An expected ban on lucrative “no transfer, no fee” incentives paid to pensions advisers will not happen until next year at the earliest after the financial regulator said it needed more time before making a ruling. Currently, anyone looking to transfer a defined benefit fund to a personal pension must seek advice from a regulated adviser if their fund is valued at more than £30,000. The adviser either levies an upfront fee or enables the client to pay from their pension fund if they choose to go ahead with the transfer. This year The FCA said that contingent charging, in which advisers are paid only when they persuade savers to move out of final-salary company schemes, was potentially harmful to customers. On Thursday it said that it had sought views and because of comments needed to carry out more work. Any proposals to change the rules will be consulted on “in the first half of 2019”.
A new consultation has been published by the Ministry of Justice looking at radically overhauling the legal requirements for divorce in England & Wales. The consultation is running until 10th December 2018.

There is currently a Bill before Parliament looking at the financial provision within divorce and together with the recent high profile case of Owens v Owens it has highlighted the outdated nature of the legal process on divorce.

The current law in England and Wales – which has remained unchanged for fifty years –sets requirements which can themselves introduce or aggravate conflict, and which encourage a focus on the past, rather than on making arrangements for the future.

The Government believes there is now broad consensus that the current divorce process does not serve the needs of a modern society. Difficulties with the current law have also been highlighted recently before the Supreme Court. In particular, the current divorce process is complicit in exposing children to the damaging impact of ongoing adult conflict during, and too often after, the process. While the wider family justice system is focused on helping people to resolve family issues in a non-confrontational way, the legal divorce process can make this more difficult because of the way it incentivises the attribution of what is perceived as blame. Parents in particular, who need to continue to work together in their children’s bests interests, may struggle to overcome feelings of hostility and bitterness caused by the use of “fault” to satisfy a legal process.

Under the current requirements, couples must either live apart for a substantial period of time before a divorce can be obtained, or else one spouse must make allegations about the other spouse’s conduct. This is sometimes perceived as showing that the other spouse is “at fault”. Three out of five people who seek divorce make allegations about the other spouse’s conduct. Both routes can cause further stress and upset for the divorcing couple, to the detriment of outcomes for them and any children. There have been wide calls to reform the law to address these concerns, often framed as removing the concept of “fault”.

Marriage is a solemn commitment, and the process of divorce should reflect the seriousness of the decision to end a marriage. The Government believes that the law should not exacerbate conflict and stress at what is already a difficult time. The Government accepts the principle that it is not in the interests of children, families and society to require people to justify their decision to divorce to the court.

The proposals
The divorce process would retain irretrievable breakdown as the sole ground for divorce but remove the current requirement for the petitioner to give evidence of conduct or separation. Instead, one or potentially both parties will petition the court with a notice of the intention to divorce. The court will no longer need to check the particulars of the evidence but will continue to check other evidential aspects of the notice to the court (for example, to make certain that the court has the jurisdiction to act, that there is a valid marriage to dissolve, and to guard against fraudulent petitions).

The court will then be able to grant a provisional decree of divorce (the decree nisi) if these other requirements are satisfied and, following an application by either party after a statutory period of time has elapsed, may ask the court to make the divorce final by granting the decree absolute, as under the current law.

The two stage process (decree nisi and decree absolute) it is proposed remains but with a change to the minimum time frame between the issue of both decrees. There is currently a minimum time frame of 6 weeks and a day between the two decrees. There are arguments for the time frame to be extended but with potentially a shorter timeframe for specific circumstances.

Another proposal is to remove the right to contest the divorce. The case of Owens v Owens is exceptional, but it does illustrate the difficult position of one spouse who, it is reported, feels legally trapped in a marriage she regards as over.

The Government believes that as a general rule it serves no purpose – whether to the parties or to the state – to keep the opportunity to contest the divorce. Most divorce petitions in practice support a one-sided account that may not reflect the real reason for the breakdown of the marriage. Few respondents want to spend time and money on contesting the particulars in the petition, especially if they agree that the marriage is over. If one party has decided that the marriage is over then, arguably, the marriage is at an end. A marriage benefits the family and society only where each party is committed to the other. Any other marriage is a marriage in name only, the “empty legal shell” in the words of the Law Commission over fifty years ago.

The responses to the consultation will be published in March 2019 and it will be interesting to see if the Financial Provisions bill is also incorporated into the reform.
A “specialty debt” is a debt, contract or obligation that:
• is executed as a deed;
• is incurred under statute; or
• is a debt of the Crown.
It is a long-established principle of the common law that the situs of a specialty debt (i.e. its location for legal purposes) is the place in which the document recording that debt is physically situated.

