5 Incredibly Useful Stamp Duty Tips for UK Solicitors


With Stamp Duty being hardly the most glamourous of subjects, getting it right can be the difference between a thriving practice and a struggling one in the current climate.

With PII premiums rising quarter on quarter, ‘claims farms’ filing multiple claims on behalf of clients who think they might have missed out on a juicy SDLT relief, and even the Law Society getting in on the act with new requirements for lawyers in their CQS guidelines, SDLT is no longer a subject firm can afford to ignore.

Here are our top five tips for avoiding costly errors and keeping your firm on the right side of the rules (and your clients).

1. Don’t take anything for granted

Often when a relief is missed it comes down to a detail that wasn’t necessarily included in the sales particulars or even the questionnaires filled in by the vendor.

Perhaps the property has a completely separate annex.

Maybe there’s an informal arrangement with a local farmer to use land attached to the property for grazing which has been long-established.

Whatever it is, small details can make huge differences to the potential stamp duty bill.

Make sure you don’t get caught out!

2. Double Check your Workings

Unless your firm is lucky enough to have its own in-house tax department, it’s unlikely that anyone will be a tax expert. And with Stamp Duty being a self-assessed tax involving a detailed return on the client’s behalf and a personal liability to them, you really want to make sure that you get it right.

Whether it’s an ad-hoc arrangement with a local tax adviser firm or something a bit more formal, it’s worth forging a partnership with an expert firm to make sure you’re getting it right.

3. Check your case files

It’s all very well being proactive with new cases, but a lot of the issues we are seeing firms have related to historical cases which are being dredged up by claims firms.

Get ahead of the issue by digging back through the last four years of your case files and auditing the SDLT returns to make sure they were done correctly – there are firms who will help with this if required.

A client who receives a call from you proactively saying you’ve found they may be owed a refund is likely to be a lot happier with your firm than one who’s been approached with the same information by a third party.

4. Get up to date (and stay there)

SDLT is one of the most rapidly altering and complex taxes on the UK statute books, with successive governments tweaking and adding to it year after year.

In the past eighteen months alone we’ve had a Stamp Duty ‘Holiday’ and the introduction of a new ‘surcharge’ aimed at non-UK resident purchasers.

Just because you memorised all the rules five years ago doesn’t mean they don’t look very different now, and missing a change could result in your client underpaying and having issues down the line.

5. Get some direction with Compass

Of course, the easiest way to take care of all the above is to get Compass for your firm.

Compass is a Stamp Duty Calculator that will successfully analyse all variables of a purchase based on the latest legislation, and will refer you to a specialist adviser in the unlikely event of a case being just too complex.

"If your solicitor isn’t using it already, it might be time to change solicitors. Get in touch today!"