The Development of Compass has been a Delicate Balancing Act.


Up until relatively recently, Compass could be best described as an evolving concept. This meant even as the product launched and was made available for use, we were attempting to gather feedback and the real-world experiences of our Partners in order to keep improving the system.

Whilst this was a conscious decision, to effectively develop the system on the go with the help of these select few, we created the pressure for ourselves of a customer base who understandably expected a finished product – but a product that couldn’t be finished without live feedback based on its use in the real world.

Fortunately, a combination of comprehensive support from us, a dedicated team, and patient and cooperation from those initial clients we’ve not only coped but thrived. The long road map I designed over 6 years ago will be completed with this latest release – Leases.

Leases are one of the most overcomplicated areas of Stamp Duty Land tax and its equivalents, LBTT and LTT, not only because they are difficult to calculate but also because they require the Freehold to be finished first. This rather dictated the flow of our roadmap for us, as we couldn’t realistically finish the Lease component without having a working Freehold module.

As we had more and more use of the system, patterns started emerging in the feedback we were receiving. Whilst we have constantly released small, iterative updates as we heard this feedback, this release aims to solve - in one comprehensive update - all the specific pain points which cause users who love the concept of Compass problems with the reality.

Of those pain points, the two most often flagged have been time and difficulty of questions. With this update, we’ve produced some innovative ways to vastly reduce the time to fill, to simplify both the process and the questions even further. 

This all comes alongside a visual overhaul, which aims to improve visual clarity as well as the way the system guides you through its process.

We’ve also simplified and improved the client portal and overhauled its flow. We’re changing the way users log into the portal, allowing for access directly through the website rather than specialised links.

One of the more significant and noticeable changes is the introduction of a templating system. These templates, which can be selected at the start of a matter, have been designed by us to fit the most common situations faced by Conveyancers in the majority of their clients’ property transactions. This not only vastly reduces the fill time per case, but also provides a guideline for expected responses in these common areas.

Visual elements such as highlighting missing information will be the default when using these templates, and this colour scheme will be repeated throughout the system when information is required from a user. 

To improve the user experience, we have redrafted almost every question in the system, as well as introducing video guides for every single section within it. This gives you 3 different ways of understanding what information we require, meaning there should be less confusion and fewer questions you can’t answer.

We have opened the submissions module to be always available within a matter’s drafting cycle - allowing our users to fill in information as they would usually be receiving it within a purchaser’s normal process.

We still include, and auto-populate, tax-specific calculation data, but these changes open our users up to more freedom within Compass.

We had hit the limit of the codebase Compass was originally built upon, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to improve on the core functionality of Compass itself – the calculations. As such, the entire codebase for this area has been refactored and redesigned to render it futureproof and allow for us to continually improve the number of situations we’re able to indemnify as low risk.

This has already allowed us to improve the number of increasingly complex situations we are able to calculate and indemnify without the need for human intervention when it comes to Freehold cases.

Finally, there’s the largest part of this release – The Leases Module. Whilst we already handled basic leases at a more accurate level that HMRC’s own calculator, such a low bar could never be the end goal for us here at Compass.

The new module is by far the most comprehensive, most accurate, and most intuitive leases property tax calculation engine ever designed. Not only is it more accurate, but even expert users will save an incredible amount of time compared to manually calculating.

The addition of this module completes the Compass Roadmap we originally conceived, giving you a complete, fully capable calculation tool for all your SDLT, LBTT and LTT needs.

 A few examples of the scenarios in which Compass can now offer you significant improvement to your current processes:

  1. Assignment of a Lease
  2. Substantially Performed Agreement for leases
  3. Surrender of lease
  4. Grant of a New Lease
  5. Lease Renewal / Extension
  6. Lease Variations
  7. Lease of Indefinite Term
  8. Unascertainable Rents
  9. Periodic Leases
  10. Held Over Leases
  11. Growing Leases
  12. Successive Linked Leases

All the above includes.

  2. LBTT & LTT NPV Exemptions
  3. No 0 Rate Band for Certain LBTT Leases
  4. No NPV on LTT Residential Leases

The list is longer than we could possible fit into an update like this without running to thousands of words, and wasting some of that time we are aiming to save for you. Suffice to say, Compass can now handle 50+ types of leases, and their variations within. Without hyperbole, it is the single most ambitious and complicated tax calculation engine ever attempted.

In terms of service provision, we have hired another developer who specialises in software integration, meaning we can now offer a hastened queue for integrations into your firm’s preferred CMS – Feel free to call and ask for more information.

While this represents the end of the journey we started six years ago, moving forward we still have a lot of plans. Continuous feedback from our Partners will continue to be critical to our growth, and our development process will permanently include delivering on improvements based on feedback. This has never been - and never will be - slow; this is our commitment going forward.

On a personal note, a lot of lessons have been learnt over the previous six years, but the DNA of Compass and its mission remain the same; An expert level system, affordable and available to everyone, without the requirement of tax-adviser level knowledge of the legislation – the whole of UK SDLT/LBTT/LTT calculated accurately, without caveat or exception; First time, every time.

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