By ensuring that the deed recording a specialty debt is physically stored outside the UK, it has therefore been possible to ensure that the debt itself will be treated as “excluded property” and so fall outside the scope of the charge to UK inheritance tax (“IHT”) for non-domiciled and non-deemed domiciled individuals. For example, life insurance policies taken out by UK resident non-doms have often been executed by way of deed or under seal and held offshore to ensure that their proceeds should not be subject to IHT (for as long as they also remain non-UK deemed domiciled for IHT purposes).

Historically, HMRC’s approach to specialty debts had followed the accepted common law position, however, in 2013, they abruptly changed their stance and revised their guidance to state that “many such debts are likely to be located where the debtor resides or where property taken as security for the debts is situated”. Although HMRC advised insurers that the position would revert to the previously held view in relation to life policies written under seal unless the arrangement is ‘artificial’, there has been no further communication on the point. This has left UK insurers – as well as resident, non-domiciled individuals who had previously taken advantage of the special treatment afforded to speciality debts - in a position of uncertainty.

The promised update has now, however, finally emerged and the revised guidance (which can be found in the IHT Manual at IHTM27079, IHTM27080 and IHTM27104) confirms that:
• Where the speciality debt is secured on land or other tangible property situated in the UK, the situs of the debt will also be in the UK;
• Where the debt is not secured, the common law approach will generally be followed unless both the creditor and debtor are UK resident;
• Life policies executed by way of deed or under seal will be treated as situated where the deed is to be found provided that the policy holder is non-UK domiciled and there is no evidence to suggest the location of the policy documents has been artificially arranged;
• Lloyds policies will not be treated as specialty debts unless they also bear the witnessed personal signature of the General Manager of Lloyds Policy Signing Office; Lloyds policies that do not bear this signature are chargeable to IHT in the country where the debtor (the company) resides.

The publication of the long-awaited guidance will be welcomed by insurers and affected policyholders. Policies effected with an overseas insurer are not, of course, affected by this guidance and will always be excluded property in the hands of a non-UK domiciled investor.
The £50,000 higher rate threshold, accompanied by a £12,500 personal allowance, has some interesting hidden consequences. The Chancellor’s announcement that in 2019/20 the personal allowance (PA) would rise to £12,500 and the basic rate band to £37,500 came as something of a surprise. Prior to the Budget there had been suggestions he might even have frozen both at this year’s level.

With the benefit of a few days hindsight since the Budget, the consequences of the increases and the resultant £50,000 higher rate threshold (HRT) are beginning to emerge. Here are a few:
  • Reaching the 2017 Conservative manifesto targets for PA and HRT one year early has only a one-off cost, assuming they would anyway have been met in 2020/21. That is because there will be no increase to either PA or HRT in 2020/21, meaning that from then onwards the Chancellor is working from the same PA/HRT baseline for CPI indexation.
  • The HRT increase is automatically carried across to the upper earnings limit for full rate NICs. An employee earning £50,000 a year will save £860 a year in tax from the PA/HRT uplift in 2019/20 but will simultaneously lose £340 – 40% – in extra NICs.
  • A £50,000 HRT now means that theoretically the threshold at which the high-income child benefit charge is triggered matches the end point for basic rate tax. Thus, someone with two children could be in the position where their marginal income tax rate (ignoring NICs, a de facto tax) goes from 20% at £49,999 to 57.89% from £50,000 to £60,000.

While the effect for an additional rate taxpayer is the same as if all income between £100,000 and £150,000 were taxed at the old additional rate of 50%, the overall result is better for the Exchequer because there will be more people in the first £25,000 of that band, paying a rate 10% greater.
Unless a decision is taken to the contrary, the upper end of ‘band earnings’ for auto-enrolment will rise to match the HRT at £50,000. Allowing for the lower earnings threshold rise of £104 (to £6,136), that means the band will widen by £3,546 (8.8%) on an annual basis, just as the overall minimum contribution rate steps up from 5% to 8%.

Worst hit will be someone earning £50,000 as their larger contributions will also come with 20% rather than 40% tax relief in the next tax year.
Author: Technical Connections
From 1 April 2019 all VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the £85,000 VAT threshold are required to keep their VAT-business records digitally and send their VAT returns using MTD-compatible software.

