It’s quite likely that, up until the last few years, Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) has not been a pressing subject in the minds of many UK Property Lawyers. Payable on all transactions above £125,000 at the moment, it’s hardly the most complex looking or exciting part of a property transaction, after all. You calculate the percentage, fill out the return and that’s an end to it.
In the last few years, though, that has begun to very much not be the end to it. Study after study shows a steady increase in claims against firms from dissatisfied clients, encouraged by so-called ‘claim farms’ for missed SDLT reliefs on UK Property.
Recently, this has revolved mainly around Multiple Dwellings Relief, but other reliefs such as Mixed Use are waiting in the wings.
This has meant increased PII premiums, in a market already squeezed by a dwindling pool of providers, and billable time spent by firms and their principals going over historical case files and responding to dozens, sometimes hundreds of these types of enquiries month after month.
In a competitive market with costs always on the rise, it’s something that can mean the difference between being able to continue practising or not for many small-to-medium-sized firms.
Part of the issue lies with lack of awareness of the ever-changing nature of SDLT itself. Since its inception in 2003, the tax has barely stood still, legislatively speaking, from one year to the next.
Aside from the various high-profile adjustments made by successive governments, of which the recent “holiday” was the latest, there are now 49 different reliefs, exemptions and exceptions attached to the tax, and more will inevitably follow.
But the greater part of the issue lies with the tools provided to address the tax. HMRC’s Stamp Duty Calculator, provided online by them, is woefully inadequate when it comes to considering these various reliefs.
HMRC itself has acknowledged publicly that the calculator is in fact intended merely as “a guide” rather than a final answer, and its technical deficiencies mean that it is the root cause of many missed reliefs on SDLT.
Compass was designed with all these factors in mind. More than a simple “calculator”, Compass is based on complex and bespoke algorithms, designed to take account of every single relevant factor in a transaction which may impact the SDLT calculation.
Built in conjunction with expert tax advisers and conveyancing solicitors, Compass has been designed to be as intuitive and simple to use as it is comprehensive.
Its user-friendly interface can be integrated into any existing Case Management System. It will produce a detailed audit trail for each transaction showing how the figure was reached, ensuring compliance with CQS requirements.
Best of all, where a case is marginal on the facts, it will refer your client to an expert tax adviser who can personally examine their matter and advise on the correct outcome.
What this means for your firm cannot be easily overstated. Aside from the obvious saving of time on additional training for your fee earners and staff to keep abreast of every new SDLT development and every new regulatory requirement, Compass acts to mitigate your own risk.
Backed by full PII cover of its own, it enables you to effectively delegate one of the most serious potential areas of risk on your conveyancing caseload.
This means fewer potential claims against your firm, which should translate to lower PII premiums – a literal lifeline to many firms in the current environment.
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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.