SDLT saving opportunities

Stamp Duty Land Tax (“SDLT”) arises on most property transactions but have you considered whether you have paid the correct amount of tax? 

We have seen a number of clients overpaying their SDLT liability as they were unaware that their recent property purchase qualified for a relief.

We’re sure you will have seen in the media a rise in the number of SDLT avoidance schemes and HMRC’s crackdown on individuals who purchased ‘off the shelf’ schemes. 
  • Natasha Heron 2

    Natasha Heron

    VAT and Indirect Tax Manager

    Natasha started Hillier Hopkins as a trainee in 2013 having studied Accounting and Finance at University of Bournemouth. Natasha originally joined the Hillier Hopkins Business Group as an auditor and qualified as a member of the ICAEW in 2016.

    Contact Natasha at our Watford office

    Read more

At Hillier Hopkins we do not offer any such schemes and we would never recommend that our clients enter into such arrangements. Instead, we offer a number of legitimate methods to reduce your SDLT bill in line with the current legislation.  

We have had considerable success with three main reliefs and these have enabled our clients to either avoid overpaying in the first place or claim a repayment after the event.

The reliefs are:

  • Avoidance of the Higher Rate Charge on additional property purchases;
  • Mixed-Use; and
  • Multiple Dwellings Relief (“MDR”).

    These reliefs do not involve a number of complex transactions or inserting artificial holding companies or similar. They are based on the application of the rules as set out in Finance Act 2003 and your SDLT bill can be significantly reduced by simply identifying that you are eligible for them. 

Avoidance of the higher rate on additional property purchases

As you are no doubt aware, there was uproar when the Chancellor announced a higher rate charge on those purchasing a second property and almost all residential property purchases are caught. An additional 3% SDLT charge payable on the purchase price of a property can cause the already large SDLT bills to be significantly higher.However, under certain circumstances, it may be possible to avoid the additional charge.
We have successfully claimed refunds for many of our clients.

For example, we recently had a £600,000 purchase where we successfully removed the 3% charge, thus resulting in a refund of £18,000.

We may be able to help you if you have:-
  • Bought (or are buying) a property to be your main residence on which you paid (or are expecting to pay) the additional 3% charge; and
  • Previously sold a main residence in your lifetime.


This part of the legislation presents the opportunity to apply non-residential SDLT rates to what may previously have been considered to be a residential property.

This relief has the biggest potential savings because the non-residential property rates of SDLT are significantly lower than the residential rates. We have successfully reclaimed £375,000 on a single purchase.

Under the legislation if any of the purchase contains a commercial element, then the whole purchase is ‘tainted’ and, as a result, the whole purchase price benefits from the lower rates.

Furthermore, commercial property does not suffer the higher rate charge so if the second property purchased is deemed to have mixed use then the 3% charge would not apply.

We have had success in claiming refunds for a number of clients in this area and examples of the types of commercial use within what would normally be considered to be a residential property include:
  • Selling home brewed cider;
  • Land for satellites;
  • Significant installation of solar panels; and
  • Excess land purchased along with the property. 
There are numerous other scenarios that may qualify and each purchase should be reviewed on the facts with evidence required to support the claim. 

Multiple Dwellings Relief (“MDR”)

This final relief essentially does what it says on the tin - if you purchase multiple properties in one transaction you can claim a relief on the total SDLT payable.

The mechanism of relief is, rather than paying SDLT on the overall purchase consideration, the purchase price is divided by the number of properties. This results in SDLT being calculated on each individual property.

The key is identifying whether more than one property was purchased. 

Most people would easily be able to identify when two houses are purchased, but have you considered your converted garage, outhouse or granny flat?

As with any relief there are a number of criteria that must be met to ensure your additional property qualifies. 

Considerations include:

Does it have facilities to be used independently from your main house?

For example does it have an area which can be used as bedroom, washing facilities and an area to prepare food?

Is the second property subsidiary to the main building?

To be a subsidiary dwelling the second property must be less than 1/3 of the size or value of main building. 

We have had success using both the floor space and value of the property (if a separate valuation can be obtained).

MDR can still be applied if the second property has facilities to be independent from the main house but does not qualify as a subsidiary to the main building, but the higher rate charge would apply to the purchase.

A transaction totalling £1.5m contains one main property and a converted garage (which can be used independently and is deemed to be subsidiary).

Most people would calculate the SDLT on the £1.5m giving a liability of £93,750.

However, under MDR, the £1.5m is divided by two (the number of properties), and the SDLT is calculated on two purchases of £750,000.

The liability is reduced to £55,000 resulting in a saving of £38,750.

Time frame to make a claim

The time frame to claim a refund of SDLT is relatively short - generally 12 months from the date the SDLT1 was submitted to HMRC. Typically this means a maximum of 13 months from the date of purchase to make the claim. 

It is possible to extend this to 4 years in some cases, however, it can be difficult to argue the extension so it is best to deal with a claim within the normal 12 month window referred to above when possible. 

Therefore, if you believe we will able to assist you with a claim please send us the information as soon as possible, before you are out of time.

SDLT is a specialist area and advice should always be obtained before submitting a claim. Hillier Hopkins LLP have extensive experience here and can assist with determining if your purchase qualifies for a valuable relief and whether the claim will be successful.


Get in touch today

​London office

45 Pall Mall

T +44 (0)20 7930 7797
F +44 (0)330 024 3300

Watford office

Radius House
51 Clarendon Road
Herts WD17 1HP

T +44 (0)1923 232938
F +44 (0)330 024 3300

Milton Keynes office

249 Silbury Boulevard
Milton Keynes

T + 44 (0)1908 232020
F + 44 (0)330 024 3300

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Hillier Hopkins is a trading name of Hillier Hopkins LLP, which is registered as a Limited Liability Partnership in England & Wales, No. OC303707. Registered Office: Radius House, 51 Clarendon Road, Watford, Herts WD17 1HP. Registered to carry on audit work in the UK and Ireland by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales. A list of members of the LLP is available at the above address. HH and Hi logos are trade marks belonging to Hillier Hopkins LLP. © Hillier Hopkins LLP.