MTD for business is a requirement to keep digital records and make regular quarterly reports of income and expenditure to HMRC, the intention being that transactions will be recorded, using accounting software, as near as possible to the time when those transactions occurred.

At the end of the accounting period taxpayers will need to send a final digital report to confirm their income and expenses for the year, and to claim allowances and reliefs.

The timetable for MTD currently remains as:
  • Consultation on MTD for corporation tax expected later in 2018;
  • Digital records required for VAT purposes from 1 April 2019;
  • Digital records and quarterly reporting required for other taxes, e.g. income tax and corporation tax, from April 2020 at the earliest.
Author: Technical Connections
In R Ames v HMRC (2018) UK UT190 the Upper Tribunal found that CGT relief was not available on the disposal of EIS shares where no income tax relief had been claimed on their acquisition but granted judicial review of HMRC’s decision not to allow a late claim for EIS income tax relief.

The circumstances of this case are somewhat unusual. While most investors in Enterprise Investment Schemes (EISs) do so primarily to obtain income tax relief on the investment into the scheme, in this case Mr Ames invested £50,000 in an EIS scheme in 2005, but he did not claim EIS income tax relief. This was because his taxable income for that tax year was only £42 which was considerably less than his personal allowance which meant he had no income tax liability to reduce.

In June 2011 Mr Ames sold his shares for £333,200. He did not include any gain in his self-assessment because he understood that the gain was exempt from capital gains tax (CGT) under the EIS rules.

Following an enquiry, HMRC determined that Mr Ames was only entitled to the exemption from CGT if he had obtained EIS income tax relief on the acquisition of the shares and as he had not done so, he was liable for CGT on the gain. Accordingly, HMRC issued an assessment for a tax liability of over £72,000. Mr Ames appealed, however the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) found against him.

Mr Ames also wanted to make a late claim for EIS income tax relief but, given that any claim for EIS income tax relief needs to be made not later than the 5th anniversary of the 31st January following the year of assessment, the crucial date for him was 31 January 2011. In fact Mr Ames made his claim in October 2012.

Generally speaking, HMRC has discretion to allow a late claim if a taxpayer has a reasonable excuse for failing to make the claim before the statutory deadline. In this case, however, HMRC did not accept that Mr Ames had a reasonable excuse and so refused to accept the late claim.

Mr Ames then took his case to the Upper Tribunal. The Upper Tribunal (UT) upheld the FTT decision that CGT relief on disposal of EIS shares will not apply unless there had been an income tax relief claim when the investment was first made. However, the UT heard that the decision-making process by HMRC as a result of which it declined to allow a late claim for income tax relief was flawed. HMRC did not properly apply the guidance on when and how it should exercise its discretion. The Guidance Note SACM10040 specifically states that there may be exceptional cases which are not covered by specific guidance relating to particular claims or elections where it may still be unreasonable for HMRC to refuse a late claim or election.

In Mr Ames’ case the exceptional circumstances included the fact that he had almost no income in the relevant tax year and therefore claiming relief would result in no income tax relief being in fact obtained. It would be a pure formality in order to preserve his entitlement in principle in the future to CGT exemption.

The UT accepted that it was perfectly reasonable and understandable for Mr Ames to believe that, given his very small income, he did not have to make a claim for relief. There is in fact no guidance dealing specifically with such unusual circumstances.

Given Mr Ames’ minimal income in that year and the fact that it’s not just a question of a claim but actual relief against income tax that was required in order to benefit from CGT exemption, to achieve that, Mr Ames would have had to waive in whole or in part his personal allowance. This, again, is not dealt with in any guidance.

The UT accepted that the legislation has created an anomaly for investors with taxable income below the personal allowance. In such circumstances the argument presented by HMRC that misunderstanding of legislation or guidance does not justify that a late claim was considered to be too inflexible and a mechanical approach. For this reason, the Upper Tribunal quashed HMRC’s decision from 2015 and remitted it back to HMRC for reconsideration.

Clearly Mr Ames was not a typical EIS investor, namely someone with relatively high income on which relief against income tax is sought in the first place. But this is not the first case where the highly technical EIS rules have come under scrutiny.

Whilst the legislation appears to be clear in that in order to benefit from CGT relief on disposal of the EIS shares there must first be an income tax relief, there is no logical reason why the two reliefs need to be linked. In fact, given that one of the objectives of the EIS reliefs is to increase private investments in the type of businesses which are covered by EIS rules, it seems odd that the CGT relief needs to be linked to the income tax relief. Given the Upper Tribunal’s critical assessment of HMRC’s decision making process when considering a late claim for the income tax relief, it is hoped that HMRC will reconsider and allow Mr Ames' late claim.

