How to beat Stamp Duty

For sale and To let signsWe look at the ways to pay less or even no Stamp Duty.

Stamp Duty is just another cost to worry about when you're buying a property. What can you do to reduce or even eliminate the tax altogether?%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Stamp Duty thresholds
Exactly how much Stamp Duty you will have to pay depends on the size of the property transaction.

The Stamp Duty thresholds are detailed in the table below:

Purchase price

Stamp Duty rate

Up to £125,000

0%

£125,001-£250,000

1%

£250,001-£500,000

3%

£500,001-£1 million

4%

£1 million-£2 million

5%

£2 million+

7%

£2 million + (if bought through 'corporate envelope')

15%

So obviously one way to avoid paying Stamp Duty is to pay less than £125,000 for your property. However, there are a number of other ways to cut how much you spend on Stamp Duty thanks to the range of Stamp Duty reliefs that the taxman offers.

Disadvantaged Areas Relief
The Government has determined a number of areas are 'disadvantaged'. As a result, if you buy in one of these areas, you will only have to pay Stamp Duty if the transaction costs more than £150,000. That gives you an extra £25,000 to play with before worrying about Stamp Duty.
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Disadvantaged Areas Relief is available in nearly 2,000 areas across the UK. In Scotland they are based on postcode areas, while in England, Wales and Northern Ireland they are based on local Government wards and electoral divisions.

The links below detail the areas classed as disadvantaged in each country (opening as a PDF).
'Chain-breaking' purchases
You find the home of your dreams. You find a buyer for your existing property. Everything is going swimmingly until the sale of your home falls through, bringing the whole chain to a halt.

However, if a property trader steps in to buy your existing property to enable you to complete the purchase of your new home, the trader will not have to pay Stamp Duty.

That's so long as the following conditions are met:
  • The individual lived in the house as their main or only residence at some time during the two years before the trader bought it.
  • The trader is buying the house to allow the purchase of the new home to proceed.
  • The individual intends to occupy the new home as their only or main residence.
  • The area of land bought by the trader is within certain limits – usually 0.5 hectare.
Right to buy
Right to buy transactions are where a public sector body (such as a local housing authority) sells a property at a discount. These are most associated with Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister though they are still available today.

What's more, Stamp Duty relief is available on right to buy deals. Any Stamp Duty will be calculated on the discounted price you pay for the property, rather than the market value of the property. So if the council home you buy is worth £150,000 but you get a £30,000 discount, you won't pay any Stamp Duty at all.

Zero-carbon homes
As the name suggests, zero-carbon homes are eco-friendly properties which produces zero (or even negative) carbon dioxide emissions. The Government wants all new homes to be zero-carbon from 2016.

And when a zero-carbon home is bought for the first time there will be no Stamp Duty to pay, so long as the transaction costs £500,000 or less.

If the transaction costs more than this, there will be a reduction in the Stamp Duty charged of a maximum of £15,000.

Multiple purchases
Stamp Duty relief is available if you buy a number of different properties all in one go.

The example that HMRC gives is that if I bought five houses all in one go for a total of £1 million, I would ordinarily face a tax bill of 5%. That's £50,000.

However, the relief means that the rate of tax is determined by dividing the amount paid by the number of dwellings bought. So in this example, £1 million divided by five is £200,000. And transactions of £200,000 are only subject to a 1% Stamp Duty charge, meaning I'd actually only have to pay 1% tax on the total £1 million transaction.

That would leave me with a tax bill of £10,000.

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