Property investment can come in many forms, from buying a house to live in, let out or use as a furnished holiday home for extra income. Ensuring tax is minimised for each option can be very different.

Buy-to-let property investments

Whether you have a single property or large portfolio, with direct ownership the tax treatment is generally the same. The following are the main taxes that affect buy-to-lets.

Income Tax

Any rental income after most expenses will be charged to Income Tax at your marginal rate. With the rate of Income Tax now as high as 45 per cent, you should aim to ensure that all personal allowances and lower rate bands of tax are used in full.

Any losses arising from the rented property have to be carried forward and offset against any future profits arising from your rental business and cannot be offset against other income.

Ownership structure is important. It is possible to own property jointly or in partnership with other family members. This means that income can be shared to minimise tax rates.

Interest Relief

As a buy-to-let landlord, many of the expenses incurred in the course of letting your property are allowable for tax purposes. You are also able to deduct the costs incurred in purchasing replacement furnishings, including white goods, when calculating your taxable profit.

As part of an ongoing clampdown on the buy-to-let market, from 6 April 2017 relief for finance costs incurred on residential properties such as interest and mortgage costs, has been restricted to the basic rate of Income Tax of 20 per cent. The restriction was phased in over four years, with the full interest restriction taking effect from 6 April 2020.

These changes will not apply to furnished holiday lets. Where the property is owned by a company rather than an individual, finance costs will be allowable in full.

Capital Gains Tax

The sale of a residential investment property is usually charged to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) at 18 or 28 per cent. CGT rates on the sale of assets were reduced to 10 or 20 per cent but these rates do not apply to residential property. Each person is entitled to an annual exemption, which for 2020/21 is £12,300.

Qualifying for Business Asset Disposal Relief (formerly known as Entrepreneurs’ Relief) by making the property a business asset can secure a lower 10 per cent rate of tax on a capital gain. This usually only applies to furnished holiday lets, or very large portfolios. HMRC has to be satisfied that you are genuinely running a trading business rather than simply collecting rents for this to apply.

Following rules introduced with effect from 6 April 2020 it is now necessary to report capital gains, and pay any tax due, made on residential property within 30 days of any property sale completing.

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax (IHT) reliefs on investment property are limited. However, there are some simple steps which may help reduce the tax burden. IHT is charged on assets in your estate at 40 per cent over and above the nil rate band, currently £325,000. This band has not kept pace with inflation or the increase in property prices, so many people find that there are hefty tax bills arising on death.

An additional nil rate band of £175,000 was phased in from April 2017. This only applies to properties that have been your main residence at some point and which are left to one or more direct descendants on death.

One way of reducing IHT is minimising the value of property in your estate. To work properly, not only does this mean gifting the capital asset, but also the entitlement to any income generated. Any gift of property you make will fall out of your estate for IHT purposes provided you survive for seven years from the date of the gift. Reduced rates can apply from four years.

It is important to note that CGT charges can arise to the donor on the gift, other than on gifts between spouses and civil partners.

Landlord tax on furnished holiday lets

Furnished holiday lets, can be treated as business assets and attract some preferential tax reliefs. The property must meet specific criteria in order to qualify. Essentially they must be let on a commercial basis, for example the property must be:

  • available for letting for at least 210 days of the year
  • actually let for at least 105 days

Continuous periods of over 31 days are excluded.

Income Tax

Most of the Income Tax benefits have been removed from furnished holiday lettings in recent years, and they are now charged to income tax in much the same way as other rental property.

Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax

Significant CGT and IHT savings can be made if the furnished holiday let conditions are met. The property could qualify as a business asset for Business Asset Disposal Relief (formerly Entrepreneurs’ Relief), meaning any capital gain on sale would be taxed at a reduced rate of 10 per cent, rather than 28 per cent.

