England and Northern Ireland
On 8 July 2020, the Chancellor announced a temporary cut in stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on residential properties. For transactions with an effective date between 8 July 2020 and 31 March 2021 inclusive, the zero-rate band will be increased from £125,000 to £500,000. The change has now been given effect by the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Act 2020.
For purchases (and lease premiums) during the period of the temporary cut, the rate of SDLT on each band of consideration is therefore as follows:
|Main rate||Higher rate (additional properties)|
|Up to £500,000||0%||3%|
|Remaining amount over £1,500,000||12%||15%|
The nil rate band that applies to the ‘net present value’ of any rents payable for residential property is also increased to £500,000 from 8 July 2020 until 31 March 2021. The rate is 1% for the part of the net present value in excess of £500,000.
While the temporary cut in rates applies, the special rules for first-time buyers do not apply.
Companies buying residential property worth less than £500,000 will also benefit from the temporary cut in rates, as will companies that buy residential property of any value where they meet the relief conditions from the corporate 15% SDLT charge.
The temporary cut in rates applies only where the property is in England or Northern Ireland. Transactions on or after 1 April 2021 will be chargeable at the rates that applied before 8 July 2020. Transactions involving non-residential or mixed-use properties are unaffected by the cut.
No changes to the process for SDLT on land transactions in England and Northern Ireland have been announced. HMRC has, however, announced revised procedures for rare cases where stamp duty, rather than SDLT, is payable in relation to transfers of land where the contract was entered into before 10 July 2003 but completion was after 1 December 2003. The revised procedures are similar to those for stamp duty on stocks and shares.
Refunds of higher rates of SDLT on additional dwellings: exceptional circumstances
On 3 June 2020, the Government announced a change to the rules allowing refunds of the 3% higher rates of SDLT that apply to purchases of additional dwellings. Under the existing rules, a refund can be claimed where the new property replaces the taxpayer’s main residence and the previous main residence is sold within three years after the purchase of the new residence.
Where the new residence was purchased on or after 1 January 2017, a taxpayer will still be able to obtain a refund if HMRC is satisfied that they were unable to sell the previous residence within the three years for reasons outside their control (‘exceptional circumstances’). Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) preventing the sale or an action taken by a public authority preventing the sale, such as the Government guidance not to market properties in the period 26 March to 13 May 2020. The taxpayer must sell the former residence as soon as possible after the exceptional circumstances no longer apply.
The Government has now added a new clause to the 2020 Finance Bill to give effect to the new rules.
For the information required to support a repayment request and for the form to complete, see the GOV.UK website.
On 9 July 2020, the Scottish Government announced that the nil rate band for LBTT on residential property will be temporarily increased from £145,000 to £250,000. The change applies to transactions with an effective date on or after 15 July 2020 and before 1 April 2021 and is given effect by SSI 2020/215.
Rates for the additional dwelling supplement and non-residential properties will remain unchanged.
Revenue Scotland has announced that, with effect from 1 May 2020, all LBTT returns (conveyance, lease or lease review) must be submitted online using SETS (the Scottish Electronic Tax System). Paper returns will no longer be accepted.
Taxpayers making a lease review return themselves can, however, continue to use the existing online process. Returns for lease transactions with more than one tenant must be completed using an online return form and emailed to Revenue Scotland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paper returns or lease reviews submitted before 1 May 2020 and received on or after 24 March 2020 are subject to a delay in being input into SETS.
Payments to Revenue Scotland made from 1 May 2020 onwards must be made by BACS or direct debit. Cheques dated 1 May onwards will be rejected, but subject to delay. Cheques dated 30 April or earlier and received by Revenue Scotland on or after 24 March 2020 will be processed, but again subject to delay.
Paper claims that have been made for repayment of additional dwelling supplement are also subject to delay in processing and repayment. Agents should make new claims by amending the original return in SETS if they submitted that return and the claim is being made within 12 months of the filing date. In all other cases, claims must be made using the online claims process. This replaces the temporary online claim form, which had to be emailed to Revenue Scotland at email@example.com.
The Revenue Scotland support desk reopened on 1 July 2020. The telephone number is 03000 200 310. The support desk is open Monday to Friday from 10.00―12.00 and 14.00―16.00. Agents with a query who have access to SETS can contact Revenue Scotland using the online secure message service. Otherwise, queries can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Refunds of additional dwelling supplement: extension of period for disposing of dwelling
The time period during which a previous main residence must be sold in order for a refund of additional dwelling supplement to be made has been temporarily extended by Coronavirus (Scotland) (No 2) Act 2020, Sch 4 para 6. Where the effective date of the purchase of the new residence is between 24 September 2018 and 24 March 2020 inclusive, the period is extended from 18 months to 36 months. (Note that the Scottish Government originally indicated that the extension would be to a 27-month period.) The Act also allows Scottish Ministers to extend both the purchase period to which the extension applies and the period in which the previous main residence must be sold by statutory instrument (and with retrospective effect).
On 14 July 2020, the Welsh Government announced that the main starting threshold for LTT on residential property will be temporarily increased from £180,000 to £250,000 for transactions with an effective date on or after 27 July 2020 and before 1 April 2021. The change has been given effect by WSI 2020/794. It does not apply to property chargeable to LTT at the higher rates.
The Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) has indicated that paper returns, cheques, repayment requests and letters sent by post in relation to land transaction tax (which applies to land transactions in Wales) on or after 18 March 2020 will be subject to delays in processing. Taxpayers and agents to whom this applies should contact the helpdesk on 03000 254 000 (open 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday) or use the online contact form.
Taxpayers who encounter financial difficulties resulting from the coronavirus outbreak should contact the WRA as soon as possible if it is likely to affect their ability to pay land transaction tax on time.
Individuals who are not represented by a solicitor or conveyancer who would normally send a paper return by post should instead contact the helpdesk. Payment should be made online. Again, the helpdesk will assist with the process.
Where a taxpayer has sent a return or cheque by post on time and later decides to send a duplicate return online or to pay by digital means, the date of the original return or cheque will be taken as the date of receipt for the purposes of the filing and payment deadlines. Anyone who intends to do this should contact the WRA first.
If filing and payment are delayed due to coronavirus, taxpayers are advised to contact the WRA.
Stamp duty and stamp duty reserve tax
On 25 March 2020, HMRC announced that it has introduced a temporary electronic service to replace the usual stamp duty payment process for transfers of stocks and shares.
Stamp duty must now be paid electronically (cheques will not be processed) and the taxpayer must then email details of the transaction to HMRC, including an electronic copy of the document that would otherwise have been stamped. HMRC has also stated that it will accept electronic signatures while these measures are in place. HMRC will send a confirmation letter by email.
Full details of how to pay, including HMRC bank details, how to create a payment reference and the information to be included in the email to HMRC can be found on the GOV.UK website.
Companies House has confirmed that, following the purchase of a company’s own shares, it will accept an unstamped SH03 form if it is accompanied by an HMRC letter confirming that the duty has been paid.
It is important to note that no relaxation has been announced to the deadline for payment and for supplying the documents to HMRC. The deadline remains 30 days after the date the transfer document was dated and signed. A penalty and interest may be charged if the deadline is not met.
HMRC will only process repayments of overpaid stamp duty electronically. Once a repayment amount has been checked, HMRC will ask the taxpayer to use Dropbox to provide their bank account details. Bank account details must not be emailed to HMRC.
HMRC has also announced that stamp duty reserve tax on trades outside of CREST must be paid electronically. Requests for repayment of SDRT should be made by email to email@example.com.
All stamp duty post should be emailed to HMRC at: firstname.lastname@example.org.