Buying your own property is an exciting time, but we all know that it comes with a hefty price tag: the dreaded Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). Stamp duty costs give me the ick! This tax, paid on property purchases in England and Northern Ireland, can be a significant expense for homebuyers. But, with careful planning and strategic decision-making, it’s possible to reduce or even avoid this tax entirely.
So let’s look at what stamp duty is, how it is calculated against property price, and potential strategies for minimising your stamp duty payment.
- What is Stamp Duty?
- How is Stamp Duty Calculated?
- Stamp Duty for First-time Buyers
- Is Stamp Duty Included in House Price?
- Can Stamp Duty be Added to Mortgage?
- Why Do We Pay Stamp Duty?
- Why is Stamp Duty So Expensive?
- Stamp Duty On Additional Properties
- Stamp Duty Exemptions
- Strategies to Reduce or Avoid Stamp Duty
- Now You Know About Stamp Duty!
What is Stamp Duty?
Stamp Duty Land Tax is a payment required upon the purchase of a residential property or piece of land in England, Northern Ireland, and, under different terminologies, in Scotland and Wales. The tax’s name, “SDLT”, is widely used in the property industry. Although legal documents often refer to the ‘lease premium’ or the ‘transfer value’, they are essentially referring to the property’s purchase price.
The tax applies to properties over a certain value, with rates ranging from 2% to 12%, depending on the property’s worth. The tax is calculated based on the cost of the property, with different tax bands applying to different property value ranges. The tax bands and rates can change periodically, so it’s essential to stay updated with the latest information from HMRC.
How is Stamp Duty Calculated?
How much stamp duty you have to pay is calculated on a sliding scale, with different tax rates applied to different portions of the property’s purchase price of the property. For instance, if a property is worth £500,000, the first £125,000 is taxed at 0%, the next £125,000 is taxed at 2%, and the remaining £250,000 is taxed at 5%. So, the total amount of stamp duty due would be £15,000.
There are plenty of stamp duty calculator online for you to check what stamp duty you will have to pay according to the property worth.
Stamp Duty for First-time Buyers
First-time buyers often benefit from stamp duty relief. The first home’s SDLT threshold is set at £300,000, meaning if the purchase price is less than this amount, no stamp duty is owed. This relief can significantly reduce the cost of buying a first home, making homeownership more accessible.
Is Stamp Duty Included in House Price?
Stamp duty is not included in the property’s asking price. It’s an additional cost paid to HMRC upon purchasing a property. It’s crucial to factor this extra expense into your budget when considering buying a property.
Can Stamp Duty be Added to Mortgage?
While technically it’s possible to add stamp duty to your mortgage, it’s generally not recommended. Adding stamp duty to your mortgage increases your loan size, which could push you into a higher loan-to-value bracket, potentially affecting your mortgage interest rate. It also means you’ll be paying interest on the stamp duty amount for the term of your mortgage, which could cost you more in the long run.
Why Do We Pay Stamp Duty?
Stamp duty serves as a significant source of revenue for the government. The tax is levied to cover the legal cost of the property changing hands and the paperwork involved in registering the new owner with the Land Registry.
Why is Stamp Duty So Expensive?
Stamp duty tax can seem expensive because it’s calculated as a percentage of the property’s purchase price. As property prices rise, so too does the amount of stamp duty owed. The tax is also structured with progressive bands, meaning higher-value properties are taxed at higher rates, further increasing the cost for expensive properties.
Stamp Duty On Additional Properties
If you already own a home and buy an additional property, then you will face a higher rate of stamp duty. Second home stamp duty is 3% on top of the normal stamp duty rate. However, if you are buying it to replace your current home and sell it within 36 months, you can apply for a full refund.
Property investors and Buy-To-Let landlords also have to pay a stamp duty surcharge of an extra 3% as this accounts for a second property.
Stamp Duty Exemptions
You may be eligible for Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) reliefs if you’re buying your first home and in certain other situations. These reliefs can reduce the amount of tax you pay.
You must complete an SDLT return to claim relief, even if no tax is due.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has guidance on SDLT reliefs for:
- first-time buyers
- multiple dwellings
- building companies buying an individual’s home
- employers buying an employee’s house
- local authorities making compulsory purchases
- property developers providing amenities to communities
- companies transferring property to another company
- charities buying for charitable purposes
- right to buy properties
- registered social landlords
- Crown employees
- property investment funds, for example, Property Authorised Investment Funds (PAIFs) and Co-ownership Authorised Contractual Schemes (CoACSs)
You do not have to pay SDLT or file a return if:
- no money or other payment changes hands for a land or property transfer
- property is left to you in a will
- property is transferred because of divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership
- you buy a freehold property for less than £40,000
- you buy a new or assigned lease of 7 years or more, as long as the premium is less than £40,000 and the annual rent is less than £1,000
- you buy a new or assigned lease of less than 7 years, as long as the amount you pay is less than the residential threshold or non-residential threshold of SDLT
- you use alternative property financial arrangements, for example, to comply with Sharia law, where the alternative financial provider pays SDLT when they buy the property under the arrangements
Strategies to Reduce or Avoid Stamp Duty
1. Purchase a Cheaper Property
One of the main ways to reduce your stamp duty bill is to buy a less expensive property. Properties priced below the stamp duty threshold (£125,000 for regular properties and £300,000 for first-time buyers) are exempt from the tax. Even if purchasing a property beneath these thresholds isn’t feasible, buying a property at the lower end of a tax band can still reduce your stamp duty bill. So make sure you have a think about your property’s value if you want to make moving affordable.
2. Split Ownership
If you’re buying a property with someone who already owns a home, consider placing the new property solely in the name of the person who doesn’t already own a property. This method can potentially sidestep the additional stamp duty charge for second homes, but it can be complicated. Lenders will require the sole owner to pass affordability checks independently, which may be challenging. It also raises issues about property ownership if the relationship breaks down in the future.
3. Buy a Mobile Home or Houseboat
Believe it or not, mobile homes and houseboats are exempt from stamp duty. If you’re open to a less traditional home, this could be a strategy to avoid stamp duty altogether.
4. Claim a Stamp Duty Refund
If you buy a second home but sell your main residence within three years, you may be eligible for a stamp duty refund. This scenario often arises when people purchase a new home before selling their existing one.
5. Transfer Property Ownership
In some cases, you can transfer property ownership to avoid stamp duty. This method may apply if you inherit a property or receive it as a gift. However, if the property transfer is seen as a way to evade stamp duty, you could face an investigation for fraud.
Now You Know About Stamp Duty!
Understanding the ins and outs of stamp duty land tax may seem complicated, but it’s a crucial part of the home-buying process. By understanding how stamp duty works and exploring potential strategies to reduce or avoid the tax, you can make informed decisions and potentially save thousands of pounds on your property purchase. Whether it is your first property or you are looking to climb the property ladder, good luck in the purchase of your new house!
Remember, this article contains general information, and you should always seek professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. Happy house hunting!