When a taxpayer purchases a newly constructed property, he may put down a deposit to reserve the property before it is finished, or even started. This is referred to as buying “off-plan”.
The contract to purchase the property is normally not completed until the property is finished, and at that time the balance of the purchase price must be paid. If the taxpayer can’t pay the balance when requested, he loses the right to complete the contract and acquire the property.
This is what happened to Mr Hardy, who paid a deposit of £72,000 for an apartment in central London, but due to cash-flow problems could not raise the balance of the purchase price when required. He claimed that his lost deposit was a capital loss.
The First-Tier and the Upper-Tier tax tribunals disagreed. Hardy did not acquire an asset when he paid his deposit, and neither did he acquire a contractual right as the contract did not permit him to assign his right to buy the property. His real loss was thus a tax nothing.
However, HMRC do have their cake and eat it on this issue when the taxpayer is a non-resident buying a residential property. In that case, if the taxpayer does dispose of his right to buy the property off-plan, that disposal is subject to non-resident CGT. Also, the start date for any apportionment of a residential period starts from the acquisition of the off-plan right, not from the completion of the property.
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