Buying property for children

Buying property for children

The content in this month’s blog about Buying property for children was written by:

Liz Cuthbertson CA CTA, Private client partner, Mercer & Hole Chartered Accountants, and director, Mercer & Hole Trustees Limited

It was such a great article that I really wanted to share it.  The link at the bottom will take you to the original post.

Here’s what Liz has to say:

Parents often want to help their children buy a first property but that is sometimes mixed with concern about the potential risk of losing some of the family wealth – for example, if the child enters a relationship that fails with the risk that some assets are shared with the partner. For the purposes of this article, the child is aged 18 or over.

Below, I have highlighted some of the options that can be considered. All have their merits for different reasons. In practice, the objective to preserve wealth long term often trumps some of the tax considerations when it comes to deciding just what to do.

Gift of cash sum to child

Parents can make a simple unconditional gift of cash to the child to enable the child to have a sufficient deposit or full funding to buy the property. The child would be the sole owner and the acquisition is funded with the cash plus a commercial bank loan, if required.

This is simple and transparent. There are additionally some inheritance tax (IHT) benefits to be obtained by this strategy, subject to certain conditions being met:

Potentially exempt transfer (PET)

The gift is a PET and falls out of the parent’s estate for UK Inheritance Tax (IHT) purposes in full after seven years have passed from the date of the gift. The parents must not receive a benefit out of the sum given away and the parent’s estate then saves IHT at 40% on the value of the gift after the full seven years.

Capital gains tax (CGT)

Assuming the child occupies the property as his or her main residence, throughout the child’s period of ownership, any capital gain arising on disposal of the property will be exempted from CGT by Principal Private Residence Relief (PPR). Periods of ownership not occupied by the owner will not be exempted, although further reliefs, not covered here, may be available.

The key disadvantage is the outright control and ownership it gives the child. If the child enters a relationship that later breaks down, there is a risk of assets being lost to the estranged partner. Outright ownership also gives the child power to sell the asset whenever he or she wishes. It is this aspect that has the potential to be the subject of conflict on a practical level.

Joint ownership

If a property is partly owned by the parents and partly owned by the child, then in the event of a relationship breakdown for the child, the part owned by the parent or parents is likely to be protected, assuming the property was acquired well in advance of the relationship breakdown.

Also, a property owned by more than one person can only be sold by agreement of all owners. Therefore, if the parents own an interest in the property and the child owns the remainder, the child cannot singlehandedly sell or mortgage the whole property.

The drawback is the absence of PPR relief in relation to the part owned by the parent. Any gain arising on a disposal of the parents’ interest during their lifetime will therefore attract CGT at 28% (at current rates).

Although not covered by this article, the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) implications of parents acquiring an interest in a second property must also be considered when assessing the assets involved.

Due to the SDLT complications, joint ownership is sometimes approached by way of the parents making just a loan to the child and taking a charge over the property rather than anything else. This is very simple to achieve and ensures the parents get their money back in the long run.

However, the cost of protecting the parents’ wealth like this is continued IHT exposure for them. The property interest owned by the parents or the loan receivable by them is still part of the parents’ own estate for IHT purposes and will attract IHT at 40% on their deaths without further planning.

Acquisition by a family trust

A family trust may already exist in which case it is worth considering acquisition of the property by that vehicle, if the trustees have sufficient cash to fund it. Trustees usually find it more difficult to obtain commercial bank mortgages and so in practice, this option works best where the trustees can buy the asset outright with cash they already have. The trust I refer to here is a UK trust, of which the settlor is specifically excluded and trustees have discretionary powers over all beneficiaries.

If there is not an existing trust, the parents could create a trust by each making a life time transfer of £325,000 (£650,000 in total) to a trust to fund it, subject to not having made transfers in the previous seven years. The sums transferred are chargeable lifetime transfers and therefore, if the parents transfer more than their nil rate bands for IHT, the excess would be subject to an IHT charge of 20% at the time of transfer.

If the property cost more than the total sums transferred, then it is better to transfer the balance by way of loan, if the parents have the cash available to do so. A loan is not a chargeable transfer but must be properly legally documented with repayment terms.

