Business Property Relief

Business Property Relief
Business Property Relief
Full Overview Of Business Property Relief

Business Property Relief (BPR) is an important aspect of UK tax legislation, especially for individuals involved in business ownership or concerned about the impact of inheritance tax (IHT) on their estates. This relief can significantly reduce the value of business assets included in a person’s estate for IHT purposes, often playing a crucial role in ensuring the continuity of family businesses across generations.

At DLS Solicitors, we deeply understand the complexities and nuances of BPR and aim to provide a comprehensive overview to clarify this significant relief.

What Is Business Property Relief?

Business Property Relief is a form of tax relief from inheritance tax (IHT) that applies to the transfer of business assets. It can reduce the value of such property by up to 100%, depending on the type of business and the nature of the assets involved. BPR is designed to support the continuation of businesses across generations by mitigating the potential financial burden posed by IHT.

Main Aspects of BPR

  • Qualifying Property: BPR applies to property used for business purposes. This includes:
    • Interests in unincorporated businesses, such as sole traders or partnerships
    • Shares in qualifying unlisted companies
    • Certain types of land and buildings used in business operations
  • Rate of Relief: The relief rate is either 50% or 100%, depending on the type of asset and its use. Generally, 100% relief applies to unlisted shares and interests in unincorporated businesses, while 50% relief may apply to certain land, buildings, and machinery used in the business.
  • Ownership Period: To qualify for BPR, the business property must have been owned for at least two years before the owner’s death or the asset’s transfer.
  • Trading vs. Investment: BPR is primarily intended for trading businesses. Therefore, investment businesses, such as those involved in property letting or holding investments, generally do not qualify for BPR.

Detailed Examination

Qualifying Property

For a property to qualify for BPR, it must be defined as ‘relevant business property’. The definition encompasses various types of business assets:

  • Interests in Unincorporated Businesses: This includes sole traders and partnerships. If a person owns a business as a sole trader or a share of a partnership, the value of that interest may qualify for BPR.
  • Shares in Unlisted Companies: Shares in companies not listed on any recognised stock exchange can qualify for BPR. This includes shares in companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), which is not considered a recognised stock exchange for BPR purposes.
  • Land, Buildings, and Machinery: Assets such as land, buildings, and machinery used in the business can qualify for BPR, provided they are used wholly or mainly for the purposes of the business.

Rate of Relief

The rate at which BPR is applied can be either 50% or 100%, contingent on the nature of the property and its use:

  • 100% Relief: This rate applies to the following:
    • Shares in unlisted companies
    • Interests in unincorporated businesses
    • Securities in unlisted companies that give control over the company
  • 50% Relief: This rate applies to:
    • Land, buildings, or machinery owned personally but used in a business owned by the deceased
    • Shares controlling more than 50% of the voting rights in a listed company

Ownership Period

To qualify for BPR, the relevant business property must have been owned by the deceased for at least two years prior to their death. This requirement ensures that the relief supports long-term business interests rather than short-term ownership arrangements intended to reduce IHT liabilities.

Trading vs. Investment Businesses

BPR is targeted at trading businesses, meaning those involved in activities such as manufacturing, retail, or services. Investment businesses, which primarily derive income from investments rather than trading activities, generally do not qualify for BPR. This distinction is crucial, as it impacts the eligibility of many businesses, particularly those involved in property investment or management.

Challenges and Considerations

While BPR offers substantial tax relief, it is not without its complexities and potential pitfalls:

Active vs. Passive Businesses

One of the most significant challenges in claiming BPR is distinguishing between active trading businesses and passive investment businesses. Factors that may influence this determination include:

  • The nature of the income: Trading businesses typically earn income from providing goods or services, whereas investment businesses earn passive income from investments or property rental.
  • The activities of the business: Businesses actively involved in trading operations, such as manufacturing or retail, are more likely to qualify for BPR than those managing investment portfolios.
  • HMRC’s interpretation: HMRC closely scrutinises businesses to determine whether they meet the criteria for trading activities. Businesses must provide clear evidence to support their trading status.

Mixed-Use Properties

Properties used for both business and non-business purposes present another challenge. For instance, a property that serves as both a residence and business premises may only partially qualify for BPR. The business portion must be clearly delineated and used wholly or mainly for business purposes to qualify.

Changes in Ownership and Structure

Changes in ownership or business structure can impact BPR eligibility. For example:

  • Transfer of ownership: If business assets are transferred within the two-year ownership period, the new owner may not qualify for BPR until they have owned the assets for two years.
  • Restructuring: Business restructuring, such as converting a partnership to a limited company, can affect BPR eligibility. It’s essential to consider the implications of such changes on BPR.

