Tribunal case highlights challenges of proving Principal Private Residence relief in UK tax law

Citation: [2024] UKFTT 53 (TC)
Judgment on

Introduction

The First-tier Tribunal Tax Chamber case of Sabbir Patwary v The Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs revisits the perennial issue of Principal Private Residence relief (PPR) under UK tax law. The dispute arose following HMRC’s issuance of a closure notice disallowing PPR for the year ended 5 April 2016, after Mr. Patwary sold a property at 19 Emmott Close, London. The key legal question was whether the property had been Mr. Patwary’s only or main residence during his period of ownership.

Key Facts

Mr. Patwary contended that between April 2010 and October 2013, he resided at Emmott Close with his then-girlfriend, now ex-wife, and a tenant. Subsequently, the property was let until its sale on 26 February 2016. Mr. Patwary presented various items as evidence of his residency, despite failing to notify various institutions of a change of address. HMRC challenged the validity of his PPR claim, and, as lettings relief was not contested due to an absence of pleadings on the matter, the focus was strictly on PPR.

PPR relief, governed by s222 of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992, requires a taxpayer to demonstrate that a property disposed of was their only or main residence at any time during ownership. The leading case cited was Goodwin v Curtis, which sets a precedent that for a property to be considered a main residence for PPR relief, there must be evidence of “some degree of permanence, some degree of continuity or some expectation of continuity”.

The Tribunal acknowledged Mr. Patwary bore the burden of proof to show that HMRC’s assessment was incorrect. This entailed demonstrating a genuine, continuous residence at the property in question, with an expectation of permanence.

Outcomes

After reviewing the submitted evidence and the appellant’s testimony, the Tribunal found that Mr. Patwary failed to meet his burden of proof. The documentary evidence presented related predominantly to ownership rather than evidence of residency, and no corroborative testimony from others who could attest to his occupancy was provided. The absence of proof of residency in the form of official records such as council tax bills or voter registration, combined with HMRC’s arguments that any residence was temporary, convinced the Tribunal that the conditions for PPR relief were not met.

Ultimately, the Tribunal dismissed the appeal, maintaining HMRC’s closure notice and the tax liability amounting to £43,199.80.

Conclusion

The case reaffirms the strict requirements for establishing a property as a principal private residence for tax relief purposes. The decision highlights the importance of producing cogent and substantial evidence to support claims of residency that align with legal standards as set out in existing case law, specifically the elements of permanence and continuity. This outcome serves as a cautionary example for taxpayers in ensuring their residential status is well-documented, and to legal professionals advising clients on the intricacies of capital gains tax reliefs related to property disposal.

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