The case illustrates how important it is for the investor to be familiar with all the rules relevant to EIS investments before committing themselves.
Author: Technical Connections
So, the big day this year is on 29 October – Budget Day that is.

Given the focus on Brexit it almost seems a sideshow doesn’t it? It shouldn’t be, but it seems it is. And that’s worrying. The “smallness” of the Budget in the political context is, it seems, a reflection of what the everyday running of the country has become under the cloud of Brexit preparation – or lack of it. It has, and continues to, suck up so much political time and energy. It’s hard to see how the ordinary business of running the country – let alone proactively improving it (the country that is) can be carried out by the Government. And if it does, how much less effective is it than it could be if there were no Brexit to think about and act on? Just saying.

We all know how one of the biggest challenges in our increasingly crowded business lives (let alone our family and wider social lives) is to manage our available time to achieve our goals. So, what if there were just less time available to start with? Well, you’d be less effective and get less done.

It seems increasingly likely that on 29 October our “Brexit fate” will still not be fully known. You will note I say “likely” rather than definitely or certainly. A recent Brexit-related development is reported to be that extreme “Brexiteers” in the Conservative Party will be prepared to vote against the Budget if they do not like the May Brexit deal. So, returning to the Budget itself, let’s give a little thought, contemplation even, to what we might expect in relation to each of the main taxes (and pensions) based on what we have experienced or read about over the past 12 months.

So, let’s have a look at what’s been “in the news” in relation to the main taxes.

On pensions:
The Treasury Select Committee said this in their Household Savings Report. “There is widespread acknowledgement that tax relief is not an effective or well-targeted way of incentivising saving into pensions. Ultimately, the Government may want to return to the question of whether there should be fundamental reform. However, the existing state of affairs could be improved through further, incremental changes. In particular, the Government should give serious consideration to replacing the lifetime allowance with a lower annual allowance, introducing a flat rate of relief, and promoting understanding of tax relief as a bonus or additional contribution.”

Against this background the Chancellor has the well-publicised challenge of finding around £20 billion to deliver on his funding promise for the NHS. There are of course a number of ways that this can be achieved and we covered these in some detail in our bulletin of 17 October on the IFS Green Budget. A change to some aspect(s) of the tax treatment of pension arrangements is also a way of gathering in some more tax or limiting current expenditure on relief.

The Chancellor is reported to have said in connection with tax change generally, “nothing is off the table”.
However, in a response to the Treasury Committee report referred to above the Government, in the shape of the Treasury, said there was:
“…no consensus for either incremental or more radical reform of pensions tax relief has emerged since the [pension tax relief] consultation in 2015”.

As we said in our bulletin of 15 October, these comments do not suggest that the Treasury has any plans for announcing an immediate change to pension tax relief on 29 October. But even if fundamental reform doesn’t happen eg the introduction of flat rate relief, can we rule out some further change to the lifetime or annual allowance? That won’t drive £20 billion, but as they say, “every little helps”. Given the state of play “politically” most are sceptical over changes that would be seen as contentious. The thinness of the Government majority is well known.

On the taxation of savings:
Earlier this year, the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) published a paper ‘Simplifying the taxation of savings income’. This considers that the UK tax system works well for most savers as 95 percent of people do not have to pay tax on income from their savings. However, it also acknowledges that many taxpayers continue to worry that they will be taxed on their savings income and that misunderstandings and confusion remain. Please see our May bulletin for full details.

However, in summary, the OTS highlights that aspects of the regime are complicated, difficult to understand and can produce anomalous outcomes. The report identifies nine areas where further work would be beneficial, including:
a review of the various savings rates and allowances, and the interactions between them, to identify options to streamline the income tax calculation; drawing up a personal tax roadmap to clearly set out the Government’s vision for personal taxation, including plans for savings income; improving guidance on the taxation of savings income, particularly on the treatment of pension lump sums, an area of particular confusion; simplification of ISAs, including a review of the rules on withdrawals from the Lifetime ISA. The report also identified the possible need to review the taxation of withdrawal and encashment of insurance bonds but only when the recent changes (providing for relief in relation to “disproportionate gains”) had bedded down.

There’s a decent chance that some “non- contentious” changes in some of the areas identified could be implemented though.

