Are Special Purpose Vehicles a Tax Efficient Way to Buy Investment Property?

Are Special Purpose Vehicles a Tax Efficient Way to Buy Investment Property?

A SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) is a type of limited company that is set up for a specific purpose.

The term SPV in the mortgage industry is the term for a limited company specifically set up to buy and rent properties.

In this article, we explore whether SPV's are a tax efficient way for seafarers to buy investment property.

Read on to find out more or click a menu link below to skip to a chapter that interests you.


  1. Why Are SPV’s Used by Property Developers?
  2. Why Do Lenders Prefer SPV’s to Trading Limited Companies?
  3. Setting Up An SPV
  4. What Is A SIC Code?
  5. Advantages of SPV Companies
  6. Disadvantages of SPV Companies
  7. Working Example For Seafarers
  8. Working Example of Capital Gains Tax for Seafarers

Why Are SPV’s Used by Property Developers?

There are two ways of owning buy-to-let property: using your personal name, or through a limited company.

One of the primary reasons for the growth in limited companies being registered for buy-to-let purposes is the tax treatment.

Instead of paying income tax as an individual, a limited company pays corporation tax.

Changes to buy-to-let tax relief in 2016 were phased in during 2017.

In the past, higher rate taxpayers were able to effectively claim mortgage interest payments as an expense and thereby reduce their tax bill.

That is no longer possible to the same extent.

If you are a higher rate tax payer you will be negatively affected by this change, so some landlords have used different strategies to reduce their tax bills - from increasing rents, to setting up companies.

If you own a property in your personal name and you rent it to a tenant, you pay tax on any profit you make from the rental income that is not covered by your personal allowance.

This is set at £12,500 for the 2020/21 tax year.

The amount of tax that you pay depends on which tax band you fall into.

If the property is owned through an SPV, the rental profits will be subjected to corporation tax, currently at 19%.

The personal allowance of £12,500 will not be usable, however you can claim the financial expenses that relate to the business, which is another benefit of a SPV.

The tax benefits of owning a property through an SPV can be significant particularly if you are a higher rate (40%) or additional rate (45%) tax payer.

Why Do Lenders Prefer SPV’s to Trading Limited Companies?

Where property developers want to obtain finance for their projects, an SPV is normally used as it is a company that can be used on one project only and therefore represents fewer risks and liabilities for the lenders.

Lenders prefer SPVs to trading limited companies because they are easier and quicker to understand and underwrite.

Lenders also tend to relax the stress testing when it comes to rental calculations, allowing the borrower to maximise the borrowing.

Setting Up An SPV

Setting up a SPV is no different to setting up any other company.

A SPV is treated as a separate legal entity and has to be registered with a specific SIC code under Companies House.

What Is A SIC Code?

The Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities (SIC) is used to classify business establishments by the type of economic activity in which they are engaged.

You will need a SIC code when filing the SPV’s Annual Return with Companies House.

The SIC codes you would need to choose from are:

  • • 68100 - Buying and selling of own estate
  • • 68201 - Renting and operating of housing association real estate
  • • 68202 - Letting and operation of conference and exhibition centres
  • • 68209 - Other letting and operating of own or leased real estate
  • • 68310 - Real estate agencies
  • • 68320 - Management of real estate on a fee or contract basis

Advantages of SPV Companies

There are other advantages to purchasing a property through a SPV company such as:

  1. You can reduce your potential Income Tax liability as you are able to control how much income is taken out of the company, or you can leave it in the SPV if it is not needed.
  2. It is possible to grow your buy-to-let portfolio quickly through a SPV limited company as there is no Income Tax due on the retained profit, giving you more capital to re-invest.
  3. You can use the same SPV company for multiple properties. This allows you to build a portfolio within one entity, reducing admin and ongoing costs.
  4. As the company owns the property it is relatively easy to change the shareholders. This is very useful if you plan to gift property to a family member. It could help the beneficiaries save money on Inheritance Tax, all you need to do is add the beneficiaries as shareholders. Although some lenders cap the number of shareholders/directors in a SPV, usually to 2.
  5. The Interest relief restriction is not applied to SPV’s, which is the biggest reason for the rise in the SPV popularity. This is where individuals are restricted at 20% relief on interest payments (e.g interest element of mortgage payments). This only affect’s individuals whose income is charged at the higher/additional rate of tax, or whose rental income will take them into this band. Seafarers are rarely affected as rental income profit would need to be £50,000 before any negative impact of this restriction is seen!