The big advantage of a trust is that it is a completely separate vehicle enabling family wealth to be ring-fenced and protected. This is extremely helpful in alleviating some of the concerns described with direct ownership over outright control.

In this respect, a trust can provide the best of both worlds – the trustees can allow the child to occupy the property and even pay all property maintenance costs for him or her but the child neither owns nor has direct control of the property.

Provided the settlor(s) are specifically excluded from benefit, trust property is also not part of the beneficiaries’ own estates for IHT purposes. It belongs to the trustees and there are IHT consequences for them:

The trustees are subject to a charge to IHT on every 10th anniversary of the trust in respect of their chargeable relevant property. This is the ’10-year charge’ that, very broadly, amounts to 6% of the value of chargeable trust assets held on that occasion.

However, this is nowhere near the IHT rate of 40% on death if the property is held in a person’s own estate but it does accelerate a tax charge at a time when there may otherwise not have been a charge at all.

If the trustees ever decide to appoint the property out to a beneficiary, an IHT exit charge arises on the trustees as property is leaving the trust. The actual calculation can be complex, but the rate charged does not exceed 6% at an absolute maximum and is often much less than this.

The trustees are also likely to qualify for PPR exemption as long as they grant the beneficiary a right to occupy the property and they do so as their main residence for the entire period of ownership. Given that trusts are used for asset protection, appointment of the asset is not usually on the agenda, at least in the short or medium term.

Longer term, there could potentially be other taxes to consider. For example, if the property is put to another use, such as being let out by the trustees, the trustees will pay income tax on the rental profits at the highest rate of income tax, currently 45% and CGT on any chargeable gain arising in the year of disposal is charged at 28%.

With all this in mind, for family trustees who can afford to fund a property acquisition, it is important to understand the short- and long-term objectives for the property before embarking on this strategy. For cases where it is appropriate, the trust can work very well indeed.

Acquisition by a family investment company

It is widely regarded that ownership by a company of residential property for one’s occupation is unattractive if considered solely from a tax perspective. This is essentially because a company owning a UK residential property is subject to the Annual Tax on an Enveloped Dwelling (ATED), a charge which is set in line with the valuation bandings for the property.

In a nutshell, all residential property worth more than £500,000 at 1 April 2017 is subject to an annual charge starting at £3,600 for 2018/19, which this goes up to £226,950 for properties worth more than £20m. The SDLT payable by a company acquiring a UK residential property worth more than £500,000 for occupation is generally punitive at the rate of 15% and on top of this, the individual in occupation will have a benefit-in-kind charge on the benefit of rent-free occupation.

However, there is relief from the ATED charge where a property is rented out on arm’s length terms to an unconnected third party. Companies also pay corporation tax on their rental profits, which is lower than the current rates of income tax – the rate of corporation tax is currently 19% and will be reduced to 17% from April 2020.

For IHT purposes, each shareholder has IHT exposure only in relation to their shareholding in the company and the value for minority shareholders can carry a discount so exposure to IHT on the overall company value can result in being favourably split across family members.

Despite these potentially positive points, considering all of the above, unless the property is modest in value and likely to be rented out, this option is not going to be as attractive as some of the others but ought not to be dismissed without due consideration.

What is best?

There is no single answer and the most appropriate solution will depend on the overall family circumstances and willingness to accept the particular tax costs attached to the chosen solution.

Asset protection will best be met with a trust and the tax costs are probably manageable. Relatively speaking, the 6% IHT anniversary charge is modest and much better than 40% on death if held personally.

CGT relief is available provided the beneficiary occupies it so is the same as if it were held personally. There may be more SDLT to pay on acquisition by a trust than directly by the child and there will also be some administration costs associated with running the trust.

With high property prices, the cost of making a bad choice is going to hit hard. Some tax charges arise and operating costs arise for the trustees but in the end these are a financial expectation and necessity to protect big family wealth.

Funding a trust to a level that can meet the financial cost of property acquisition will take time so early planning is essential and full advice should always be sought in advance.