On inheritance tax:
If we ignore the radical Resolution Foundation proposals (which a potential future Labour Government may not) then we can look forward to substantially administrative changes with announcements on technical (not “Policy”) changes to come. Changes could incorporate some tidying up of the residence nil rate band. The OTS have been at pains to reinforce that change to the structure and policy of the tax is “beyond their scope”. Their focus is essentially on simplifying and clarifying the operation of the tax.

On everything else:
Well, we can be absolutely sure that there will be more targeted anti- avoidance rules introduced.
Targeting anti-avoidance is a cross party mission and it’s pretty much Brexit-neutral. Aside from presenting the right philosophical future, it also increases HMRC/Treasury cash flow which has to be a good thing – right?

As a closing point, those likely to be involved picking apart and deeply analysing the Budget will have been interested to learn that as the Commons does not sit on a Monday until 2.30pm, the Budget speech will not start until 3pm.
Author: Technical Connections
The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to increase the Bank of England base rate to 0.75% on 2 August 2018. HMRC interest rates are linked to the Bank of England base rate and, as a consequence of the change, HMRC interest rates for late payment will be increased.
These changes came into effect on:
• 13 August 2018 for quarterly instalment payments;
• 21 August 2018 for non-quarterly instalment payments.

Repayment interest rates remain unchanged. The current late payment interest rate applied to the main taxes and duties that HMRC currently charges has been 3% since 21 November 2017, so this is expected to rise to 3.25%.

However, HMRC will update its information on the interest rates for late payments shortly. There’s no news from HMRC as to whether there will be any change in the official rate of interest, used to calculate tax on employee loans and the pre-owned asset tax charge. This rate has been 2.5% since 6 April 2017.
It is estimated that in 2020/21 there will be a £5.5 billion funding gap in the costs of social care. This is set to rise to £12 billion by 2030. Meeting the potential huge future costs of care is therefore a massive headache for the Government. Originally, they were planning to release their proposals on dealing with this problem in the Summer, but this has been delayed to the Autumn.

It has been reported in the Sunday Telegraph that in its upcoming Social Care Green Paper the Government is planning to introduce a “Care ISA” as a means of dealing with the problem.

An investor could make encashments from a Care ISA to meet his/her care costs. Any residual value of the ISA would be free of inheritance tax on death.

Currently the value of ISAs on death counts as part of the deceased investor’s estate and could be subject to inheritance tax if the estate:
-passes to somebody other than the surviving spouse or a charity; and
-exceeds £325,000 in value.

Of course, ISAs that invest in AIM securities may qualify for 100% business relief once they have been held for two years.

A surviving spouse benefits from an extra ISA allowance equal to the value of the deceased’s ISA on death.

The introduction of a Care ISA is just one of the possible solutions available to the Government. Another would be to grant tax freedom on funds withdrawn from pension funds that are used to meet the cost of an individual’s care.

The introduction of the Care ISA would nonetheless be good way of encouraging people to make investments that would cover the costs of their care. It would also mean that the Government could reduce the need to raise taxes to meet the costs of care.

However, care costs are largely an unknown quantity and it may therefore be difficult for savers to estimate how much to set aside. Restrictions would also be needed to prevent people using the Care ISA as a form of last-minute IHT planning.

All will be revealed when the Green Paper is published.
HMRC has published updated guidance on higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) that apply on buying an additional residential property for £40,000 or more. It covers who has to pay, the property it applies to and claiming a refund.
Note that SDLT isn’t payable on a property bought in:
• Scotland from 1 April 2015 – instead Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) is payable;
• Wales from 1 April 2018 – instead Land Transaction Tax (LTT) is payable.

Who has to pay the higher rates of SDLT?
The higher rates apply even if the buyer intends to live in the property that they are buying (and regardless of whether or not they already own a residential property). This is because the rules don’t just apply to the buyer, but also to anyone they are married to, in a civil partnership with, or buying with.

Married couples and civil partners
  • The rules apply to both individuals as if they were buying the property together, even if they’re not.
  • If either of them individually has to pay the higher rates, he or she must pay the higher rates for the transaction as a whole (unless they are permanently separated).
  • Buying with someone else
  • The rules apply to each person (and their spouse or civil partner) who is buying the property.
  • If any of them individually has to pay the higher rates, he or she must pay the higher rates for the transaction as a whole.
  • Buying as a trustee
  • The rules may apply to the beneficiary of the trust and not to the trustee, depending on the type of trust it is.
  • If the trustee is buying on behalf of a bare / absolute trust, the beneficiary of the trust will be treated as the buyer.

