms applicable to French property rentals, now may be the time to reconsider if Buy to Let is a good investment, both in France and the UK.

General arguments against rental investments
Most of us have an opinion on property as a means of generating long term investment returns. For some, a tangible asset such as property represents security, for others it is simply an inflexible and physical tie to a specific location.

Rental properties need regular maintenance and repairs, which can be expensive, and meeting such costs can divert cash from savings and other investments. Private landlords often underestimate the costs of maintaining a rental property, one consequence being that net returns fall short of (sometimes) unrealistic expectations.

It is a basic investment principle that we should not rely exclusively on property (or any single asset) for our future financial security, yet frequently we do, particularly where Buy To Let is involved.
Liquidity, or access to capital, also needs to be considered. Whilst you can usually withdraw funds quickly and easily from an investment portfolio (in France one often uses the Assurance Vie structure), you cannot generally sell part of a house. Re-mortgaging or equity release are possibilities, but for some the only option for capital access is sale of the property and acceptance of the associated expense and possible delays. Furthermore, a forced sale will typically result in lower than market value being achieved.

Both the French and UK governments are under pressure to boost national housing supply so are taxing second homes and rental properties in an effort to bring more residential property to the open market.

By comparison, for French residents (including expatriates), Assurance Vie remains as possibly the single most flexible and tax efficient investment available – a valuable planning opportunity which can be overlooked when property is perceived as a ‘safe bet’.

Keeping your UK property and renting it out
Legislative changes introduced in April 2017 significantly increased tax liabilities for residential landlords. Previously, allowable expenses and mortgage interest payments could be deducted from rental income as part of the tax calculation. However, the phasing out of tax relief on mortgage interest payments means that by 6 April 2020 mortgage costs will no longer be deductible, instead replaced with a 20% tax credit.

For many people, once settled in France, a UK rental property becomes impractical and difficult to maintain. Frequent trips back to the UK, for a variety of reasons, just don’t seem worthwhile. Being a landlord can be stressful and time consuming, especially when you want to be enjoying a more relaxed life in France and/or you are busy running your business here.

If your UK property remains vacant for occasional use during trips back to the UK, you could be affected by measures introduced in November 2017 which allow councils to charge a 100% Council Tax premium on homes that have been left empty for two years or more.

Additionally, since April 2015, non-residents are liable for capital gains tax (at either 18% or 28%) on the increase in property value since 2015. And from April 2019, the UK government plans to introduce capital gains tax for non-resident landlords of commercial properties.

Whilst house prices in some parts of the UK have increased substantially over recent years, there are wide regional variations and prices can of course go down as well as up. Flooding from adverse weather conditions has negatively impacted prices in many parts of the country. Brexit brings its own uncertainty for the housing market and there is also exchange rate risk to consider, with GBP/EUR volatility likely to continue in the short term at least. Finally, even with carefully managed quantitative tightening by central banks, interest rates appear to be going in only one direction from here.

Things to be aware of when renting property in France
Whilst the Finance Law of 2018 has increased the micro threshold from €33,200 to €70,000 (with a 50% abatement for costs), and from €82,800 to €170,000 for seasonal “classement” rentals (with a 71% abatement), it has also made furnished rentals more complicated for landlords, particularly for those offering short term lets.

To receive the higher abatement for furnished rentals, there is the challenge of arranging an official visit to obtain a recommended star rating. Since 1st December 2017, Paris requires property owners renting for short seasonal lets to register this activity and to display registration numbers on rental advertisements. Lyon did the same in February 2018, Bordeaux in March 2018 and Lille is in the decision process. Only 12,000 properties have been registered whereas 100,000 or more appear on rental websites. On 11th December 2017, Paris officially notified the largest rental sites (Airbnb, HomeAway, Paris Attitiude, Sejourning and Windu) that advertisements for unregistered properties were in breach of regulations.

Recent Finance law also approved a proposal to increase the taxe de sejour which today represents between 20 and 75 centimes per person, per night – it could increase by 1% to 5% if local authorities so decide.

The French government recognises that rental income made via websites such as Airbnb or HomeAway has often not been declared. Since 1st July 2016 these websites must inform members of their tax obligations and in January each year must send a document showing gross income received through reservations made via their site in the previous tax year.

