Thursday, 12 July 2012

Opting to tax property

Usually property is exempt from VAT which makes things simple because you don’t have to register for VAT and worry about VAT returns.

However some people will “opt to tax” which means they will register for VAT and complete returns, why do they do this you may ask?

The short answer is to be entitled to claim input VAT on costs when selling a property.

Basically the VAT rate depends on the type of land being sold as shown below.

Sale/Lease of land: Exempt
Sale/Lease of commercial property: Exempt
Sale of a new (less than 3 years old) commercial property: Standard Rated (20%)
Sale/Lease of a dwelling: Exempt
Sale (including lease over 21 years) of a new (first sale) dwelling: Zero-rated

If you incur any VAT on costs in the course of making a taxable (standard or zero-rated) property sale you can reclaim that VAT. However if it is an exempt sale you cannot.

By “opting to tax” you would change most sales and leases of non-dwellings into Standard rated taxable sales. This allows the business purchasing the property to recover the associated VAT (on construction, purchase renovation and ancillary costs).

A business will not need to “Opt to tax” in order to recover VAT if it is using the property for business purposes, e.g. a factory for the purpose of manufacturing goods.

Most developers will already know that if a residential property has remained vacant for two years, the VAT rate associated with its refurbishment stands at 5%. this, of course, helps to mitigate the developers irrecoverable VAT cost as the sale of refurbished houses is exempt from VAT.

What is less known is the fact that a property that has been vacant for ten years or more can be treated as if the building was new and therefore its disposal - freehold or a lease exceeding 21 years - is taxable at a zero rate.

This enables developers to recover the 5% VAT rate charged by subcontractors as well as a VAT rate of 20% charged on legal and professional services. This is a major saving and is something that should always be kept in mind when buying derelict properties with the potential for refurbishment and re-sale.

If you feel the above would be useful to you and that you would like some more information, please make sure to contact me.


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