Qualifying as a business asset also has benefits for IHT. Business assets may qualify for 100 per cent Business Relief (formerly known as Business Property Relief or BPR) which means that no liability to IHT arises on the property. This also applies to lifetime gifts of these assets—the property could be settled on a discretionary trust to be protected for future generations with no charge to IHT.

The income could then be used as a tax efficient way of paying grandchildren’s school fees. The transfer can generate a charge to CGT, but in these circumstances, any gain can be held over until the eventual sale.

It should be noted that it has become more difficult for holiday letting businesses to qualify for Business Relief. HMRC is paying closer attention to the services that are provided to establish whether a genuine business is being run and several cases have lost in the courts. The more additional facilities and services that can be provided; over and above those which would be expected of a landlord, the better the chances of a successful claim.

Ownership structure of your property investments

There are various ways to structure ownership of your property investments to mitigate your tax liability. The main ones are:

  • direct ownership
  • joint venture
  • partnership
  • limited company

The tax position for direct ownership, joint ventures and partnerships is very similar. In each case, profits are taxed at your marginal rate and capital gains charged on sale. The difference with a partnership is that there is the opportunity to utilise the personal allowances and lower rate bands of all partners, who can be other family members.

Limited companies
Holding property within a limited company can help to save tax as the rate of corporation tax is currently 19 per cent. Whether this is beneficial largely depends on whether the income needs to then be drawn out of the company. If this is the case, there is likely to be a double tax charge, removing the saving.

As with partnerships, it is possible to bring other lower earning family members in as shareholders. These arrangements are commonly known as family investment companies. Provided the shareholdings are structured correctly, dividends can be paid to utilise the dividend allowance and lower rate tax bands of the shareholders and extract profits efficiently.

This can often assist families with the funding of university fees, or first homes for young adult children. There can also be significant IHT savings as the value of property or capital invested in the company is passed to other family members when they become shareholders in the company.

A double tax charge can also arise when properties are sold, as the gain is charged within the company and then tax may be due on the distribution to shareholders. This type of structure is not always beneficial for those requiring an income stream which would be taxed at higher rates or with the prospect of an impending sale.

Company ownership can be advantageous for the most part where it is not necessary to extract all the profits. If profits and gains are to be retained for investment, or to be protected for future generations, then they can be an extremely tax efficient way of owning property. This also depends on whether the property owned is a higher value residential property (see below). 

Stamp Duty and Land Tax

This guide covers everything you need to know about how much Stamp Duty or land tax you could have to pay on your next home.

Higher value residential property

Annual charges now apply on high value residential property, owned by a non-natural person, which includes companies. These charges, which apply to properties valued at over £500,000, start at a rate of £3,700 per year in 2020/21 and are intended to encourage investors to de-envelope and bring the property back into the ordinary SDLT regime.

To discourage enveloping further, the rate of SDLT for properties worth over £500,000 bought by a non-natural person was set at 15 per cent. Many exemptions are available against these additional charges including those properties let out commercially but the exemptions must be claimed.

The Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED) rates from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 are outlined below.

Residential property value 2020/21
£500,000 –£1 million £3,700
£1 – £2 million  £7,500
£2 – £5 million £25,200
£5 – £10 million £58,850
£10 – £20 million £118,050
Above £20 million £236,250

Helping your property investments

Are you buying a UK property, receiving rental income or selling/gifting a UK property? How a property investment is structured can be one of the key factors in determining your return. Crowe's team has extensive experience of working with investors from the UK and overseas to advise on how best to invest, hold and dispose of UK property from a tax perspective.

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To better understand your tax position and what options are available to you or for further information on how we can help you make the most of your property investments, please contact Mark Stemp, Partner, Private Clients at Crowe: [email protected] or visit our webpage crowe.com.


HMRC's online tax training

HMRC offer an online training course and webinars which will help you with your tax requirements. They are also running a 'Let Property Campaign' that gives landlords the opportunity to bring their tax affairs up to date and to get the best possible terms to pay the tax you owe. Visit the campaign website for full details and eligibility criteria.


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