From April there is a combined 5% Stamp Duty surcharge for overseas investors buying buy-to-let properties in England and Northern Ireland, giving an effective top rate of tax of 17%.
Evidence is already emerging of an early change in behaviour. Rather than invest in a single buy-to-let personally, some overseas investors are joining ‘club deals’ where they take a share of a collective purchase of six or more properties.
Such purchases are taxed as if they were non-residential property, meaning that far less Stamp Duty is payable, and this is before taking into account a bulk-purchase discount.
For example, the total amount of Stamp Duty payable by six non-resident individuals purchasing one £2 million property each independently would be close to £1.5 million. In contrast, the total amount of Stamp Duty payable in a ‘club deal’ would be under £600,000 – a 60% tax saving.
Buying agents have been bullish that the market will likely absorb the additional 2% surcharge, at least in London. They say that prime central London property is good value, London is still regarded as a safe haven for overseas capital and the value of Sterling is still relatively low.
However, the trend for ‘club deals’, which, of course, is a reasonable choice and cannot possibly be regarded as ‘tax avoidance’, suggests the opposite. The ‘six-or-more’ rule is ingrained in the Stamp Duty legislation. It is practically the only thing stopping professional investors in residential property suffering the Stamp Duty surcharges and prohibitive standard residential rates.
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