Using a SIPP to invest in commercial property is perfectly possible and many business owners include their business premises in their pension pot, say Tom Entwistle.

The Self-invested Personal Pension (SIPP) rules are quite complex so you need professional advice before embarking on this path – don’t take this article as being comprehensive advice on this matter.

However, the SIPP rules are designed to give you more control over your pension fund’s management and within the rules the investments you chose yourself can be included. That includes individual stocks, investment funds and commercial property.

This article gives a general overview of what you need to be aware of when considering buying or transferring a commercial property into a SIPP as a first step.

Can I include commercial property in my SIPP?

Yes, you can do this but not in every SIPP. There are different types of SIPP offering different levels of flexibility. They tend to fall into two categories which are commonly referred to as Low-Cost SIPPs and Full SIPPs.

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Low-Cost SIPPs normally allow only managed investment funds to be included but do not allow the inclusion of specific investment assets such as commercial property.

If you invest in commercial property through your SIPP, or transfer your business premises into the SIPP, you will no longer own the property personally, rather like when in a limited company owns it.  Now not you personally but your pension fund will benefit from the income and any rise in its value.

Buying a commercial property for your SIPP also means that you can take out a mortgage to buy and borrow up to 50% of your SIPPs value, from a mortgage lender such as a bank or building society. It’s also possible for a group of people to combine the funds held in their SIPPs to jointly buy a large commercial.

You can also transfer any existing commercial property you already own into your SIPP, essentially making the asset as a pension contribution instead of a cash lump sum. The value of the property asset will then be subject to tax relief on the transfer, as would the cash.

Market rent

It’s important to be aware that if your business premises are transferred into and now owned by your SIPP, you will need to pay a market rent to the SIPP for occupying what were previously your own premises.

You must also now comply with all the terms in your lease to the SIPP, such as getting permission to make alternations, as you would if you had a conventional landlord.

The other important thing to bear in mind is that if much of your SIPP value includes the commercial premises, this could restrict your SIPP’s ability to provide the cash-flow pension income that you desire when you retire.

It is possible to buy a wide range of commercial properties using a SIPP including foreign investments. The property can be one you already own and use for your own business operations, or one you buy as an investment. The main requirement is that its purpose is commercial, and the property is free to be occupied at a commercial rent.

Generally, it is not possible to have a commercial property with any residential element in your SIPP, but there are some exemptions on this such as a live-in employees not being a family member, such as a caretaker, warden, concierge or key staff.

Key advantages

The key advantages of investing in the SIPP are the potential capital appreciation of the property asset over time increasing your pension pot’s value, and the rental income which is tax exempt. The rental income must always exceed any mortgage payments involved if you have borrowed to buy the property.

The SIPP rules allow you to increase the value of a commercial property within the SIPP by carrying out development works.

There are some obvious tax advantages in buying or transferring a commercial property into a SIPP, including:

  • Your own rent is still a tax-deductible business expense
  • There is no capital gains tax to pay when you sell
  • Proceeds of the sale of the asset when sold go into your pension pot
  • The property is kept outside your estate for tax purposes
  • Inheritance tax may not apply
  • The property asset is protected, similar to limited company liability, should your business fail or you are made bankrupt personally.

Like any other investment, if your commercial property is an investment in your SIPP you at the risk of the market and you rely on your tenant to continue to paying rent. There could be long void periods and commercial property investments are illiquid, meaning they are often difficult and slow to sell.

SIPP commercial property investments and holdings are subject to strict HMRC rules and regulations. It is therefore very important to speak to an expert, preferably a Chartered Financial Planner, before embarking on this path.

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