So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Douglas Adams – Book title
Pace the promise at the end of my last post (the final part of a trilogy on my tax transition from the UK to Canada over the last year) this unexpected fourth part details the delightful process of completing a reasonably complex UK tax return. The gentle reader will be relieved to know that I am going to skip all of the obvious bits and just concentrate on that which is out of the ordinary.
Completion of this particular return was complicated by the fact that – having been resident in the UK for 104 days from April 6th to July 19th 2015 – I was considered by HMRC to have been a UK resident for tax purposes for the whole tax year. To avoid being taxed in both countries for the period from July 19th 2015 (our date of landing) to April 5th 2016 (and having already paid my Canadian taxes up to December 31st) I needed to meet the criteria for a ‘split year treatment‘ for 2015/16, under which I would pay taxes in whichever country I was resident at any given point.
There are eight sets of circumstances under which one is deemed to have met the criteria for ‘split year treatment‘. The only one that applied in my circumstances was Case 3 – ‘Ceasing to have a home in the UK’. The HMRC’s ‘Tax Return Notes’ give a fair bit of information on the criteria as a whole but cheerfully send one off in search of document RDR3 – ‘Guidance Note: Statutory Residence Test (SRT)’ for further detail on each specific case. Herewith the relevant sections for Case 3:
Case 3: Ceasing to have a home in the UK
5.22 In this instance, you may receive split year treatment for a tax year if you leave the UK to live abroad and you cease to have a UK home.
– be UK resident in the tax year
– be UK resident for the previous tax year (whether or not it was a split year)
– be non-UK resident for the following tax year
– have one or more homes in the UK at the start of the tax year and at some point in the year cease to have any home in the UK for the rest of the tax year.
5.23 From the point you cease to have a home in the UK you must:
– spend fewer than 16 days in the UK
– in relation to a particular country, either:
– be present in that country at the end of each day for 6 months, or
– have your only home, or all your homes if you have more than 1, in that country within 6 months
Hmmm! That is all as clear as mud…
The other portion of the return that I had not previously encountered was that concerning Capital Gains Tax – for which the sale of our UK property made us potentially liable. The basic rules regarding Capital Gains Tax on property sales at the time that we sold the apartment were thus:
- Capital Gains Tax could be subject to Private Residence Relief (PRR)
- PRR was 100% if the property was one’s prime residence and was lived in for the whole time that it was owned
- PRR might be reduced if the property was let for more than three years
- no tax was payable in any case for the final 18 months of ownership
Our apartment in Buckinghamshire (which I had owned for more than fourteen years) had been let for more than three years at the point at which we sold it. We thus had to work out the level of PRR for which we might still be eligible. This was calculated by determining the profit made on the sale (the agreed selling price less the original purchase price) and by determining the percentage of months for which PRR might be applied. I had owned the property for 176 months, I/we had lived in it for 130 months and it had been let for 41 months. Given the exemption for the final 18 months of ownership this meant that I could apply for PRR to cover 84% of the capital gain.
That would yet have left a chunk of tax owing, but there were – fortunately – a couple of other reliefs that could be applied:
- Selling costs (estate agent and legal fees) could be set against the profit
- We could apply for Letting Relief for the period that the apartment was actually tenanted
- There was a general Capital Gains Tax allowance of £11,000
A tortuous calculation led us to the conclusion that all of the potential taxes and reliefs fundamentally cancelled each other out – leaving us after all nothing to pay on the sale of our home. The tax return was duly completed and sent to the United Kingdom at the start of June this year. Shortly before I started writing this series of posts I was finally in receipt of a further rebate from HMRC, though they also sent a note which somewhat unkindly suggested that this refund had been based on my calculations – which they claim not to have checked! I suspect that this is just to give them some wiggle-room should they find any way that they can claw back some of what they paid me.
We shall see…