Options in brief

Detailed below is a brief summary comparison of the taxes under the options outlined in this article:

Personal ownership – child and/or parent

IHT: yes, 40% on death in the individual owner’s estate

CGT: yes, 28% unless PPR relief exempts whole or part of the gain

Income tax: yes, if property is later rented out and gives rise to rental profits IT is charged at individual’s marginal personal tax rate. Tax rates 20%, 40% or 45%.

SDLT: yes (rates vary)

Trust ownership

IHT: yes, for trustees 10 year and exit charges, but maximum rate of 6%. No 40% rate.

CGT: yes, same as above, 28% unless PPR exempts whole or part of gain

Income tax: trustees pay income tax at 45% on rental profits

SDLT: yes (rates vary)

Family investment company

IHT: yes, 40% on value of company shares held by shareholder at individual’s death

CGT: no

Corporation tax: gains taxed within company profits. CT rate is currently 19%.

Income tax: no

SDLT: yes 15% if property worth more than £500,000 and rates vary.

About the author

Liz Cuthbertson CA CTA is a partner at Mercer & Hole and and director at Mercer & Hole Trustees Limited

Follow the link to Liz’s article 


Research & Development tax credits “R&D”

research and development tax credits

Research & Development tax credits. “R&D”

Click for : Official .Gov Guidance

Definition of R&D

A project which seeks to:

  • Extend overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology; or
  • Create a process, material, device, product or service which incorporates or represents an increase in overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology; or
  • Make an appreciable improvement to an existing process, material, device, product or service through scientific or technological changes; or
  • Use scientific or technology to duplicate the effect of an existing process, material, device, product or service in a new or appreciably improved way.

Will be R&D for tax purposes if the project seeks to achieve an advance in overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology, not a company’s own state of knowledge or capability alone.

Aim of R&D

Research and development is used to encourage greater R&D spending in order to promote investment in innovation and is a tax relief which can be used to do either of the following:

  • Reduce a company’s taxable profits
  • Create/increase taxable losses

Who can claim R&D

R&D can only be claimed by companies, relief is not available for partnerships or unincorporated businesses.

Qualifying expenditure

R&D must be carried out by the company or on its behalf and any intellectual property created as a result of the R&D is or will be vested in the company.

Costs that can qualify for R&D are as follow:

  • The costs of staff directly and actively involved in the R&D process. Staffing costs include all employment earnings (except that of benefits in kind),employee national insurance and pension contributions as well as costs incurred for that of researchers, managers/staff who plan organise and provide support. This does not include clerical, general management or admin staff.
  • The costs of consumables or materials such as power, water, fuel or computer software used directly in carrying out the R&D
  • A percentage of any costs that the company has incurred if it has subcontracted the work to another person. Currently 65% of those costs.

Company definitions

A small/medium company as defined as a company that:

  • Has less than 500 employees and either or both of:
  • Has a turnover of no more than €100 million
  • An annual balance sheet totalling no more that €86 million.

If a company is part of a group then the above are applied to the worldwide group.

A large company is one that does not fall under the SME conditions above.

Tax Relief for SMEs

Method 1

A company can claim 230% of enhanced deduction on revenue expenditure. That is to say the company can reduce its taxable profit by an additional £130 for every £100 spent.

The relief can then be set against taxable profits of either the current period, carried back one year against a prior year profits or carried forward against a later periods profits.

Method 2

If the company is small or medium and has losses, they may be able to claim payable tax credits from HM Revenue and Customs. The payable tax credit could amount to £14.50 for every £100 of actual R&D expenditure up to the level of the tax loss for the period. However in order to receive this payment, the enhanced relief must be surrendered.

No such reclaim is available for large companies.


If the company and has received a notified state aid for a specific project then you can only claim R&D at a rate of an additional deduction of £30 for each £100 spent.

Information Required to be Prepared and Maintained

In order to claim R&D on the staff costs it will be necessary to demonstrate that they have been working on the relevant project, a record should therefore be prepared.  Please contact us for further details on how to prepare those records.

Click to : Contact Us

Are paper invoices a thing of the past?

paper invoices a thing of the past

Are paper invoices a thing of the past?

