I believe that this was truly a Budget for the next generation. I believe this because it was mentioned by the Chancellor 56 times. In any event, it was definitely a Budget for Europe. To underline this point, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) produced its usual estimates of future growth (between 2% and 2.2% for the next five years) but stressed that this estimate was conditional on Britain remaining in Europe. No sign of an estimate if Britain leaves Europe so no foresight into the economic damage that would result from Brexit. Just “conditional” figures for Bremain. Presumably the consequences of an exit are so entirely incalculable that they could not be estimated. This will give the OBR a difficulty next year, should we choose to leave.
But let’s turn to the tax changes that might be of interest to property owners and investors.
Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
The SDLT rate was increased from 4% to 5% on commercial sales from midnight on 16 March. The “slab” system has also been replaced with a more normal graduated increase. SDLT lease duty is also increased – basically it has doubled for leases where the net present value of the rent is above £5m.
On the subject of SDLT, there is now draft legislation concerning the extra 3% to be charged on purchases of additional houses. Noteworthy points are that the replacement of a main residence test now uses three-year time limits, rather than the 18 months suggested in the consultation, and there will not be the proposed exemption for large scale investors.
In more property-related news, a whole policy paper has been issued on the taxation of trading in and developing UK land. The gist of the paper is that the profits of a UK property development or UK property trading will be taxable in the UK regardless of the residence of the company carrying on the trade, regardless of where the trade is carried on and regardless of whether or not the trade is carried on through a permanent establishment. The paper also discusses widening the circumstances in which the sale of shares in a property company will be taxed as income.
Capital Gains TAX (CGT)
The main lesson to learn from the CGT changes is that the Government does not like property investors or investment managers. The headline rate of CGT will be reduced for gains accruing after 6 April 2016 from 28% to 20%, with the rate for basic rate taxpayers falling from 18% to 10%. But the new rates do not apply to sales of residential property or carried interest as there will be an 8% surcharge for these types of gains.
The Chancellor announced that the corporation tax rate will reduce again to 17% by 2020, though this is sufficiently far into the future to not really count as an announcement. Indeed, it barely reaches the level of a prediction.
The rate of tax charged when a loan is made from a company to a shareholder is to be increased from 25% to 32.5% from 6 April 2016.
The rules for the use of corporation tax losses are to be changed. At present, trading losses made by a group company can only generally be carried forwards to future periods for use against trading profits made by that company. For losses incurred on or after 1 April 2017, groups will be able to use carried forward trading losses against profits from other income streams or from other companies within a group.
However, also from 1 April 2017, the Government will restrict to 50% the amount of profit that can be offset through losses carried forward. The restriction will only apply to profits in excess of £5 million. The Government will also reduce the amount of profit that banks can offset with pre-2015 losses from 50% to 25% from 1 April 2016.
Last but not least for some there was no increase in duties on beer, cider and Scotch. Cheers!