Are you thinking of selling your UK property or have you sold one recently?
By Sue Regan
This article is published on: 13th January 2017
I decided on the topic for this month’s article after having had a couple of very similar conversations recently with expats relating to the sale of property in the UK. In each case they were badly let down by their UK Solicitors who failed to inform them of a change in UK legislation that was introduced in April 2015. As a result, they received unexpected and not insignificant late payment penalties from HMRC for failure to complete a form following the sale of their UK property which could have been avoided if they had been made aware of this change in the law.
Recap of the new legislation
Prior to 6th April 2015 overseas investors and British expats were not required to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the sale of residential property in the UK, providing that they had been non-resident for 5 years. New legislation was introduced on 6th April 2015 that removed this tax benefit.
The rate of CGT for non-residents on disposals of residential property is the same as UK residents and depends on the amount of taxable UK income the individual has i.e. 18% for basic rate band and 28% above it, and it is only the gain made since the 6th April 2015 that is subject to CGT for non-UK residents.
Reporting the gain
When you sell your property, you need to fill out a Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax (NRCGT) return online and inform HMRC within 30 days of completing the sale, regardless of whether you’ve made a profit or not. This applies whether or not you currently file UK tax returns. You can find the form and more information on the HMRC website at hmrc.gov.uk
Paying the tax
If you have a requirement to complete a UK tax return then payment of any CGT liability can be made within normal self-assessment deadlines. However those who do not ordinarily file a UK tax return will be required to pay the liability within 30 days of completion. Once you have submitted the form notifying HMRC that the disposal has taken place, a reference number will be issued in order to make payment.
As a French resident you also have to declare any gain to the French tax authority. The Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France means that you will not be taxed twice on the same gain, as you will be given a tax credit for any UK CGT paid (limited to the amount of French CGT). The French CGT rate is 19% and any taxable gain is reduced by taper-relief over 22 years of ownership. You will also be liable to French Social Charges on the gain, at the rate of 15.5%, and the gain for this purpose is tapered over 30 years (rather than 22 years).
At Spectrum we do not consider ourselves to be Tax Experts and we strongly recommend that you seek professional advice from your Accountant or a Notaire in this regard.
There is little that can be done to mitigate the French tax liability on the sale of property that is not your principal residence. So it is important to shelter the sale proceeds and other financial assets wherever possible to avoid future unnecessary taxes. One easy way to do this is by investing in a life assurance policy, which in France is known as a Contrat d’Assurance Vie, and is the favoured vehicle used by millions of French investors. Whilst funds remain within the policy they grow free of Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax. In addition, this type of investment is highly efficient for Inheritance planning as it is considered to be outside of your standard estate for inheritance purposes, and you are free to name whoever and as many beneficiaries as you wish. There are very generous allowances for beneficiaries of contracts for amounts invested before the age of 70. Spectrum will typically use international Assurance Vie policies that fully comply with French rules and are treated in the same way as French policies by the fiscal authorities.
International Assurance Vie policies are proving highly popular in light of Loi Sapin II, which has now been enacted into law. More details about the possible detrimental effects of the ‘Sapin Law’ on French Assurance Vie contracts, in certain situations, can be found on our website at http://www.spectrum-ifa.com/fonds-en-euros-assurances-vie-policies/. Thus, when also faced with the prospect of very low investments returns on Fonds en Euros – in which the majority of monies in French Assurance Vie contracts are invested – it is very prudent to consider the alternative of an international Assurance Vie contract, particularly as you would still benefit from all the same personal tax and inheritance advantages that apply to French contracts.