Offshore advantages now over for property developers operating in the UK

Our friends over at Goodman Jones Solicitors have written a succinct article on new rules are about to come into effect that effectively remove the tax advantages that non-UK based property developers enjoyed when developing UK property.

Yet another nail in the coffin of Buy to Let as most of the properties on theses sites are sold to Buy to Let landlords. How many nails can a coffin take until it collapses.

The full article is reproduced here and if you need help on this issue contact Goodman Jones at

New legislation

Hidden away in this March’s Budget announcements was a detailed paper produced by the Government to highlight its concerns that some property developers use offshore structures to avoid UK tax “Profits from Trading in and Developing UK Land“.

Levelling the playing field

how-much-for BTLThe paper describes in detail, the way in which offshore developers use these structures and how it is perceived to give them an unfair advantage over UK developers, who are liable to UK tax on their trading profits from developing property in the UK.

HMRC have for many years been challenging such structures, but the Government have proposed changes to UK tax legislation so that all profits arising from UK property development will be taxed in the UK. The new laws will take effect with the 2016 Finance Bill, but anti-avoidance rules are already in force to catch existing structures being unwound.

HMRC Task Force

As well as changes to tax legislation, a new task force is being created to identify and pursue offshore entities that do not toe the line with the new legislation.  There are rumours that some 100 structures are already under scrutiny.

Bad news for UK property developers based overseas

Clearly, those developers that operate in this way will be looking at their tax affairs and considering the additional cost that these changes will bring on them.  They’ll have to formulate a strategy to adopt the new rules and this may well lead to significant tax liabilities; something that is unlikely to have been taken into development projections that formed the basis of funding and investment appraisals.

Good news for UK based developers

However, for UK developers, this must surely be considered to be good news.  Such businesses operate in the same market place as the offshore developers, but historically have been unable to match the prices that overseas developers can pay for land given that they pay 20% corporation tax on the profits they make on each development.

Collateral damage

There will also no doubt be collateral damage.  We are likely to see legitimate overseas structures (for example, bona-fide property investors) being challenged simply by virtue of their ownership of UK property.   The aggravation factor alone will be unwelcome and the risk of HMRC challenge should mean that anyone based offshore and owning UK property would be well advised to review their position now.

In conclusion

We may find that this ultimately makes no difference to the situation as it currently stands, but my view is that it will level the playing field between UK and overseas developers as their overall post tax returns will be more closely aligned.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether this eventually puts downward pressure on residual valuations of suitable sites, which certainly over the last few years have been one of the key factors determining the shortage of supply of available land for housing.