CRC v Lockyer and Robertson (as the personal representatives of N Pawson, deceased) – Business Property Relief
HMRC have successfully appealed the landmark Business Property Relief case of N Pawson deceased which, if it is upheld at the Court of Appeal, is likely to have a significant on the potential Inheritance Tax liabilities of individuals with a holiday letting business.
HMRC success in this case is perhaps not as surprising as the fact they originally lost at Tribunal. The judge gives some extra useful guidance on the distinction between active trading and property letting.
The First-tier Tribunal initially ruled that as long as additional services were provided in conjunction with a holiday let then the business property relief (BPR) would be available and therefore obtain relief from Inheritance Tax (IHT) at 100%.
HMRC subsequently appealed the above ruling.
The Upper Tribunal Judge focused on “the proposition that the owning and holding of land in order to obtain an income from it is generally to be characterised as an investment activity”.
He said that a property could be managed actively and still be retained as an investment.
The services provided to clients, such as cleaning, providing a welcome pack, and being on call to deal with queries and problems, were unlikely to be significant or sufficient to stop the business from being “mainly one of property investment”.
These services all enhanced the capital value of the property and made it possible to obtain a regular income from its letting.
The judge concluded the First-tier Tribunal should have found that “the business… did indeed remain one which was mainly that of holding the property as an investment. The services provided were all of a relatively standard nature, and they were all aimed at maximising the income which the family could obtain from the short term holiday letting of the property”.
He did not accept the taxpayer’s argument that the innate character of a holiday letting business rendered it outside the scope of a normal property letting business. Rather, it was a typical example of a property letting business.
As a result business property relief was disallowed and the letting operation fully charged to IHT.