Advisory: Managing Land Tax holiday risks

SDLT Holiday – Being clear with clients

Many buyers and sellers, and potential buyers and sellers who have not yet have agreed a sale/purchase, will be expecting that their transaction will benefit from the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday in England or the Land Transaction Tax (LTT) holiday in Wales that are due to end on 31 March 2021.

Delays outside the control of conveyancers could easily cause transactions to miss the deadline, especially as average transaction times are now said to have reached 20 weeks.  

Because the costs or losses incurred by clients could be considerable, it is vital that you make clear to them that you cannot guarantee that the transaction will complete in time to benefit from the Land Tax holiday and explain the consequences.

To be clear, the CLC would expect transaction files to include:

  • Clear evidence that the client had been made aware that their transaction may not complete in time to benefit from the Land Tax holiday.
  • Clear evidence that the full Land Tax that would be due outside the holiday period had been explained to the client.

The CLC considers that this is important for the mutual protection of clients and conveyancers. Conveyancers will also find it helpful should their clients raise complaints or claims because of costs or losses incurred.

This advice is in line with what we would expect in relation to any other transaction that had deadlines that could impact on costs to the client. In that respect, it is worth noting that the additional 2% tax on purchases by foreign buyers will come into effect on 1st April and that the current Help To Buy scheme is due to end on 31st March.

There are efforts to persuade the Chancellor to amend the end of the SDLT holiday and it is not clear what arrangements the Welsh Government might put in place for LTT after 31st March. However, it is not certain that any changes will be made, what shape any changes might take, nor when they might be announced.

Firms may wish to signpost clients to the Land Tax calculators to ensure they understand the amounts payable both before and after the Land Tax holiday.  They may also wish to remind clients that if additional moneys are required, this may result in further due diligence and/or reporting to any mortgage lender being necessary, particularly where funds are borrowed or made available by third parties.

Use HMRC’s SDLT Calculator

Use the Welsh Government’s LTT Calculator

Managing changing transaction volumes

Increased transaction volumes, and the urgency of deadlines such as the Land Tax holiday, can lead to mistakes being made. You might also experience pressure to take shortcuts, any risks of which must be fully explained and documented to enable clients to make an informed choice where such actions are possible or appropriate.

We take this opportunity to remind CLC-regulated individuals and entities of the importance of meeting all our regulatory expectations, following procedures and policies as usual and protecting your clients’ interests assiduously always.  

We are also aware that a small number of firms are still experiencing significantly reduced transaction volumes. That can bring its own risks through changed cash flow and the management of overheads.

Contact your Regulatory Supervision Manager

Your Regulatory Supervision Manager will be very pleased to discuss with you any challenges or issues that you are facing and help you address them as early as possible.

Contact the Society of Licensed Conveyancers

Any practice that may be interested in acquisition or merger may wish to contact the Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC) which offers a service to members of introducing third party practices that may be interested in merging with, or acquiring, Licensed Conveyancer practices. To contact the SLC e-mail ania@conveyancers.org.uk or call 0800 0499 914 and ask to speak to Ania Nourish or Mike Ockenden.

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