The beneficiary will also be treated as the buyer if a trust holds property and the beneficiary is entitled to any of the following:
  • occupy the property for life;
  • receive income from the property.

If the beneficiary is under 18, the child’s parents are treated as the buyers (even if they are not the trustees) unless the child is covered by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 or the Mental Capacity Act [Northern Ireland] 2016.
The trustee will be treated as the buyer if it either:
  • is not a bare / absolute trust;
  • does not give the beneficiary a right to occupy a property for life or receive income from it.
  • If a trustee buys a property but none of the above apply (for example it’s a discretionary trust), the purchase is treated as if it were made by a company rather than an individual.

Buying as a company
• Companies must pay the higher rates for any residential property they buy if:
• the property is £40,000 or more;
• the interest they buy is not subject to a lease which has more than 21 years left.
• If the property costs more than £500,000, the 15% higher threshold SDLT rate for corporate bodies may apply instead. This can apply to companies, partnerships that include companies and collective investment schemes. HMRC provides further guidance.
• These bodies may also need to pay the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED).

An individual has to pay the higher rates of SDLT if their partnership already owns a residential property and he or she purchases another residential property for their partnership.

What property the higher rates of SDLT apply to?
Once it’s been established who the rules apply to, it’s necessary to work out how many residential properties each of the buyers will own at the end of the day of their new purchase.

If any of the buyers will own, or part own more than one residential property worth £40,000 or more, he or she will have to pay the higher rates on their new purchase (unless there is another reason why the higher rates do not apply).

It’s necessary to include any residential property that:
  • is owned on behalf of children under the age of 18 (parents are treated as the owners even if the property is held through a trust and they are not the trustees);
  • the buyer has an interest in as the beneficiary of a trust.

The buyer’s current home must be included if they still own it at the end of the day that he or she buys the new home.

The buyer will pay the higher rates on everything they pay, or give, for the purchase. That might include another type of payment such as:
• goods;
• works or services;
• release from a debt;
• transfer of a debt, including the value of any outstanding mortgage.

HMRC guidance provides further information on how to work out the consideration in complex situations.

When the higher rates of SDLT don’t apply
The higher rates do not apply to certain people, property and transactions. In addition, certain reliefs may apply.
People - The higher rates of SDLT don’t apply to anyone who will both:
• use their new property as their main home;
• have sold or given away the last main home they owned before they buy their new home (or on the same day).

Property - The higher rates of SDLT don’t apply to a property (or part of a property) if any of the following apply:
• the property is worth less than £40,000;
• it’s a mixture of residential and non-residential (like a shop with a flat above it);
• it’s ‘moveable’ like a caravan, houseboat or mobile home (unless it has become a permanent fixture).

The rules also don’t apply to purchases of:
• a leasehold interest originally granted for a period of less than seven years; or
• a freehold or leasehold interest that is subject to a lease with more than 21 years remaining.

Transactions - If one spouse or civil partner is transferring ownership (or part ownership) of a residential property to their spouse, the higher rates of SDLT don’t apply as long as no one else is involved in the transfer.

The higher rates of SDLT don’t apply if a person is increasing the amount of a property that they already own, provided all of the following apply:
• they already own 25% or more;
• the dwelling has been their only or main home for the previous 3 years;
• (if they’re extending a lease) their lease still has 21 years or more left to run.

Multiple dwellings relief - Someone buying 6 or more properties can choose to pay either the:
• non-residential rates of SDLT (not the higher rates);
• higher rates using multiple dwellings relief.

HMRC guidance provides further information on what reliefs are available.

When and how to get a refund

If someone sells their previous main home after they buy their new home they must pay the higher rates of SDLT and its only if they then sell or give away their previous main home within three years of buying their new home that they can apply for a refund of the higher SDLT rate part of their Stamp Duty bill.

A repayment can be applied for within three months of the sale of the previous main residence or within 12 months of the filing date of the return, whichever is the later, by:
• using the online form (by signing in or setting up a Government Gateway account);
• filling in the form on-screen, printing it off and posting it to HMRC.
Links to these forms can be found here.

Note that a refund can’t be claimed if the individual or their spouse / civil partner still owns any part of their previous home

The time limit for filing a SDLT return and paying any tax due will be reduced from 30 days to 14 days for land transactions with an effective date on or after 1 March 2019.