Commercial Property Tax (Everything You Need to Know!)

commercial property tax

IN THIS ARTICLE

Venturing into the commercial property sphere without a deep understanding of the UK’s commercial property tax regulations could lead to significant financial pitfalls. The complexities of the UK tax system can catch you off guard, resulting in hefty unexpected charges, fines, loss of property and a tarnished relationship with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This guide aims to demystify commercial property taxation, covering everything from capital gains tax on commercial properties to stamp duty on commercial transactions. Keep reading to safeguard yourself from tax-related issues.

 

Section A: Understanding the Intricacies of Commercial Property Tax in the UK

 

1. Overview of the UK Property Taxation System

 

The distinction between commercial and residential property taxes is stark, with the former presenting a labyrinth of challenges. The UK’s commercial property tax framework is notably intricate, posing a challenge for non-experts to grasp fully.

The taxation landscape for commercial properties is filled with unique complexities, further complicated by numerous rule changes over time.

Significant milestones include the 2013 introduction of Capital Gains Tax at a rate of 28% for non-resident companies disposing of high-value UK residential properties. The scope widened in 2015 with the inception of Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax for non-UK residents profiting from the sale of UK residential properties.

Furthermore, the Autumn Budget of 2017 announced the extension of this regime to commercial property sales by non-UK residents, effective from April 2019. This marks a shift from the previous policy of exempting non-UK resident individuals, companies, and trusts from UK tax on gains from selling UK property.

Given the fluid nature of commercial property tax regulations, securing professional advice is always advantageous to navigate the ever-evolving rules effectively.

 

Section B: Types of UK Taxation on Commercial Property

 

1. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) on Commercial Property

 

Stamp Duty Land Tax, commonly referred to as SDLT or simply Stamp Duty, is a tax charged on the completion of purchasing a property. As of 1 October 2021, the rates for Stamp Duty on commercial properties are structured as follows:

• Properties valued at £0 to £125,000 incur a 0% tax rate.
• Properties valued from £125,001 to £250,000 are taxed at 2%.
• Properties valued from £250,001 to £925,000 have a 5% tax rate.
• For properties valued between £925,001 and £1,500,000, the tax rate is 10%.
• Properties valued at £1,500,000 and above are subject to a 12% tax rate.

It’s also vital to be aware of regional variations in tax obligations. For commercial properties in Scotland, the Land & Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) applies instead of SDLT. Additionally, since 1 April 2018, SDLT in Wales has been superseded by the Land Transaction Tax (LTT), a devolved tax specific to Wales. These distinctions underscore the importance of understanding the specific tax liabilities based on the property’s location within the UK.

 

2. VAT on Property

 

VAT, or Value Added Tax, is crucial in commercial property transactions. Before finalizing any deal, it’s essential to ascertain the VAT implications of the property purchase. This determination involves understanding whether VAT is applicable upon acquisition or if the property qualifies for exemption under the ‘transfer of a going concern’ (TOGC) rule, contingent on the seller’s VAT status and decisions.

Sellers or landlords can ‘Opt to Tax,’ making an otherwise VAT-exempt commercial lease or sale subject to the standard 20% VAT rate. This election requires charging VAT on rent and allows for the recovery of VAT on property-related expenses. A decision to Opt for Tax must be communicated to HMRC within 30 days and is irrevocable for 20 years, emphasizing the importance of seeking specialized tax advice.

 

3. Income Tax on Rental Income

 

Rental income from commercial property is liable to income tax, with rates potentially reaching up to 45%. However, various deductible expenses can mitigate the tax burden. These allowable deductions cover a broad spectrum of operational costs, including:

• Fees for letting agents and accountants
• Legal fees for short-term lets or lease renewals under 50 years
• Insurance for buildings and contents
• Maintenance and repair costs (excluding improvements)
• Utility bills, rent, ground rent, and service charges
• Council tax payments
• Costs associated with cleaning and gardening services
• Expenses for communication, stationery, and promotional activities

This comprehensive understanding of allowable expenses is vital for effectively managing the tax liabilities associated with commercial property rentals.

 

4. Corporation Tax on Rental Profits

 

UK-based companies must pay Corporation Tax on their rental earnings, with the current rate set at 19%. This tax is levied on profits from business operations and applies to limited companies or foreign companies with a UK branch. Unlike other taxes, there is no direct bill for Corporation Tax; companies must self-assess and report their taxable profits, which encompass trading profits, investment returns, and chargeable gains from selling assets at a profit. It’s important to note that UK companies are taxed on their worldwide profits, not just those earned within the UK.

 

5. Capital Gains Tax on Commercial Properties

 

For individuals, the Capital Gains Tax on commercial properties was reduced to 20% in April 2016. Companies, however, pay Corporation Tax on gains from property sales. Entrepreneurs’ relief offers a favourable tax rate for individuals and some trustees selling properties or shares in their businesses, provided they meet certain conditions over a two-year qualifying period. This relief has undergone several changes in lifetime limits over the years, most recently resetting to £1 million in March 2020.

 

6. Navigating Commercial Property Tax Complexity

 

The landscape of commercial property tax in the UK is multifaceted, covering various taxes based on business structure, location, and the nature of transactions. The complexity of these taxes underscores the value of professional accounting advice. A knowledgeable accountant can guide property investors and developers through the maze of tax liabilities, ensuring compliance and optimizing tax positions. This expertise is crucial for turning potential tax challenges into opportunities for a successful and legally compliant property business.

 

Legal disclaimer

 

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

 

Author

Commercial Property Tax (Everything You Need to Know!) 1

Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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