There is also the risk that between November and March tenants will stop paying rent, with landlords powerless to evict until the winter period is over.

2018 changes to Wealth Tax have been particularly unfavourable for property holdings. Note too that social charges, which don’t apply to UK rental income but are chargeable on French furnished rentals, have risen to 17.8%. And that tax offices sometimes mistakenly apply social charges to UK rental income, which is then time-consuming to recover. However, since the Finance Law of 2018, social charges on investments are included in the flat tax of 30% thus reducing the income tax liability to only 12.2%.

Whether to sell or retain a rental property can be a difficult decision, for both financial and emotional reasons. For practical guidance on this complex matter, please contact me to arrange an initial discussion or meeting, free of charge and without obligation.

Taxation of UK rental income in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Exchange of Information, Income Tax, Italy, Property, Tax, taxation of rental property, UK property
This article is published on: 19th March 2017

19.03.17

Since the recent exchange of information between HMRC and the Italian tax authorities on UK rental property owners, I have been asked the question whether rental income (when taxed principally in the UK) will be taxed again in Italy as an Italian resident.

Rental income from properties is dealt with according to the law of the state where the property is situated. This means that you can deduct your expenses in the UK, in entirety and in line with UK law, and then the NET income is declared to HMRC in the UK.

When it comes to the Italian tax declaration the NET UK rental income needs to be declared, along with the tax paid in the UK.

This income is put together with any other income you may have for the year, to be declared in Italy,and a credit is given for the tax already paid in the UK, and the tax is calculated on the normal IRPEF rates (income tax rates in Italy).

In short the NET UK rental income position is what needs to be declared in Italy.

Given the recent clampdown on people who are not declaring their UK rental income in Italy, as Italian residents, this information should help to ease any thoughts of having to pay tax twice.

Of course, all this applies to properties held in other countries as well and not just the UK.

The bottom line is get your affairs ‘in regola’ because it is unlikely to cost you any more than it would in the UK, and you can sleep easy knowing you have done the right thing.

Are you thinking of selling your UK property or have you sold one recently?

By Sue Regan - Topics: CGT, France, Income Tax, Residency, tax advice, tax tips, UK property, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 13th January 2017

13.01.17

I decided on the topic for this month’s article after having had a couple of very similar conversations recently with expats relating to the sale of property in the UK. In each case they were badly let down by their UK Solicitors who failed to inform them of a change in UK legislation that was introduced in April 2015. As a result, they received unexpected and not insignificant late payment penalties from HMRC for failure to complete a form following the sale of their UK property which could have been avoided if they had been made aware of this change in the law.

Recap of the new legislation

Prior to 6th April 2015 overseas investors and British expats were not required to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the sale of residential property in the UK, providing that they had been non-resident for 5 years. New legislation was introduced on 6th April 2015 that removed this tax benefit.

The rate of CGT for non-residents on disposals of residential property is the same as UK residents and depends on the amount of taxable UK income the individual has i.e. 18% for basic rate band and 28% above it, and it is only the gain made since the 6th April 2015 that is subject to CGT for non-UK residents.

Reporting the gain

When you sell your property, you need to fill out a Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax (NRCGT) return online and inform HMRC within 30 days of completing the sale, regardless of whether you’ve made a profit or not. This applies whether or not you currently file UK tax returns. You can find the form and more information on the HMRC website at hmrc.gov.uk

Paying the tax

If you have a requirement to complete a UK tax return then payment of any CGT liability can be made within normal self-assessment deadlines. However those who do not ordinarily file a UK tax return will be required to pay the liability within 30 days of completion. Once you have submitted the form notifying HMRC that the disposal has taken place, a reference number will be issued in order to make payment.

As a French resident you also have to declare any gain to the French tax authority. The Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France means that you will not be taxed twice on the same gain, as you will be given a tax credit for any UK CGT paid (limited to the amount of French CGT). The French CGT rate is 19% and any taxable gain is reduced by taper-relief over 22 years of ownership. You will also be liable to French Social Charges on the gain, at the rate of 15.5%, and the gain for this purpose is tapered over 30 years (rather than 22 years).

At Spectrum we do not consider ourselves to be Tax Experts and we strongly recommend that you seek professional advice from your Accountant or a Notaire in this regard.

