Conveyancers not stamp duty police

Ryan Bembridge

February 2, 2016

Conveyancers shouldn’t be responsible for policing whether people should have to pay the 3% stamp duty surcharge, the Conveyancing Association has told the government.

The association was responding to the Treasury’s open consultation on the surcharge, which will be applied for buy-to-let landlords and people buying a second home from April 1.

The CA said buyers should sign a declaration taking responsibility for their answers which determine whether the surcharge should be applied.

Eddie Goldsmith, chairman of the Conveyancing Association, said: “In our response we have aimed to outline the unintended consequences in a number of areas, as well as stressing the fact that conveyancing firms should not be thought of as the police force in this area.

“The information, regarding a purchaser’s liability, has to come from the purchaser themselves and having answered the relevant questions and make a declaration, it is reasonable for the conveyancer involved to rely on that information when filling out the stamp duty form.”

The association highlighted a number of issues in charging the surcharge for second homes, as separated couples who haven’t formally divorced may still have title deeds on their previous home despite wishing to buy a new one which would be their main residence.

The Conveyancing Association also said clarity was needed on parents jointly purchasing a home for their children, saying that additional rates should ‘not apply if it is a residential home for any of the joint buyers’.

The association was critical of the government’s move to add an exemption for companies or individuals already owning 15 properties, calling it ‘arbitrary with no scientific basis’. If the exemption remains the Conveyancing Association suggested lowering it to 10.

Goldsmith reckoned the government should defer the April 1 deadline for applying all of the changes. He added: “The CA, and its members, are concerned across a number of levels. Firstly, in terms of the clarity provided but, secondly, because the final policy design will only be announced in the budget on the 16 March.

“This leaves conveyancers, and indeed the entire market, with only a very small amount of time to implement these changes before the stamp duty increases are due to be introduced on the 1 April.

“One might therefore suggest that the government seek to defer implementation of the final rules to allow all stakeholders, particularly conveyancers, to ensure they have the appropriate amount of time to comply with these new rules.”

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