From my personal experience HMRC have accepted scanned invoices in recent times.  Here’s what HMRC have to say about it : Saving invoices electronically

The key extract from that link is:

5.3 Scanned paper invoices stored electronically

You may store what were originally paper VAT records in an electronic format as long as you can meet the requirements explained in this notice for ensuring authenticity, integrity and legibility.

Authenticity and integrity must be maintained during the conversion process as well as during storage.

Good news for a change!

In the real world of Bookkeeping, most Cloud based accounting packages allow you to upload the invoices digitally and store them with the transaction.

Hub Doc have a great facility that provides exactly the kind of service that will make Making Tax Digital a breeze.  Connect it to the supplier account, enable it to access invoices, automate the download and feed it in!

Take me to the HubDoc site so I can take a look

It may seem like smoke and mirrors right now, but in a few years I predict this will just be the norm.

For more information:

Contact Us

VAT disbursements

vat disbursement

VAT disbursements

There are quite a few terms that are used in common parlance and specifically in accountancy-speak that may not have the same meaning in the world of VAT. One of these is VAT disbursements. When a business incurs costs it will usually look to recharge those costs to clients and customers, either directly by listing them on the invoice raised to the client or customer, or indirectly by including them in their overall charge. It is when these costs are separated out that the question arises of whether to add VAT or not.

In short when a cost has been incurred in the course of making a single supply to the end customer then it would probably not be a disbursement for VAT purposes, and so it would follow the same liability as the underlying supply. A useful word to refer to here is ‘consumed’ – if the bought-in item (whether it’s goods or services) has been consumed in the making of the onward supply then it is unlikely to be a disbursement in VAT terms. Examples of this would be postage costs, transport, accommodation and subsistence – VAT would be added even if there was no VAT charged on the original cost, for example train fares.

Conversely if a cost has been incurred on behalf of the customer then it may be recharged as a disbursement, and no VAT applied to it. This can be more difficult to confirm, but HMRC provide a useful guide to when they believe this can apply. They indicate that all of the following must apply;

  • the supply was paid for with the business acting as the agent for the customer;
  • the goods or services paid for were received or used by the end customer;
  • if the business hadn’t paid for them it would have been the customer’s responsibility to make the payment;
  • the customer agreed that the business would make the payment on their behalf;
  • the customer knew that there was a third party making the supply, not the business itself;
  • the charge was separately identified on the invoice to the customer;
  • the exact cost was recharged, i.e. no mark-up;
  • the recharge was for supplies in addition to the underlying service provided.

It used to be the case that a good example of disbursements was when a solicitor incurred land registry fees when conveyancing a property, however this was challenged recently in a case involving the firm Brabners when HMRC argued that the title searches and reports were actually used by the firm as part of their overall supply of advice to their client. On this basis instead of being a disbursement (no VAT added) they were ‘consumed’ costs, and so VAT had to be added.

If you would like specific guidance on your disbursements please get in touch:


Cyber Security & GDPR

cyber security and GDPR

Cyber Security & GDPR

Both are hot topics at the moment as our Inboxes are plagued with messages asking us for permission to keep and use our data.

The data protection act of 1998 was well overdue an update to bring our attention to the risks in the modern environment but it is not just about ticking a few boxes in a database.

We really need to have Cyber Security on the forefront of our minds to protect ourselves from crime.  Like locking your car doors and closing windows when you’re away from it.  You won’t catch the data thief on CCTV – but you do have data encryption to help ensure that what they do steal, they cannot actually use.

For an easy to read explanation of the wider aspects of Cyber Security, please click this link through to the National Cyber Security Centre:

This link provides a good resource for understanding how Cyber Security overlaps with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that came into force on 25th May 2018.


USB Memory Sticks

Ever lost a memory stick?   GDPR could mean that you are responsible for what happens with the data that it contains (legal advice should be sought if you have concerns in this respect).

It is possible that your windows operating system contains Bitlocker which would enable you to encrypt such devices.  Find out how to do this here:

If this is not available to you then bring it to us and we can do it for you (there is no charge to our clients for this).

Password Managers

One of the questions we wanted answered was in respect of Password Managers that are available for free or as a subscription.  Some are available as Browser add ons, others as software and/or Apps.

