Monthly Archives: November 2018

Taking tax online?

The Office for Tax Simplification has released its first report on how HMRC’s process of collecting inheritance tax could be improved by simplifying forms and making more of the process digital. These are the sorts of changes that might not …

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Taking tax online?

The Office for Tax Simplification has released its first report on how HMRC’s process of collecting inheritance tax could be improved by simplifying forms and making more of the process digital. These are the sorts of changes that might not capture the imagination of the public but, if introduced, might well make private client lawyers and accountants go weak at the knees…The report is a lengthy document which only the hardiest of souls will complete, however some key points arising out of the report include:1. Calling for a fully-integrated digital IHT system, potentially meshed with the new online probate platform.2. Immediate changes to the forms for the administration of estates – for example expanding the circumstances that can be covered by briefer forms or no forms at all.3. Changes in particular to Form IHT100, which is a cumbersome document that practitioners will be aware can be a complex form even with the most straightforward of tax charges.4. On a broader level, working to change the public’s perception about inheritance tax – the report highlights that a 2015 YouGov survey ranked inheritance tax as the most ‘unfair’ of 11 major taxes.It will of course remain to be seen how many (if any) of these recommendations find their way into actual law and practice. The OTS is only an independent adviser to the government, whose aim is to make the taxation process easier for the tax payer. Given the other matters on the Government’s mind at the moment, one struggles to envisage where they will find the time.

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Could a property ‘Logbook’ speed up the conveyancing process?

At the Annual mortgage Conference held earlier this month, government officials criticised the delays in current conveyancing processes. It was stated that it takes an average of 19 weeks to get from acceptance of an offer to completion. One of …

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Could a property ‘Logbook’ speed up the conveyancing process?

At the Annual mortgage Conference held earlier this month, government officials criticised the delays in current conveyancing processes.  It was stated that it takes an average of 19 weeks to get from acceptance of an offer to completion. One of the speakers, Matt Prior an official from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said that this was “a hell of a long time to wait”.The solution that was proposed was in the form of a logbook for your house. This logbook would provide a pack of information that is updated by each owner of the property and then provided to the new buyer at the start of the conveyancing process. The rationale behind this is that it would help avoid abortive transactions and therefore wasted costs for all parties – as the information is ready and available from the outset and not some horrible discovery later down the line. This approach is supported by the Conveyancing Association.You could compare the idea of a property logbook to the logbook of a car – which would work in theory. However, unlike with cars, residential homebuyers tend not to be repeat customers, with many people only moving once or twice in their lifetime. This would mean that you have homebuyers with limited knowledge of the conveyancing process being responsible for compiling the information they keep up to date in their own logbook. I would ask whether this is realistic or even possible? Particularly, as something that is a major issue and of real significance to one buyer could be a very minor detail to another. Equally, will property developers and homebuilders be required to produce hundreds of these logbooks when a new development is produced? Or would a central logbook for the development be sufficient, with each individual owner becoming responsible for the logbook to their flat when they come to sell?If this logbook is something that is going to become mandatory, it is going to require a lot more thought and a lot of support and guidance to make it effective in the long run.

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High Court grants retrospective permission allowing use of disclosed documents to obtain US legal advice

Earlier this year, Collyer Bristow reported on a Commercial Court decision [1] in which The ECU Group Plc (“ECU”) was granted pre-action disclosure of various documents relating to suspected “front-running” by HSBC (“the Disclosed Documents”). In an interesting turn of …

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The easiest way to avoid shareholder disputes

A shareholders’ agreement is a contract entered into between some or all of the shareholders in a company. A shareholders’ agreement regulates the relationship between the shareholders – they are most often used to give protection to the shareholders’ investments …

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What are the implications of renting out your driveway?

Associate Mandeep Mattu from our Real Estate team advises what you need to keep in mind if you want to rent out you driveway. Click here to read the article, first featured in Financial Times on 16 Nov 2018.

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Why giving money to UKIP might give you a large tax bill

Aaron Banks attempted to use the European Convention on Human Rights to argue that HMRC was wrong to charge £163,000 in inheritance tax on certain donations he made to UKIP. Putting to one side the irony of a major backer of UKIP and Brexit using the ECHR to obtain a favourable tax position, the case brings up an interesting facet of the exemption from inheritance tax for donations to political parties. When an individual makes a gift, that gift will be chargeable to inheritance tax unless it benefits from a relief or exemption, for example the gift may fall within an individual’s annual exemption of £3,000 or their nil rate band, currently £325,000. There are several well-known exemptions, such as for gifts to spouses or to charities, however gifts to political parties may also benefit from a complete exemption for inheritance tax.In order for the donor to benefit, the recipient must pass the statutory test for a “qualifying political party”. This test is that, at the last general election prior to the donation, the party either had (1) two MPs elected to the House of Commons, or (2) one MP elected and the party received at least 150,000 votes nationally. At the time of the donation the party did indeed have two MPs, but these were both elected in by-elections following the 2010 general election. This means that UKIP did not satisfy the test and therefore the donation failed.Putting to one side the argument of whether it is correct that a political party should not qualify despite receiving almost 1,000,000 votes at that election, it is not for the First Tier Tribunal to override statute. It is a matter for Parliament to decide whether to update this law and therefore the Tribunal had no option but to side with HMRC.For what it is worth, based on the election data in 2010 Mr Banks could have benefited from the exemption had he given his donation instead to the SNP, the Green Party, Sinn Fein, the DUP or Plaid Cymru, all of whom satisfied one of the two tests for qualifying political parties despite receiving fewer votes overall than UKIP.

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The new Electronic Communications Code – round 1 goes to the Operators

The decision of the Upper Tribunal in Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited v the University of London (2018) permitted the operator to access, inspect and survey the landowner’s premises as a substantive right under paragraph 3(a) or 3(d) of the Electronic …

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Downsizing? You may have no choice.

Now is the time to invest in companies that make small furniture! The City of Westminster in the City Plan 2019- 2040 has suggested that new developments and conversions will (unless necessary to protect a heritage asset) not be allowed to provide units of greater than 150 sq m (1,615 sq ft) to ensure developments provide the number of homes required over the coming years in the area.Whilst this is above the nationally described space standards by a whole 12 sq m (129 sq ft), for a family home, this would hardly be palatial. The City of Westminster has pointed out that it is also 50% larger than the average size of a private market tenure home in Westminster, although presumably this figure includes the large number of pied-à-terres in the area.Without doubt something needs to be done to ensure there are enough decent quality properties at the correct price, however how many ‘average’ buyers could afford even a modestly sized property in Westminster, and will this solve the problem?  This does seem like another situation where wealthy foreign buyers are being blamed for a property market that just simply doesn’t allow for affordable homes as everyone on the property ladder wants to pull the ladder up behind them and make money on their own home. Realistically, how many first-time buyers are pushed out of the market by each mansion built in prime residential London?Whilst it has less than most boroughs, Westminster still has brownfield sites suitable for redevelopment, which I would argue would be a good place to start to create a stock of new, and hopefully decently sized, properties.The plans are open to consultation so watch this (lack of) space!

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