There is little that can be done to mitigate the French tax liability on the sale of property that is not your principal residence. So it is important to shelter the sale proceeds and other financial assets wherever possible to avoid future unnecessary taxes. One easy way to do this is by investing in a life assurance policy, which in France is known as a Contrat d’Assurance Vie, and is the favoured vehicle used by millions of French investors. Whilst funds remain within the policy they grow free of Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax. In addition, this type of investment is highly efficient for Inheritance planning as it is considered to be outside of your standard estate for inheritance purposes, and you are free to name whoever and as many beneficiaries as you wish. There are very generous allowances for beneficiaries of contracts for amounts invested before the age of 70. Spectrum will typically use international Assurance Vie policies that fully comply with French rules and are treated in the same way as French policies by the fiscal authorities.

International Assurance Vie policies are proving highly popular in light of Loi Sapin II, which has now been enacted into law. More details about the possible detrimental effects of the ‘Sapin Law’ on French Assurance Vie contracts, in certain situations, can be found on our website at www.spectrum-ifa.com/fonds-en-euros-assurances-vie-policies/. Thus, when also faced with the prospect of very low investments returns on Fonds en Euros – in which the majority of monies in French Assurance Vie contracts are invested – it is very prudent to consider the alternative of an international Assurance Vie contract, particularly as you would still benefit from all the same personal tax and inheritance advantages that apply to French contracts.

Rental Income from properties overseas and how to declare it in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, Property, Residency, tax advice, taxation of rental property, UK property
This article is published on: 25th January 2014

25.01.14

One of the questions I am asked regularly is how income from property held overseas is taxed in Italy. Is it exempt from Italian tax because tax has been paid on it overseas first and is it subject to the same taxes as Italian rental income?

I would like to dispel any myth and confirm that you do have to pay Italian tax on the profit from any rental income on properties held overseas as a resident in Italy. (if it was really ever in doubt. Out of interest the arrangement is reciprocal, and any if you were resident in another country with rental property in Italy then it need to be declared as well).

The best way to organise your rental income
The law for Italian tax residents states clearly that the net profit (after expenses) from property overseas, must be declared in the Italian end of year tax return. The net profit is then assessed as income, added to the rest of your income for the year and tax paid at your highest rate of income tax (that could be as high as 43%).

Let’s not forget the IVIE tax as well which is 0.76% of the property council/cadastrale/rateable income (whatever you choose to call it) value of the property.

If tax has been applied in the country of origin, it is the law in Italy to declare the funds here as well and so annual declarations need to be made.

As an aside, it is relevant to note that in 2012 I received a deluge of enquiries from people who had been contacted by the Guardia di Finanza who had obtained information from HMRC (UK tax authorities) about people who have/had rental properties in the UK, were legitimately declaring tax in the UK, but who had failed to then declare that income in Italy. In some cases they were fined substantial amounts for merely this simple mistake.

However, all is not lost because there is a way to limit your Italian tax liabilties. If the property income is declared in the country of origin and all the costs are deducted from the income, still within the country of origin, then ONLY the net profit needs to be declared in Italy. In some cases it might also be necessary to declare the rental income in the country of origin even when that country no longer requires you to, for example the UK. If you have rental income under the basic allowance of approx the first GBP 10500 of income and therefore the UK no longer requires a declaration, it may still be wise to insist on making a declaration because the UK allow for multiple expense offsets for tax purposes. By following this process you are showing the Italian authorities your expense declarations and therefore it is acceptable for Italian tax purposes.

You may in some cases be able to reduce your net profit to zero.

To clarify, any rental income from properties held overseas must be declared in Italy, for Italian tax residents. This is the NET income (after expenses). And this net figure is added to your other income to determine at which rate of income tax it is assessed in Italy.

Depending on why you are investing in property overseas the advantages/disadvantages can work in 2 ways: .

  1. If you have high expenses for the property then it can work in your favour as a capital appreciation investment. (assuming the value of the property goes up). Less income means less tax.
  2. The downside of this arrangement is that someone with low expenses and high net income (maybe living from the income in retirement) will be assesed at their income tax rates in Italy (IRPEF) which could go as high as 43%

If you are concerned about your tax situation in Italy and would like an initial meeting to assess your liability then we are here to help. In addition, there might be other more tax efficient and less costly ways to produce income and grow your money. If you are interested in exploring these then you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com or on cell 333 6492356