Stamp Duty is hardly the most glamourous of subjects, but 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 firms 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 annexe. 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 relate 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 on 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 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. Those same advisers can also provide case audit services for your historical clients. Compass will also produce CQS compliant audit trails, integrate seamlessly with your Case Management System and is intuitive and comprehensive enough that additional training for your staff will be measured in a matter of hours, not weeks.
Call us today, and find out how we can help you tick all the right boxes.
This article was submitted to be published by SDLT Compass as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.