The short story is that the National Cyber Security Centre says “Yes. Password managers are a good thing.”

So we are currently researching the market in this respect.

Reasonable Excuse / TSB / Tax paid late

reasonable excuse tax paid late

Do you have a reasonable excuse for paying your tax late and is not being able to access your bank account sufficient?

In light of the recent issues with TSB Bank, the Guardian have reported that HMRC will take into account the tax payer’s lack of ability to access their funds in order to pay tax that is due. Hopefully this will prove to be true in practice.

What is a “reasonable excuse” for failing to either file your tax return on time or paying tax that you owe?

This explains what might count as a reasonable excuse.

What will the fall out be?

HMRC’s own systems are unlikely to be able to pre-empt any issues arising from the current TSB Bank systems error.

Which means there will probably be a lot of penalty notices issued and interest charges raised on late payment. Following which the appeal process will need to begin.

But how many people will understand how to make an appeal. HMRC’s site explains about this, but we are here to help if you need assistance.

Reflecting on the future …

Then there will be the question of whether TSB will cover your costs and at the time of writing we have not seen any clear direction from TSB as to how this will be serviced.

VAT Registration changes 2018

VAT value added tax

VAT Registration Changes

With Making Tax Digital just around the corner what will HMRC be doing to encourage and/or enforce you to comply with VAT registration rules and to pull more people into their digital reporting net?

A cynical view could be interpreted from this if their line of thought is that traders deliberately refuse work in order to stay below the VAT registration threshold.  Or reading between the lines further  that HMRC believe that businesses simply do not declare all of their income in order to avoid VAT registration.

What might change?

So how do HMRC intend to catch these businesses and increase the VAT yield?

The threshold for registration has been frozen for 2018/19 and 2019/2020.

HMRC could therefore identify and review businesses whose turnover historically crept up behind the VAT registration threshold and suddenly freezes for a number of years.   They could very well see this as a sign of income being suppressed or omitted.  

Additionally if businesses having been teaming and lading (deferring income) from one year to the next in order to stay below the VAT registration threshold then a frozen VAT registration threshold would be one way of flushing this out.

Anything else to watch out for?

An additional relaxing of the rules will allow businesses to venture into the realm of needing to VAT registration but to duck out if their turnover slips back down.

But, we suspect that the ones that slip back down and out of the VAT net are the exact businesses that HMRC are aiming to identify as part of this overhaul.  So be very wary if your business happens to follow this trend – you’re likely to be in the spot light.

Worried?  Don’t be, help is at hand

  • We will guide you through.

Employment Status and Personal Service Companies (IR35)

IR35 employment statusEmployment Status and Personal Service Companies (IR35)


Big news for “workers” in Personal Service Companies.  A valid employment status could be yours – one day.

But is this what you really want? A lot of people like to be self-employed after all.

The reality is, in the eyes of the tax man – you can’t be self-employed and work exclusively for one business doing the same thing, on their terms, particularly when this continues year after year.  That goes against the very definition that HMRC are looking to uphold.

What are workers?

For more information on “workers” please read my article:

Why should I be worried?  Everyone I know is doing it

HMRC have been working very hard behind the scenes to get a case where they can make their point stick and it looks like they have finally achieved it.

In this article We learn that Ex-BBC Look North presenter Christa Ackroyd is now facing a tax bill of £420k covering tax years: 2006/07 to 2012/13.

She co-presented the BBC’s Look North programme and was engaged through her personal service company, Christa Ackroyd Media Ltd, on a 7 year contract and within this she was to provide her services up to 225 days per year.

The 24 month rule.  I’ve heard that I’m okay if my personal service doesn’t go beyond 24 months.  Am I safe?

This rule could help your argument if you are definitely self-employed, although it generally is used to validate your expenses claims if you are definitely self-employed and on a contract of less than 24 months.

Am I definitely self-employed?

There are 3 possible answers.  Yes, no and maybe.  Unless you’re a categorical yes, then there’s every chance that the answer is no.

The way to approach this is actually fairly simple.  Just compare yourself to someone doing the same role who is definitely employed.

