Industry Bodies Petition Chancellor over SDLT

Three leading conveyancing membership bodies have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak imploring the government to consider an “alternative” end to the SDLT holiday.

Rob Hailstone, CEO of the Bold Legal Group (BLG), Mike Ockenden, Head of Secretariat at Society of Licensed Conveyancers and Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association have responded to reports this week that the SDLT holiday may be extended by three months in the Budget on 3rd March.

The letter acknowledges the concerns of many that “a ‘cliff edge’ approach, just as the UK begins to recover could freeze this critical market, impacting revenue for small businesses, trades people and larger retailers alike. Without action there is a considerable risk that billions of pounds will be lost in the housing market, alongside hundreds of millions of pounds in home mover spending.”

Instead of an extension, the letter proposes an “alternative approach:”

“All purchasers who have formally instructed their regulated solicitor/conveyancer to act for them on the purchase of a specific property by a specified date, (for example midnight on the 28th February) should still be allowed to complete their purchase with the Stamp Duty concession provided completion of that transaction takes place within (say) 12 months.

This solution:

  • Is simple to legislate
  • Is fair for consumers and removes the post code lottery
  • Eliminates the ‘cliff edge’ completely and allows transactions to proceed at their natural pace
  • Prevents a stampede of homebuyers trying to take advantage of an extension
  • Allows the housing market to revert to a state of normality straight away
  • Carries virtually no risk of fraud. The legal profession that already acts as tax collector for SDLT simply has to ensure the cut-off date of 28th February has been observed when claiming exemption
  • Involves no party in additional work, including HMRC
  • Should save taxpayers money”

CLICK HERE to read the letter in full

The letter follows a survey completed by the Bold Legal Group to its 700 member firms asking opinion on a preferred, and most realistic, way forward with regards the SDLT holiday. The survey received well over 200 responses, the most he has had relating to any issue in the ten-year history of the BLG highlighting the importance of the topic to nearly every conveyancer in England and Wales.

The majority of survey respondents indicated that they would now prefer to stick to a 31st March end to the holiday or, June if that decision has already been made, while a number would like the holiday to be permanent or SDLT to be scrapped completely, but that is not considered to be very likely at this moment in time. Comments included:

“By moving the date to end of June, it is prolonging the stress and the amount of people that think they will benefit.  It doesn’t help the people who are purchasing with Help To Buy (I have a client who needs to complete by 31 March with HTB as they are not eligible under the new scheme due to having owned a house before).   It also doesn’t help the people purchasing from abroad with the 2% surcharge so the race is still on with some of my clients!”

“I see every day the extreme pressure this deadline is placing on our staff. Many are burning out having not taken more than a couple of days holiday in nearly a year. We’re a predominantly female industry and many have young children at home. Managing this workload in an office environment with schools open throughout would have been manageable but doing it at home, away from the immediate support of their colleagues, with children in the home or isolated in a bedroom office has been a huge ask. Their mental health has without doubt suffered.”

Well-being has been at the centre of many conversations around any extension as the conveyancing community as a whole is struggling to cope with work volumes, and delays caused by outside forces.

Today’s Conveyancer has launched its own “Call for Kindness” to encourage collaboration and consideration amongst conveyancers as workload pressures take their toll. The campaign has been promoted by the property press and online. To get involved simply quote “Call for Kindness” and use the #bekind.

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