Stamp duty avoidance crackdown

Those using avoidance schemes to dodge stamp duty land tax will face new scrutiny from HM Revenue & Customs.

The schemes currently cost the public £170m a year and users will now have disclose them to the authorities.

Earlier in the year the SRA urged solicitors warned the profession to ensure any involvement with such schemes complies with the code of conduct.

The new regulations on disclosure will give HMRC better access to information about them and those who use them, enabling them to be challenged and closed down more quickly.

A First Tier Tribunal has ruled against Durham-based Vardy Property Group who sought to exploit a rule to avoid paying £290,000 of stamp duty on the £7.25m purchase of commercial property in 2006.

HMRC’s director general of business tax, Jim Harra, said: “This victory at the First Tier Tribunal sends a clear message to tax avoiders that we will challenge avoidance relentlessly.”

The Vardy Group said it will not be appealing the decision. A spokeswoman said: “We went into this arrangement in good faith having been professionally advised, along with many other property investors, that it was a perfectly legitimate and legal course of action.

“With the benefit of hindsight, it was the wrong decision. Important lessons have been learned as a result, not least taking action that is based entirely upon professional advice.”

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