Disadvantages of SPV Companies

There are also a few disadvantages to SPV’s to consider such as:

  1. There is currently only one lender in the market place that will consider seafarer's paid in a foreign currency, and they are much harder to obtain than a normal buy to let mortgage. Loan to Value’s are capped at 70% (so you will need a 30% deposit vs 25% under a Buy to let in your own name) and the underwriter will want to know detailed information about your time spent in the UK and abroad. It is then up to them to decide on each individual case and if they are happy to lend to you based on your individual circumstances. As there is no 'set' definition of required time spent in the UK, the outcome of the application is harder to call, and entirely at the discretion of the underwriter.
  2. SPV limited company buy-to-let mortgages cost more than normal buy-to-let mortgages. This is because interest rates are often higher and lenders charge a higher set up fee to cover the additional paperwork. For example at present the cheapest SPV mortgage rate is 2.84% with a £1995 set up fee vs 2.34% and no set up fee on a buy to let mortgage.
  3. The personal financial history of the company director(s) will be taken in to account, and lenders require the director(s) to personally guarantee the debt. The directors have to have good credit scores.
  4. If you want to transfer existing properties into the company you could be liable to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax, Legal Costs, Higher Rate Tax brackets and potentially Capital Gains Tax, as it is treated as a sale of property.
  5. When a company sells a property there is no Capital Gains Allowance, whereas an individual selling a property would have a £12,300 tax-free allowance (2020/21). If the property is owned jointly then each individual can offset their allowance, giving a total of £24,600 to offset before paying tax.
  6. If you want to draw all the rental profits as income, Corporation Tax is applicable at 19% and then the director will pay either 7.5% (basic rate), 32.5% (higher rate) or 38.1% (additional rate) Dividend Tax. The current dividend tax free amount is £2,000. As the majority of seafarers will fall under the basic tax rate category of 20% you may end up paying more tax under the SPV structure. (depending on the size of the portfolio).
  7. As seafarers can deduct all of their eligible seafarer income before calculating any tax due, this means they can offset all of their personal allowance against any rental profit (£12,500 in 2020/21) made. If a loss is incurred they can roll this over to the next year to offset against any future profits. You do not have this personal allowance in an SPV.
  8. Reduced lender choice as there are not many lenders who offer SPV limited company buy-to-let mortgages.
  9. The lenders that do offer these mortgages often have strict criteria, i.e must already be an experienced landlord, own your own home, be paid in sterling etc. It is crucial to find the right lender to fit your circumstances.

Working Example For Seafarers

Investment Property Purchased In Individual's Name:

Seafarer Income: £75,000
Less Allowable Expenses: (£75,000)
Taxable Income: £0
Rental Income: £20,000
Taxable Income: £20,000
Less Personal Allowance: (£12,500)
Tax Liability (£7,500 @ 20%): £1,500
Less Relief on Mortgage Interest (£2,400 @ 20%): (£480)
Tax Liability: £1,020

Investment Property Purchased Through SPV:

Rental Income: £20,000
Less Mortgage Interest: £2,400
Taxable Profit: £17,600
Corporation Tax Liability (£17,600 @ 19%) £3344

*If you then want to draw income from the rental profit this would be paid and taxed through dividends.

As you can see from the example, seafarers paying basic rate tax would pay less tax via the normal buy to let route.

Working Example of Capital Gains Tax for Seafarers

Investment Property Purchased In Individual's Name:

House Sale: £100,000
Less Purchase Cost: (£50,000)
Buying/Selling Costs: (£5000)
Chargeable Gain: £45,000
Less CGT Allowance: (£12,300)
CGT Tax Liability (@18%): £5886

*Charged at 18% up to gain of £37,500, anything gained over this is charged at 28% tax.

Investment Property Purchased Through SPV:

House Sale: £100,000
Less Purchase Cost: (£50,000)
Buying/Selling Costs: (£5000)
Chargeable Gain: £45,000
CGT Tax Liability (@19%): £8550

As you can see from the example, seafarers paying basic rate tax would pay less capital gains tax via the normal buy to let route.

Whether you opt to own your rental property on a personal or limited company basis, it’s advantageous to make your decision at the outset.

This is because restructuring your business later on can attract additional costs in transferring the ownership of properties from personal to company ownership (or vice versa) in terms of both legal fees and tax liabilities.

If you opt to set up a SPV you need to be aware that there will be administrative work involved such as the filing end of year accounts and annual statements with Companies House.

Our sister company Marine Accounts Consultancy can provide this service should you need assistance.

If you would like to discuss your mortgage options get in touch with us to arrange a consultation.

IMPORTANT: Mortgages for Yacht Crew does not provide advice in relation to savings and investments. This article is intended for discussion only and does not propose financial advice in any way, and therefore should not be construed as such. Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up with mortgage repayments.