The tax treatment of businesses which involve the letting of property is not consistent across all taxes and tax reliefs. It’s not logical, but just because the letting business qualifies for one tax relief it will not necessarily qualify for an apparently similar tax relief.
For example if you have a property letting enterprise which you wish to transfer into a company in return for shares in the company, a capital gain will arise in your hands when you transfer the properties to the company. This gain can be rolled into the value of shares of the company if the property enterprise is deemed to be a ‘business’. This relief is known as incorporation relief, but it will only apply if the business owner is more than just a passive property investor. The courts have decided that the business must have some substance in terms of turnover, be conducted on sound business principles with a view to a profit, and be activity pursued with reasonable continuity.
The holding of let properties is considered to be a ‘business’ for the inheritance tax, but it is excluded from the IHT relief called business property relief (BPR), as letting is considered to be mainly the holding of investments (i.e. the let properties). In order to qualify for BPR the business owner has to offer the tenants additional services which would generally only be available in a holiday letting business, bed and breakfast, or hotel business. Even then the owners of self-catering holiday cottages have to jump through some hoops to get the letting business to qualify for BPR.
Losses made in a property letting business cannot be set against profits or income from other sources, such as other trading businesses, interest or dividends.