A new allowance scheme designed to help developers renovate empty business premises in disadvantaged areas is being used as a loophole to avoid tax, the Treasury has said.
Exchequer Secretary David Gauke said there was evidence the Business Premises Renovation Allowances (BPRA) scheme was being exploited for tax avoidance.
%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%The scheme provides 100% capital allowances for the capital costs of converting or renovating empty business properties in certain disadvantaged areas of the UK where the property has been empty for at least a year.
But in a written ministerial statement, Mr Gauke said HM Revenue and Customs had discovered the scheme was being exploited.
He said there was evidence most of the projects using the scheme were "seriously flawed", telling MPs the taxman would now investigate anyone using them. There would also be a review before new legislation was introduced next year to tighten up the scheme, he said.
Mr Gauke told MPs: "The Government remains committed to the objectives of BPRA, which is to foster the regeneration of deprived areas, by helping to increase private investment, enterprise and employment in deprived communities.
"HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has, however, brought to the Government's attention a recent increase in DOTAS (Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes) disclosures, involving BPRA, which appear to contain features aimed at exploiting the relief in ways that Parliament had not intended.
"The Government is fully committed to tackling tax avoidance to ensure the Exchequer is protected and fairness is maintained for the taxpayer.
"The Government has, therefore, authorised HMRC to conduct a technical review of the BPRA legislation, with a view to making its policy purpose even clearer, so that the scheme may be made simpler and more certain in its application, at the same time reducing the risks of exploitation.
"HMRC will shortly be publishing this technical review, along with an associated Spotlight article to alert people to the fact that almost all of the disclosed BPRA schemes appear to be seriously flawed and that HMRC will investigate anyone using them."
10 top ways to add value to your home
Renovation scheme 'tax loophole'
Of course with all these things, the value it adds depends on the property you have to start with, and the kinds of improvements you make, but Which? estimates the cost of a new kitchen at £8,000 and HSBC calculates the added value to your property at £4,500 - which is a clear loss.
This has been done by 41% of people in the last three years, and 29% of people plan it in the next three. It's cheaper than a kitchen, and Which? estimates the cost at £3,000. This is roughly the same value that HSBC says it will add to your property - so you'll break-even.
It may be difficult, but getting your property ready for sale means depersonalising it.
Clutter can distract viewers and more than half (60%) of the property valuers who took part in the 2012 HSBC Home Improvement Survey said that the number one way to increase a property's chance of selling quickly, and for a good price, was to de-clutter.
This has been installed by 31% of us in the last three years, and 15% plan it in the next three. Installing central heating is a disruptive job, and according to WhatPrice it will cost you around £3,235. However, this is the first of the top ten to actually pay off. Property expert Phil Spencer says it will add £5,000 to the value.
A quick splash of paint can work wonders on tired-looking walls, and sticking to neutral tones is the safest bet.
Keeping the colour scheme simple, fresh and inviting will help potential buyers to see themselves living in your home.
Some 18% have added one in the last three years, and 30% will in the next three. This is another huge job, but with more people struggling to move and deciding to improve instead, it's increasingly popular. The amount it costs will depend on an enormous number of things, from the area you have to work with, to the size of the extension. However, assuming you add a single room you could spend around £20,000. HSBC estimates it will add around £15,500 to the value of the property, so you are unlikely to gain as much as you spend.
According to Halifax valuers, loft conversions - which require lofts with a roof height of at least 2.4 metres - are a good way to increase the potential sale price of your home.
Be sure to stick to your budget, though. The average loft conversion will cost between £10,000 and £30,000, while HSBC's figures show that they typically add £20,876 to the value of a property.
Putting in new windows adds around £5,265 to the value of the average property and can reap big rewards when it comes to energy efficiency.
It is, however, sensible to ensure that your new windows are in line with the style of your property to maximise the added value - particularly as putting them in can set you back about £5,000.
Off road parking or a garage can be especially advantageous in areas where parked cars line both sides on the street.
Nationwide's figures show that adding a garage, which can cost anything between £8,000 and £25,000, can increase the value of your property by 11%.
Outside space is just as important as inside - especially when people are seeing your home for the first time.
While 63% of the HSBC survey expert respondents said that repainting or varnishing a front door would make a difference, only 23% of homeowners recognised this. Peter Dockar at HSBC said: "It is often the smaller jobs like painting the front door that can make all the difference when looking for a sale."