Clause 15 - Real Estate Investment Trusts

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 14 December 2021.

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Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 10:00, 14 December 2021

Clause 15 makes targeted changes to the tax rules for real estate investment trusts. These changes alleviate certain constraints and administrative burdens to enhance the attractiveness of the UK’s real estate investment trust regime for real estate investment.

A real estate investment trust, or REIT, is a collective vehicle that allows investors to obtain broadly similar returns from an investment in property as they would have had had they invested directly, through a specific set of tax rules. This regime has proved popular since its introduction in 2006, with around 100 UK REITs currently established. However, recent consultations issued as part of the Government’s review of the UK funds regime have identified a number of areas where the REIT regime could be reformed to remove unnecessary barriers and make it more competitive. The Government are now acting to amend these areas of their regime to make the UK a more attractive location for holding real estate assets.

The changes to the REITs tax rules will reform a number of areas. They will remove some administrative and cost burdens for existing UK REITs and remove some barriers to entry, widening the scope of businesses able to elect to be a UK REIT. In particular, the changes will remove the requirement for REIT shares to be admitted to trading on a recognised stock exchange where institutional investors hold at least 70% of the ordinary share capital. They will amend the definition of an overseas equivalent of a UK REIT to allow it to be met by companies and jurisdictions without an equivalent regime and remove the “holder of excessive rights” charge, where property income distributions are paid to investors entitled to receive them without deduction of withholding tax.

Finally, the changes will introduce a new, simplified balance of business test, which are the rules requiring that at least 75% of the rights, profits and assets relate to the property rental business, and exclude certain activities relating to the planning obligations from the test.

The targeted changes introduced by the clause and schedule will make the existing REITs regime more attractive, consistent with the Government’s objective for the review of the UK funds regime. The changes will come into force on 1 April 2022.