top of page

Understanding the Latest Stamp Duty Updates and Clever Ways to Skirt Around Them

Updated: Jun 5

Hello, my happy #StoreTroopers!

Today, we're looking into the thrilling world of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), or as we like to call it, the necessary evil of property transactions in the UK. Buckle up, as we not only unravel the government's latest updates but also explore some nifty tricks on how to legally sidestep this tax. Who said tax talk couldn't be fun?

The Basics of SDLT: A Fresh Look

First things first, what is Stamp Duty? Simply put, it’s a tax paid on property purchases over a certain value in England and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Wales dance to their own tunes with the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Land Transaction Tax, respectively. But today, we're focusing on the good old English system.

As of the latest updates, the government has tweaked the SDLT rates to encourage first-time buyers and make it somewhat easier for those climbing onto the property ladder. If you're buying a residential property worth up to £250,000, here's the good news: you pay zero stamp duty. Yes, you read that right – zilch! For properties costing up to £925,000, you won’t pay any duty on the first £250,000, then a reduced rate of 5% on the remainder, above that and it is 10%. However, the bad news is that for landlords or second home owners, we have to pay an extra 3% on top of these figures, yes, even the 0%!

Stamp Duty Relief: Music to Your Ears

Now, let’s chat about how you might not have to pay SDLT at all. It sounds like a cheeky loophole, but it’s all above board, I assure you! One of the main exemptions from SDLT is if you acquire a property that is considered uninhabitable at the time of purchase.

To be considered uninhabitable for SDLT exemption purposes, a property must generally lack the basic features necessary for living. This typically includes missing or non-functioning essential facilities such as a proper kitchen or bathroom. Additionally, properties that are derelict to the extent that they are not suitable for occupation without significant renovation may also qualify.

The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) doesn't just take your word for it; you'll need substantial evidence to prove the property's condition. This evidence could include:

  • Photographs: Showing the damaged or missing parts of the property.

  • Surveyor Reports: A professional assessment that declares the property unfit for habitation.

  • Repair Estimates: Quotes from contractors detailing the work needed to make the property liveable.

The reason behind this SDLT relief is to encourage the rehabilitation of properties that are currently not suitable for use, thereby improving housing stock and revitalising areas. If a property cannot be lived in its current state, the law sees it as unreasonable to tax it in the same way as a readily habitable home.

The Process and Considerations

  • Claiming the Relief: When you purchase an uninhabitable property, you can claim relief from SDLT by filing the correct SDLT return where you outline the uninhabitability evidence. Unfortunately, solicitors are reluctant to do this, so it is nearly always the case that you have to pay it and then claim it back.

  • Timing of Renovations: It's crucial that the property is in an uninhabitable state at the time of purchase. If you buy a habitable property and then strip it out, this will not qualify for the relief.

  • Risk of Challenge: HMRC may challenge your claim if they suspect that the property could technically be inhabited or if the evidence provided is insufficient. It’s advisable to have robust documentation and possibly legal advice.

  • Long-term: If you successfully claim this relief, any subsequent increase in the property’s value due to renovations could be subject to Capital Gains Tax when you sell. Therefore, while you might save on SDLT at the purchase stage, you should also consider the entire investment lifecycle.

Smart Investing: Buying Through a Company

The second clever strategy is buying property through a company. This is particularly appealing if you’re planning to invest in multiple properties. The stamp duty rates are slightly different for corporate entities, and you might find some tax efficiencies here. However, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and comes with its complexities, such as potential implications on Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax. Always best to chat with a tax advisor before donning your corporate hat!

The Basics: Buying Property Through a Company

Buying property through a company, often referred to as buying through a corporate vehicle or a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), is a strategy increasingly used by property investors in the UK, me included. the property is owned by the company, not by you personally. This setup has various implications, primarily on how the property is taxed and managed but can offer significant advantages, particularly in terms of tax efficiencies and management of multiple properties. Let’s take a look.

1. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

  • Higher SDLT Rates: Companies pay a higher rate of SDLT on residential properties compared to individual buyers. There's an additional 3% surcharge on top of the standard rates for each band when a corporate body purchases residential property.

  • Relief Opportunities: Companies involved in significant property development or rental may be eligible for specific reliefs, such as Multiple Dwellings Relief, which could reduce the overall SDLT burden.

2. Corporation Tax

  • Rental Income: Profits from rental income are subject to Corporation Tax, which is typically lower than the higher individual Income Tax rates. For the 2023/24 tax year, the Corporation Tax rate is 19%, which is advantageous for higher or additional rate taxpayers.

  • Deductible Expenses: Companies can deduct a broader range of expenses related to the management and maintenance of the property before tax is calculated, potentially lowering the taxable profit.

3. Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

  • Corporate CGT: When a company sells a property, any gains are subject to Corporation Tax rather than CGT. The rate is the same as the Corporation Tax rate, which might be lower than the personal CGT rate, especially for higher-rate taxpayers.

  • Indexation Allowance: Companies selling property that was owned before January 2018 can claim Indexation Allowance, which can reduce the gain based on inflation up to December 2017.

Strategic Advantages of Buying Property Through a Company

1. Ease of Ownership Transfer

Transferring ownership of a property can be simpler within a company structure. Instead of transferring the property itself, you can transfer shares in the company. This can be faster and may incur lower SDLT costs than a traditional property transfer.

2. Succession Planning

Owning property through a company can facilitate estate planning. Shares of the company can be gifted or bequeathed, potentially allowing for a smoother transition and management of inheritance tax implications.

3. Attractiveness to Lenders

Some lenders are more willing to offer financing to companies, especially if the investment strategy is solid. This could mean better mortgage terms or more favourable borrowing rates.

Considerations and Cautions

1. Administration and Compliance

Running a company comes with additional responsibilities such as filing annual accounts, corporation tax returns, and complying with legal requirements, which can increase costs and administrative burdens.

2. Tax on Dividends

If you decide to take profits out of the company, these will typically be distributed as dividends, which are subject to personal taxation above the dividend allowance.

3. Potential for Double Taxation

If not managed correctly, there can be scenarios where both the company and the individual shareholder face taxation, though strategies like salary payments or pension contributions can mitigate this.

Wrapping Up

Let’s be honest, tax is as dry as a good British biscuit left out in the sun. But who says we can’t sprinkle some humour and make it digestible? Imagine SDLT as that uninvited guest at your party – you can't avoid the introduction, but you can certainly make the interaction as brief and painless as possible! Consulting with a tax advisor and possibly a legal consultant is crucial to navigate the corporate landscape effectively, ensuring that you maximise your benefits while adhering to legal and tax regulations.

Engaging with property investment and SDLT doesn’t have to be a sombre affair. Arm yourself with knowledge, consider creative (yet legal) avenues to minimise your tax liability, and always keep an eye on the ever-evolving landscape of tax regulations. Remember, every penny saved on tax is a penny that can be invested back into your property dreams.

Until next time, keep your investment compass steady and your dreams of property prosperity alive!


The Anonymous Investor.

*This blog post is for general information only and is not financial advice. Always speak to a financial advisor for guidance on your specific situation.


Investment Calculator Blog
Investment Calculator Features
bottom of page