Wrong name on the deeds?

My husband and I have just sold our buy-to-let property. We bought this many years ago in my name only, as it was easier for me to get a mortgage at that time, although the deposit money came from our joint savings. Now we have sold it, at a substantial gain. I am a higher rate tax payer and my husband has no other income/gains in the year. I have realised that for Capital Gains Tax purposes, it would have been much better to have had the property in joint names – is there anything we can do?

The legal owner of an asset is not necessarily the beneficial owner. It is beneficial ownership (not legal ownership) which a Capital Gains Tax liability principally follows. To reduce your tax bill, you would need to be able to argue that the house was beneficially jointly owned, irrespective of what the deeds may have said.
The taxman will generally assume that if one spouse paid for an asset and is the sole legal owner, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that they are also the beneficial owner.
But following a recent tax case on this subject, HMRC have confirmed that they will take a number of factors into consideration when determining beneficial ownership.

These factors are as follows

• Legal title, ie whose name is on the deeds?
• Occupation of the property
• Receipt of any rental income, was it paid into a joint account and enjoyed by you both?
• Provision of funds to purchase the property
• Receipt of sale proceeds on disposal – was it paid into a joint account, or have you divided it equally?

No single one of these factors should be considered in isolation, and each case must be considered on the facts. HMRC would also look at background information, so if you and your husband hold all other assets jointly then this would also be a helpful factor.
Keeping good records and evidence will therefore be important, particularly in cases where beneficial ownership is unclear.