Capital Gains Tax and the Expat Property Owner

Guest post by Lorraine Chekir, Spectrum IFA Group

You have realized your dream, bought a property in France, perhaps as a holiday home to start with but now you have moved here, maybe to work, or perhaps you have retired.  The big question is what to do with your property or properties in the UK.

When moving to a new country many people are a little nervous about letting go of their old one, rightly so after all holidaying is one thing, but living in a foreign country quite another.  So often people keep their property in the UK, for a while at least, however this can have Capital Gains Tax (CGT) implications on a future sale.

A tax treaty signed between France and the UK which became operative on 1st January 2010, meaning that for former UK residents now resident in France, they are liable for french CGT on the future sale of any property including your former main residence.  However no liability will apply in the UK.

Main Residence

If you sell your UK home when you move to France or within a relatively short space of time (usually within a year) then no CGT will be payable in either France or the UK.  If however, you hold into it for a while ( then or rent it out) then you will pay CGT on it in France just like any other maison secondaire, with no allowance being made for the fact that it was your main home for a period of time.

Buy to let

If you sell your UK buy to let property when you move to France rather than at a later date then you will pay UK CGT.  To work out how much tax you will have to pay, take the selling price of the property, then deduct the buying price.  You can deduct the costs of buying and selling, e.g. solicitor’s fees, stamp duty, estate agents fees, advertising etc.  You can also deduct the cost of improvements to the property but not routine maintenance and repairs.  There is also an annual exemption allowance (£11,000 for 2014/2015 tax year).  CGT rates are 18% or 28% for higher rate tax payers.  HMRC website provides a step by step guide.

Any buy to let properties that you own in the UK and subsequently sell after you become a french resident will be liable to French CGT.

Ownership

An important point to note,  if you are married, but your UK property is only in one person’s name, it may be sensible to transfer the property into joint names prior to any sale to reduce any potential UK CGT liability.  There is no CGT payable between spouses/civil partners and the CGT calculation on sale will be based on the original purchase price for both parties.

In France Gift Tax applies between spouses and applies to gifts made in the previous 15 years so it is sensible to take advice from a professional before taking any action.

French CGT

Like UK CGT, you start with the sale price and deduct the purchase price plus any associated buying and selling costs and costs of improvements (but not repairs or DIY, invoices need to be provided from registered builders etc).  If you have owned the property for more than five years the notaire can apply an allowance of 15% of the original purchase price of the property – even if you haven’t done any work!

For EEA residents the starting rate for french CGT is 19% plus 15.5% social charges however these start to reduce on a sliding scale from year 6 of ownership onwards.  After a full 22 years have passed the CGT reduces to nil, however it is 30 years before the social charges reduce to nil.  Additional charges apply for gains above 50,000 euros.

Working out when, where and how much Capital Gains Tax you should be paying can be quite a headache and the best thing to do is take advice from a professional.

This article is for information only and should not be considered as advice and is based on current legislation.  25/05/2014.

Lorraine Chekir DipFA is a financial planner to the English speaking expatriate community. She is based on the Cote D’Azur and is a member the Spectrum IFA Group. She can be reached on +33 6 42432054, by e-mail  lorraine.checkir@spectrum-ifa.com  or www.spectrum-ifa.com/lorrainechekir