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Dozens of firms offer to help shared house landlords claim thousands of pounds in lost tax reliefs – but does the lost relief really exist?
The confusion surrounds houses in multiple occupation – HMOs – which are homes where several tenants have their own rooms, but share cooking and bathroom facilities.
Tax rules ban claiming capital items, like boilers and fire safety equipment in residential property unless they are in communal areas.
That means buy to lets are outside of the rules because the entire property is residential, but HMOs can fall within the rules because they have split communal and residential accommodation.
For these shared properties, landlords can claim relief on capital costs called capital allowances.
Capital allowances are the HM Revenue and Customs version of depreciation, or wear and tear on equipment.
The concept is simple – a business can claim depreciation at any rate but the figure is added back to profits before tax and replaced with capital allowances, which are claimed at a set rate across all businesses.
The tax trick is capital allowances are calculated at the replacement cost, including the cost of fitting and in some cases, carriage. This gives a much higher figure than the actual cost of the item.
For example, a boiler may have a cost price of £550 exc. VAT, but the capital allowance cost might be £950 including fitting.
Surveyors specialising in valuing capital costs reckon an HMO landlord can reclaim up to 10% of the purchase price of the property in capital allowances. These allowances are tax reducers – every pound of capital allowances claimed reduces taxable profits by £1.
So, if a HMO cost £180,000, the capital allowances could add up to £18,000.
Don’t forget the catches
On second look, in most cases HMO landlords have a claim, but the financial benefit is not necessarily as large as the valuers might suggest.
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