Valuation Disputes

Valuation disputes can arise regarding the value of business property for BPR purposes. Accurate valuations are crucial, as underestimating or overestimating the value can lead to challenges from HMRC. Engaging professional valuers with experience in business property valuations is essential to mitigating this risk.

Strategic Planning for BPR

Effective utilisation of BPR requires strategic planning and professional advice. Key strategies include:

Regular Review of Business Activities

Conducting regular reviews of business activities ensures compliance with BPR requirements. This includes documenting trading activities, reviewing income sources, and maintaining records to support the business’s trading status.

Structuring Ownership and Tenancies

Careful structuring of ownership and tenancy arrangements can optimise BPR benefits. This might involve:

  • Ensuring long-term ownership to meet the two-year rule
  • Reviewing and potentially revising tenancy agreements to maintain qualifying status
  • Considering succession planning and the timing of transfers to maximise relief

Clarifying Business and Non-Business Use

When a property has mixed-use, it’s crucial to delineate the business and non-business portions clearly. Maintaining distinct records and separate areas for business activities can preserve BPR eligibility for the business portions of the property.

Professional Valuations and Legal Advice

Engaging professional valuers experienced in business property ensures accurate valuation assessments. Legal advice is essential to navigate the complexities of BPR, handle disputes, and provide strategic guidance on ownership and tenancy structures.

Case Study: Successful Utilisation of BPR

Consider a family-owned manufacturing business that has been operating for several decades. The business includes a factory, office buildings, and several commercial vehicles. Over the years, the family diversified into property investments, acquiring several rental properties.

To maximise BPR benefits, the family undertook the following steps:

  • Regular Reviews: They conducted annual reviews of business activities, ensuring the manufacturing business remained the primary focus and source of income.
  • Ownership Structure: They structured the ownership to ensure the factory and office buildings were held within the business entity, while rental properties were held in a separate investment company.
  • Delineation of Uses: They clearly delineated mixed-use properties’ business and non-business portions, maintaining distinct records for each.
  • Professional Valuation: They engaged a professional valuer to accurately assess the value of the business assets, distinguishing them from the investment properties.

Upon the death of the business’s founder, the family was able to claim BPR, significantly reducing the estate’s IHT liability. The manufacturing business continued to operate, and the next generation assumed control without the burden of a substantial tax bill.

Conclusion

Business Property Relief (BPR) is an important tool for preserving the legacy and continuity of businesses in the UK. It offers significant tax benefits, recognising the unique challenges faced by business owners. However, successfully navigating the complexities of BPR requires careful planning, thorough documentation, and professional advice.

At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to helping our clients maximise the benefits of BPR. Through strategic planning, regular reviews, and expert guidance, we ensure that business properties are passed down through generations, sustaining the business legacy and contributing to the economy.

By understanding the intricacies of BPR, business owners can make informed decisions to safeguard their enterprises and their legacy for future generations.

Business Property Relief FAQ'S

Business Property Relief is a tax relief in the UK that allows certain business assets to be passed on free from inheritance tax or at a reduced rate when the owner dies or when they give them away during their lifetime.

Assets that may qualify for BPR include shares in an unlisted company, shares in an Alternative Investment Market (AIM) listed company, an interest in a business (such as a partnership), and land, buildings, or machinery owned by the deceased and used in a qualifying business.

BPR can provide 100% relief on qualifying business assets, such as shares in an unlisted company or a partnership interest. Some assets, like land, buildings, or machinery used in the business but owned by the deceased, may qualify for 50% relief.

The assets must have been owned by the deceased for at least two years immediately before death to qualify for BPR.

Yes, BPR can apply to assets given away during the donor’s lifetime, provided the recipient keeps the assets and the business continues to qualify for the relief for at least seven years.

No, BPR does not apply to all businesses. Certain types of businesses, such as those mainly dealing in securities, stocks, or shares, land or buildings, or making or holding investments, generally do not qualify for BPR.

If a qualifying business asset is sold, BPR may be lost unless the proceeds are reinvested in other qualifying business assets within three years.

BPR is claimed on the Inheritance Tax return (IHT400) submitted to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) after the death of the business owner. Detailed information about the qualifying assets and their value is required.

Yes, BPR can be apportioned between multiple beneficiaries if the qualifying business assets are bequeathed to more than one person. Each beneficiary would need to meet the relevant criteria to claim their share of the relief.

Common pitfalls include failing to meet the two-year ownership requirement, holding non-qualifying business assets, not correctly documenting the use of assets in the business, and not reinvesting the proceeds of a sale of qualifying assets within the required timeframe.

Disclaimer

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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