The Price of Property
As the dust settles on changes to the non-domiciled regime and, moreover, changes to the way in which UK tax will dictate how non-UK-resident or non-UK-domiciled individuals hold UK property, is the UK, and London in particular, still as desirable a place to own a Mayfair pied-à-terre?
Tax on purchase
In the 2020 budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced plans for a 2 per cent stamp duty land tax (SDLT) surcharge for non-UK resident purchasers of UK residential property, in another attempt to discourage global high-net-worth individuals from using the UK property market as a financial instrument with huge returns and low risks. The surcharge will take effect from 1 April 2021. Taxpayers ought to be made aware that this prompts a test of residency at the point of purchase. It remains to be seen how these new rules will transpose into statute.
Tax on disposal
From April 2019, the disposal of any UK property (residential or commercial) held by a non-UK resident (individual or corporate) is within the scope of UK non-resident capital gains tax or corporation tax on chargeable gains where the disposal is by a non-UK-resident company.
More significantly, disposals of interests in companies whose value derives from an interest in UK land may also be chargeable to UK tax. The legislation refers to direct and indirect disposals, the former referring to an actual disposal of UK land and the latter giving rise to a tax charge where the asset actually disposed of is not UK land but rather shares in a company that holds UK land. No longer is the principle that companies are not transparent for UK tax purposes strictly observed.
Schedule 1 to the Finance Act 2019 (the Act) effectively rewrites part 1 of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992, and applies where a non-UK resident holds an interest of 25 per cent or more in what is termed a property rich entity, or has done so at some point in the previous two years, ending with the date of the disposal. An entity is considered property-rich if, at the time of a disposal, 75 per cent or more of the value of the asset disposed of derives directly or indirectly from UK commercial or residential land. The 75 per cent test looks at the gross asset market value of the entity at the time of the disposal without any deduction for loans. A disposal might be of the interest in the entity directly, or it may be a disposal of a holding company or an interest in a trust or structure that, when looked at together, meets the property-rich test.
Note the potential for the same economic gain to be taxed twice if a non-resident shareholder disposes of their shares and the company then disposes of the property that is taxable on the company.
When considering inheritance tax (IHT) exposure, there remains a difference in treatment depending on whether the property is residential or commercial. Irrespective of whether it is commercially let, residential property held via a non-UK company whose shares are not UK-situs assets, and so were once considered to be excluded property for IHT purposes and outside the scope of IHT, are now within the IHT net, according to sch.A1 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 (the 1984 Act). The 15 per cent SDLT rate introduced in 2012 for the purchase of enveloped dwellings and the 2013 introduction of the annual tax on enveloped dwellings clearly did not do enough to discourage this common
tax structuring technique used by non-UK-domiciled individuals. It is important to note that IHT mitigation through the use of a non-UK company when it comes to purchasing and holding commercial property is still possible.
The changes brought in by the Act are a clear step to try to align the tax treatment of UK residential and commercial property and a further move to eliminate tax advantages available by using corporate structures. Perhaps the next step will be to extend sch.A1 to the 1984 Act to cover commercial property as well. As the changes have been piecemeal, the legislation in this area remains disparate and complex, and great care is required.
SHORT CASE REPORT FTT DECISION – ‘MTIC’ FRAUD – KITTEL TEST PTGI International Carrier Service Limited v. HMRC  UKFTT 20 (TC)
- A so-called “MTIC case”, in which HMRC alleged knowledge or means of knowledge of fraud. The taxpayer, PTGI, denied those states of knowledge. After a relatively lengthy trial, the Tribunal allowed the appeal of PTGI.
- The decision represents a good reminder that HMRC’s “MTIC” decision-making mould is not a “one size fits all”, unbeatable formula at the Tribunal. The Tribunal will robustly analyse HMRC’s (usually) inference-led allegations.
HMRC consultation on the OECD mandatory disclosure rules
HMRC has published a consultation on draft regulations to implement the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rules on mandatory disclosure of certain avoidance arrangements. Helen McGhee and Nahuel Acevedo-Peña explain the background to the new rules and their implications.
Post-Prudential: Decision released by the FTT
On 8 December 2021, judgment in the Post Prudential Group Litigation was handed down by the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) (“FTT”). These were appeals and applications for closure by approximately 200 taxpayers, who had made a variety of claims seeking repayment of unlawful DV tax imposed on dividends received from foreign portfolio holdings. The FTT considered the validity of these various statutory claims following decisions in test cases in the CFC & Dividend GLO, namely Claimants in Class 8 of the CFC and Dividend Group Litigation v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  EWHC 338 (Ch),  1 WLR 5097 (“Class 8”) and Prudential Assurance Co Ltd v HMRC  UKSC 39;  AC 929 (“Prudential SC”).
S&S Consulting Services (UK) Ltd v HMRC: Can a company be re-registered for VAT pending appeal?
On 26 November 2021, the High Court of Justice issued its judgment in S&S Consulting Services (UK) Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v HM Revenue and Customs  EWHC 3174. The case concerned the issue of availability of injunctive relief in the context of VAT deregistration appeals in the First-tier Tribunal (“FTT"). S&S also made an application for judicial review of HMRC’s decision to deregister it for VAT, which at the time of the hearing, had not yet been considered on the papers.
HMRC cancelled S&S’s VAT registration because it concluded that the company had been principally or solely registered to abuse the VAT system by facilitating VAT fraud. S&S denied any wrongdoing and claimed that it might become insolvent before the hearing of its appeal as a result of the deregistration.
It was also common ground that although S&S had lodged an appeal to the FTT, the FTT had no power to require HMRC to re-register S&S by way of interim relief pending the outcome of the appeal. S&S made an application to the High Court for relief.
Held: Application rejected.
VAT De-registration: the CJEU decision in the Promexor case
On 18 November 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “CJEU”) delivered its judgment in Case C-385/20 (Promexor Trade SRL v Directia Generala a Finantelor Publice Cluj – Administratia Judeteana a Finantelor Publice Bihor). Promexor is a Romanian company whose VAT number was revoked by the local tax authorities following a period of six months in which its VAT returns did not record any transactions subject to VAT. Under Romanian legislation, a company whose VAT number has been revoked could re-register and retroactively deduct input VAT for the period when it was not registered. However, in this case, Promexor was prevented from doing so because its director was also a shareholder of a company that was going through insolvency proceedings.