Adviser insights: Q&A with David Hannah: Specialist in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

Hi, David, how long have you been a tax adviser?  david hannah photo

I’ve been practicing as a chartered tax advisor since I qualified in 1988. I’m also a qualified chartered accountant.

When and why did you start to specialise in SDLT?

I started in SDLT in 2003 when it was first introduced, I founded, Cornerstone Tax in 2006 because I wanted to build a firm that could advise as a specialist on SDLT and other areas of property related taxes. SDLT has undergone more changes since its inception than any other tax. The complexities of its nuances and exceptions make it particularly interesting.

What are the most common mistakes you see in your area of tax?

In the case of SDLT, the most common error made by property purchasers is that they assume their solicitors or conveyancers are actually “advising” on their SDLT payment calculations, which they’re not, and don’t consider using a dedicated tax expert.

What is your top tax tip for general practitioner accountants?

Not to assume that all properties fall under residential or commercial classifications or that the solicitor will be dealing with it – there’s a common feeling among accountants that SDLT is a lawyers tax.

What has been the most rewarding thing you have done from a tax perspective?

One of our clients bought their first home this year and initially overpaid their SDLT bill by £9,000 due to their solicitor giving them the wrong advice, albeit unintentionally. Helping first time buyers reclaim tax that they have overpaid, at a stage in their lives when they have usually stretched themselves to their financial limit, is hugely rewarding.

How would you improve the way HMRC operates?

I’d like to see HMRC become more open with the private sector and invite increased dialogue and collaboration. The adversarial nature of HMRC’s relationship with private tax advisors creates a no-man’s land between the two sides that slows any resolution to the problems facing the UK tax system.

Many thanks David

David can be contacted via his profile page here >>>

IHT residential nil rate band, SDLT on death, Mortgage references

Perhaps it is the draining effect of the General Election campaign, but last week our thoughts turned to death and taxes. The new residential nil rate band for inheritance tax came into effect on 6 April 2017, and HMRC have released detailed guidance. Where a couple own their home as tenants in common, this can create a SDLT on a transfer following the death one owner. Finally, we had some tips on how to handle requests for mortgage references.

Below is just an extract from last week’s tax tips email. You can register to receive future copies by following the link on the right (or below, if you’re reading this on a mobile device)

SDLT on death

Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is currently payable by purchasers of property located in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This article does not apply to properties Scotland, which has its own property law, and the land and buildings transaction tax (LBTT).

Where freehold residential property is jointly owned, it may be held in two ways: as joint tenants, where each person holds an undivided share, or as tenants in common, where each person hold a defined share, such as 40% and 60%. “Joint tenants” is the default, which conveyancing solicitors prefer, and it has the advantage that when one of the owners dies the other owner automatically acquires ownership of the entire property.

“Tenants in common” can form part of an IHT plan, as the owners may chose to leave their share in the property to a third person. Investment properties may be held in this way, so the joint owners can be taxed on the profits in relation to their beneficial interest in the property, rather than on a 50:50 split. Although a married couple/ civil partners need to declare the split of ownership on form 17, and submit that declaration to HMRC.

The rates of SDLT were increased on 1 April 2016 to include a 3% supplement on the entire value where an additional residential property is acquired for £40,000 or more. An individual is treated as acquiring an additional property if he already holds a major interest in a residential property which is worth £40,000 or more, which is not subject to a lease which has more than 21 years to run.

Say Fred and Ginger own their home as tenants in common. Fred dies and does not leave his share in the property to Ginger. Fred’s executors agree to sell Fred’s share in the property to Ginger for £80,000. Ginger already owns a major interest in a property (her own home), so the acquisition of another interest in a residential property meets the conditions for the 3% SDLT charge to apply. It is irrelevant that the interest Ginger acquires is in the property which she already partly owns.

When reviewing IHT planning for clients consider this SDLT trap