Half of UK want independent office to stop stamp duty overpayments

Fifty-two per cent of people in the UK think an independent office that audits stamp duty transactions should be set up to ensure that the right amount of tax is being paid, new research from Cornerstone Tax has revealed.

The research, based on responses from 2,000 UK adults, revealed that another 36% are “mistrusting” of the legal sector during property transactions and have felt ripped off by solicitors when buying and selling property.

Prior to Rishi Sunak’s announcement of the stamp duty holiday in July, Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) was estimated to cost homebuyers a collective £13bn a year. In the 2015/16 tax year, however, Cornerstone calculated that over £3bn worth of stamp duty was overpaid due to mistakes in advice and confusing and complex rules.

The tax specialist suggested that stamp duty is “poorly understood” and that the holiday coming to an end in March will not make the complexities of SDLT any clearer.

Another 13% of respondents to Cornerstone's study suggested that as a homebuyer, they feel that they were forced to pay too much stamp duty in error due to their solicitor, while 14% have been forced to take out short-term loans or emergency credit to cover the cost of unexpected stamp duty payments.

The latest research also follows Cornerstone’s recent estimation that mistakes in advice around pensions mean around 120,000 people in the UK could be owed stamp duty refunds.

Cornerstone principle consultant and founder, David Hannah, said the research demonstrates a “lack of clarity” around SDLT, both by the public and by the legal sector.

“With millions of properties giving access to infrastructure companies, having shared outdoor space or premises for commercial use, solicitors have a duty of care to inform their customers of all potential stamp duty reductions,” he said.

“The mistakes being made are in almost all cases totally unintentional and otherwise made in fear of underpaying. Most legal professionals are ill-equipped to navigate the complex rules around it and need help.”

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