Temporary increase in small business rate relief for England extended

A further order has been made which extends the temporary increase in the level of small business rate relief in England for a further year, until 30 September 2012. It does not change the eligibility criteria for the increased relief.
The increased relief was initially introduced for one year from 1 October 2010 to 30 September 2011. It provides 100% relief for eligible businesses occupying premises with a rateable value of not more than £6,000. There is a tapered relief from 100% to zero for properties with a rateable value between £6,001 and £12,000.
Please contact your local Chattertons Solicitors office for further details.

Furnished holiday lettings – new tax rules

In general, leasing of real estate is taxed under the rules for property businesses, however, specific rules for furnished holiday lettings (FHLs) provide that an FHL business may be treated as a trade for certain purposes if it meets a number of conditions. Trading treatment is more beneficial than property business treatment.

A commercial letting of furnished holiday accommodation is treated as a trade for all purposes (section 65, CTA 2010).

A letting is of furnished holiday accommodation if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The property is situated in the UK or the European Economic Area.

  • The business is carried on commercially and with a view to a profit.

  • The total periods of "longer term occupation" of the property do not exceed 155 days during the relevant accounting period. A period of "longer term occupation" is a letting to the same person for longer than 31 continuous days.

  • The property is available for commercial letting as holiday accommodation to the public for at least 140 days during the relevant accounting period (currently – see below for changes to be made for 2012/13 tax year).

  • The property is commercially let as holiday accommodation to members of the public for at least 70 days during the relevant accounting period(currently – see below for changes to be made for 2012/13 tax year). A letting for a period of "longer term occupation" is not a letting as holiday accommodation for the purposes of this condition.

On 27 July 2010, HM Treasury and HMRC issued a consultation document proposing changes to the taxation of furnished holiday lettings, as announced as part of the June 2010 Budget .

The proposals include that the period for which a furnished holiday letting is available to let, and is actually let, to the public each year is to be increased (from 140 days to 210 days and from 70 days to 105 days respectively).

Loss relief from a furnished holiday lettings business is also to be restricted so that it can only be set against income from the same business.

On 9 December 2010, HM Treasury published a summary of responses to its consultation, alongside draft Finance Bill 2011 clauses reflecting the government's revised proposals.

The government is proceeding with its proposal to extend the minimum periods for which an FHL must be:

  • Available for letting to the public each year (the availability threshold) from 140 days (20 weeks) to 210 days (30 weeks); and

  • Actually let to the public each year (the occupancy threshold) from 70 days (10 weeks) to 105 days (15 weeks).

However, these increases will take effect from April 2012 rather than April 2011 as originally suggested. This means that, for individuals and partnerships, the new thresholds will apply from the start of the 2012-13 tax year, and for companies, for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2012.

The increases in the availability and occupancy thresholds are intended to ensure that only those persons running FHLs as a commercial business benefit from the favourable tax treatment offered by the FHL regime.

Please contact your nearest office for further information.

Good News - Change to B3s offered for Gaming from today.

Parliament has finally listened to the industry and passed legislation which comes into effect today increasing  the maximum stake for B3 gaming machines to £2.  Operators can also increase the number of B3 gaming machines made available in AGCs and Bingo Halls.   The maximum number of B3 gaming machines that can be offered has been increased to 20% of the total number of gaming machines offered.  Fortunately this includes a  minimum of 4 x B3 machines in an AGC and 8 x  B3 machines in Bingo premises so there will be no need to reduce the numbers previously permitted, however Operators with multiple AGCs may now want to review the layout of arcades to reduce annual fees due for existing Premises Licences.

For further assistance contact Debbie Hough

RICS introduces Condition Report

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has produced a new type of survey for residential property. The Condition Report:

  • Provides information on property defects.
  • Does not contain a price valuation, but instead complements a mortgage valuation. As it does not contain a valuation, both RICS valuers and those who are not registered with the RICS Valuer Registration Scheme will be able to provide it.

The Condition Report is suitable for conventional and relatively new residential properties, and it can be used as an alternative to a building survey or the RICS HomeBuyer Report. It is aimed at:

  • Buyers who would otherwise rely on a lender's mortgage valuation rather than incurring the cost of a building survey.
  • Landlords wishing to assess the condition of their investments.
  • Sellers wishing to ascertain problems that might affect future sales.

Chattertons Solicitors strongly recommend all property purchasers to have at least a Condition Report or in appropriate cases a Homebuyer Report or building survey.

Credit Card Agreement Enforceable

In a recent case, the Court of Appeal decided a debtor, Patrick Brophy, must pay his credit card bill, following the failure of his bid to overturn a High Court decision.
David Rogerson a partner in Chattertons Solicitors says: "This decision runs contrary to a recent run of decisions where the courts were backing consumers, rather than the finance industry.”

Mr Brophy took his case to the Court of Appeal, alleging that a credit card agreement he signed was unenforceable under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. When Mr Brophy applied for the credit card in 1994, the terms and conditions of the agreement were included on the reverse of the application form. Accordingly, it constituted one document for the purposes of the Consumer Credit Act. The form clearly stated that it was a ‘Credit agreement regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974’ between HFC Bank Ltd. and ‘you, the customer named below’. Mr Brophy argued that there was no intention to create legal relations as there was no certainty as to whether he would be granted credit and, if so, in what amount. It was further argued that the application form was simply an agreement to allow HFC to investigate Mr Brophy’s credit rating and that unless HFC returned a true copy of the agreement stating the credit limit, there was no agreement. It was held in the Court of Appeal, however, that the purpose of the relevant sections of the application form was to fix the manner in which the credit limit should be determined, not to specify its precise terms. The manner in which the credit limit would be determined in this case was by notification to the debtor.

David comments: “Clearly, in this case the courts thought this was a claim too far. Potential litigants should carefully consider the likely chances of success.”

If you feel you may need advice David can advise you on the latest law in this field. Call David on 01636 673731 or email david.rogerson@chattertons.com.

Businesses Look Out: Bribery Act In Force

Businesses need to be on the alert: the new Bribery Act came into force on 1st July 2011 and there will be no “grace period”.

The Act makes it a criminal offence to pay or receive a bribe, either directly or indirectly. It covers transactions in the UK and abroad, both in the public and private sectors. Companies and partnerships can also commit an offence where a bribe has been paid on their behalf by employees, agents or other persons providing services on their behalf.

Ben Ellis, a partner Chattertons, says: "We are concerned that a lot of businesses haven’t really cottoned on to the introduction of this new Act. Individuals found to be in breach of the new rules could face up to ten years in prison, with their business risking an unlimited fine. There is just one defence - to show that the business had ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery.

Businesses must be aware that putting proper procedures in place to ensure compliance with the Act will take time. They need to act now or they could find themselves in an awkward situation pretty rapidly.”

If you need advice, contact Ben Ellis on 01529 411500 or at ben.ellis@chattertons.com for further information.