From 6 April 2017 a UK residential property will now be subject to UK Inheritance Tax regardless of ownership structure and residence or domicile status of the ultimate owner.
Who will be affected?
The new rules will affect all non-UK domiciliaries and the trustees of trusts they have established who hold an interest in an offshore structure which derives its value from:
- a UK residential property;
- loans (is provision applies to all loans not just those between connected parties) used to acquire, maintain or improve UK residential property; or
- collateral for such loans or who have thereunder made or provided collateral for such loans.
Which assets are relevant?
The new legislation imposes an inheritance tax charge on three categories of property:
Interests (e.g. loans or shares) in closely held companies which derive, directly or indirectly, their value from UK residential property. The interest in the parent company will still be caught even if there is a chain of companies underneath before you get to the residential property. However, if any of the companies is widely held (for example a real estate fund), this will not be caught.
An interest in a partnership, the value of which is directly or indirectly attributable to UK residential property. Unlike companies, it does not make any difference how many partners there are and whether or not they are connected. A real estate fund which is structured as a partnership will therefore fall within the new rules.
The benefit of loans made to enable an individual, trustees or a partnership to acquire, maintain or improve a UK residential property or to invest in a close company or a partnership which uses the money to acquire, maintain or improve UK residential property.
To avoid back-to-back lending arrangements, assets used as collateral for such a loan will also be subject to inheritance tax under the new rules.
An interest in a close company, or a partnership which holds the benefit of the debt or the assets which are used as collateral, are also caught.
UK residential property
The rules will apply where the shares’ (or other interest’s) value is attributable to any UK residential property, whether that property is occupied or let and whatever the property’s value (subject to limited exceptions such as care homes). A property which is being constructed or adapted for residential use will be treated as UK residential property.
The rules will not apply to the extent that the asset’s value is derived from commercial property. It is to be welcomed that previous proposals to include a property which had had a residential use at any time in the last two years have been dropped. Rather, it will simply be the use of the property at the time that the IHT charge arises that will be relevant.
Legislation is still awaited for properties used for both residential and non-residential purposes. Based on the 2016 consultation paper this will be on an apportionment basis.
Value subject to IHT and debts
Where an IHT charge arises on shares etc. under the new rules, the IHT liability will be calculated on the open market value of the shares (or other interest) to the extent that their value is attributable to UK residential property. In determining the value of an interest in a close company, the liabilities of the close company will be attributed to all of its property pro rata. The liabilities attributable to the residential property will be deductible in determining the value within the scope of IHT.
Under the original proposals, debts that related exclusively to the property were to be deductible when calculating the value for IHT purposes, unless the borrowing was from a connected party. In response to concerns that this could result in a double IHT charge, the Government’s solution contained in the legislation and other documentation published on 5 December 2016 is to treat any debt used to finance the acquisition, maintenance or repair of UK residential property as an asset subject to IHT in the hands of the lender, with look through provisions where the lender is itself a non-UK close company or partnership. Similarly, any security or collateral for such a debt will be within the scope of IHT in the estate of the provider of the security.
Whilst this removes the potential for double counting, it would appear to defeat certain IHT mitigation options which the Government previously appeared to accept when the provisions relating to debts were revised in 2013. The application of these rules to debts, whenever created, seems unduly harsh and a restriction to debts created after 19 August 2016 (when an iteration of the provision was first announced), if not to commencement date, would be welcomed.
Two year tail
Newly included in the 5 December 2016 draft legislation are provisions such that following sale of close company shares or partnership interests which would have been within the scope of the new IHT rules, or indeed repayment of a lender’s loan, the consideration received (or anything which represents it) will continue to be subject to IHT for a two year period following the sale or repayment. This appears to be a provision introduced to combat specific anticipated avoidance. However it will, as drafted, have a wider effect and give rise to an IHT charge in normal commercial situations even where UK residential property is no longer held.
Targeted anti-avoidance rule
Any arrangements whose whole or main purpose is to avoid or reduce the IHT charge on UK residential property will be disregarded. This anti-avoidance provision is extremely widely drawn.
If you are affected by any of the above and for advice and guidance on what actions you should take next please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0114 275 6292.
The above is not intended to be advice, we strongly recommend professional advice is sought before taking any action.