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HMRC internal manual

National Insurance Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Special cases - property letting: business for Class 2 National Insurance Contributions

Section 2(1)(b) SSCBA 1992

A self-employed earner is defined at section 2(1)(b) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 as: ““self-employed earner” means a person who is gainfully employed in Great Britain otherwise than in employed earners employment (whether or not he is also employed in such employment).”

A person who is liable to Income Tax on the profits of a trade, profession, or vocation will generally also be a self-employed earner for National Insurance Contributions (NICs) purposes. As a self-employed earner, they will be liable to pay Class 2 NICs.

However, a person who is liable to Income Tax on the profits arising from the receipt of property rental income will only be a self-employed earner for NICs purposes if the level of activities carried out amounts to running a business.

The nature of property letting requires some activity to maintain the investment, but that is not enough to make it a business. For example, being a landlord normally involves:

  • undertaking or arranging for external and internal repairs
  • preparing the property between lets
  • advertising for tenants and arranging tenancy agreements
  • generally maintaining common areas in multi-occupancy properties; or
  • collecting rents.

In order for a property owner to be a self-employed earner, their property management activities must extend beyond those generally associated with being a landlord (which include, but are not limited to, the above).

For example, ownership of multiple properties, actively looking to acquire further properties to let, and the letting of property being the property owner’s main occupation could be pointers towards there being a business for NICs purposes.

A landlord will also be a self-employed earner if any of their activities amount to a trade for Income Tax purposes. This could include, for example, receiving income from other services such as providing a bank of washing machines in a multi-occupancy block that is rented to tenants, or providing an ironing service to tenants. Running a guest house or hotel will also usually amount to a trade for Income Tax purposes, so an individual proprietor will be a self-employed earner for NICs purposes.

If a property owner has an agent who manages their property for them, things that the agent does should be attributed to the owner. ‘Agent’ includes a friend or family member, as well as a professional managing agent. However, a property owner will only be a self-employed earner on this basis if the things that the agent does for them (ignoring any other clients they might have) are enough to count as a business or trade.

Examples

Samantha lets out a property that she inherited following the death of her great aunt. This will not constitute a business.

Bob owns ten properties which are let out to students. He works full time as a landlord and is continually seeking to increase the number of properties he owns for letting. Bob is running a business for NICs purposes.

Claire owns multiple properties that are let. She spends around half her working time carrying out duties as a landlord and is not looking to increase the number of properties she owns. If the only duties that Claire undertakes are those normally associated with being a landlord, then this would not constitute a business.

Hasan purchases properties using “buy to let” mortgages. He places all letting duties in the hands of a property letting agent who acts as landlord on his behalf. If the only duties that the property letting agent undertakes for Hasan are those normally associated with being a landlord, then this would not constitute a business.