HMRC do offer a tool to check this and it is definitely worthwhile answering the questions to see what it says.  Any answer provided by the tool is consider to be a guide, not a determination.

Get help. Talk to a professional:

It is always worth getting a professional opinion and we can guide you through the key elements.  From there we can decide whether to escalate your case or leave you to carry on doing what you’re doing.

Please get in touch:

Employment Status and Umbrella Companies.

Big news for “workers” in Umbrella Companies.  A valid employment status could be yours – one day.

Employment Status and Umbrella Companies are a burden to the tax authorities who are determined to bring equality to the average “worker”.

Have you ever wondered why people use Umbrella Companies?

A question with the same answer is : Why do individuals and businesses take their profits offshore?

… to save tax.

Since the arrangement are usually legal, there is little that authorities can do but legislate against it and fight in the courts costing the tax payer money.  You save at one end of the process and pay for it at the other end.

So who really wins?

The entity providing the incentives certainly saves a fortune by not having to regard you as an employee.

All the while everything is going smoothly you also feel like a winner but when you have a problem it’s you versus …. whom?  The Umbrella Company?  One of its outsourced service providers?

What is changing?

In short, nothing immediately.  The authorities battling these schemes need to tip the balance in their favour.  Moments like this are a step in the right direction to leveling the playing field.

As the article reads:

“It blows a hole in the way that employment agencies hide behind payroll and umbrella companies and pretend that they are not responsible for the employment of the workers they recruit.”

What follows next will govern whether a shift can be made to benefit “workers”.

Why do I keep putting “workers” in quotation marks?

It is because I am using the government definition of a worker.  This link details exactly what is meant by this:

worker employment status umbrella company

What is the future?

No doubt those most financially affected (those profiting from the Umbrella Company structures) will be restructuring so that their schemes can continue in some legal form now they have seen where this recent case might be leading.

Hopefully the authorities are a step ahead and we can have equality for all “workers”.

Are you worried about how you might be affected?

Please contact us to discuss your concerns:



Making tax digital update

Making Tax Digital for Business (MTDfB) – Feb 18 update

Today I sat through a one hour Making Tax Digital (MTDfB) webinar, presented by HMRC, which was specifically for agents.

They talked about how the software developers are the experts in making digital information transfer data via API (application programming interface) and that if you want to know their plans then you should speak to them to find out what they are doing.

Note – HMRC’s own developers are widely speculated to have quit when confronted with the prospect of IR35 being applied to them. IR35 being HMRC’s legislation which was forcing them to regard their own IT contractors as employed due to the nature of their working arrangements.

Without IT contractors willing to work for HMRC, the April 2018 implementation date went out of the window and a mock cry of “Hurrah” echoed around the accounting community.

What did I find out?

Having spoken to a few key accountancy software providers in the last week I am well aware that they are representing that they are waiting for HMRC to decide exactly what they want. I suspect also wanting some tasty tax breaks for doing the work for them.

Bearing in mind that in about a month’s time (April 2018) we were originally anticipating having to submit quarterly returns digitally via API on pretty much all levels.  I wonder if this time next year we will be talking about a further imminent deferral or starting to take the April 2019 implementation date seriously.

One useful clarification today was that spreadsheets will be acceptable. With the following caveat: So long as the information therein is transferred via API and includes certain essential bits of data.  The “essential” data does appear to have been defined. One small success.

The webinar lead me to look around the internet

Try Google searching “how do I submit my spreadsheet to HMRC via API” and you will end up with not a lot of useful information and one very recent blog from HMRC themselves:

They started blogging on Making Tax Digital 3 years ago and I think there is sufficient information in this update to explain why it isn’t really moving forward.

My questions went unanswered so I did not gain any new knowledge from the largely wasted hour:

When the webinar came to it’s Q&A section I asked pointed questioned about what specific guidance was being given to software providers in order to help them build the API. My questions were some of the few that remained unanswered at the end of the session.

If you are really keen you can be a guinea pig:

If you are VAT registered you can sign up as a volunteer to test the system from April 2018. If you do, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Read more on why we do need to take this seriously:

That’s all for now….