Stamp duty land tax

Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is a tax payable by the purchaser on land transactions.

As a solicitor, it may be that you advise on SDLT. You may also need to file SDLT returns and pay the tax on your clients’ behalf and within the applicable time limits.

This page provides a summary of key points only – see our legal notice.

A solicitor who does not have the necessary specialist knowledge of tax should not advise on it and may need to advise clients to obtain specialist SDLT advice, especially in relation to higher risk transactions.

In Wales, SDLT has been replaced by the land transaction tax.

Read the Welsh government guidance on land transaction tax

SDLT has become a tax with complex rules about the scope, rates and reliefs.

It is payable when a purchaser acquires a ‘chargeable interest’ in land in England or Northern Ireland. The amount payable is based on the ‘chargeable consideration’. Often this is the price the purchaser pays for the property or land, including any fixtures and fittings.

Residential property

Where a UK resident individual buys their only residential property to occupy themselves, the thresholds and rates applicable are relatively straightforward, as follows.

If the chargeable consideration is £125,000 or under, then no SDLT is payable.

If the price is above the threshold, the purchaser must pay SDLT on the portion over £125,000.

The rate increases in bands, starting at 2% for the next £125,000 and going up to 12% for any portion above £1.5 million.

There are different rules in some circumstances for those buying their first home where the purchase price is £500,000 or less.

From 1 April 2021, new rates of SDLT were introduced for buyers of residential property in England and Northern Ireland who are not resident in the UK. The new rates are 2% higher than rates that apply to purchases made by UK residents.

Read HMRC’s guidance on residential property rates

Other property

There are different rules, rates and thresholds for non-residential and mixed-use property.

Read HMRC’s guidance on non-residential and mixed-use property rates

There are special rules for calculating SDLT on rents.

There is also a 15% flat rate of SDLT that applies to certain high value residential property acquisitions by non-individuals. (This is separate from the higher rates for additional dwellings provisions explained below.)

Higher rates for additional dwellings

Higher rates are charged for a purchase of certain additional residential properties by an individual and for a purchase of any dwelling by a non-individual, if the chargeable consideration is £40,000 or more.

This may therefore apply, for example, when an individual purchases a buy-to-let property or a holiday home, if the purchase means the individual will own more than one property.

The purchaser must pay 3% on top of the normal standard rates, subject to any applicable conditions, exemptions or reliefs.

From 1 April 2021, the 2% non-resident SDLT surcharge may apply on top of the higher rates for non-UK resident purchasers.

Read HMRC’s guidance on higher rates of SDLT

HMRC’s SDLT calculator

The government’s SDLT calculator may help you to work out the tax payable.

A land transaction is chargeable to SDLT unless an exemption or relief applies.

Relief for first-time buyers

If the purchaser is a first-time buyer and the price of the property is £500,000 or less, they can claim first-time buyers' relief.

The buyer must be an individual and the property must be a residential property that the buyer intends to use as their main home.

They will pay no SDLT up to £300,000 and 5% on the portion from £300,001 up to £500,000.

If the chargeable consideration is more than £500,000 the purchaser cannot claim first-time buyers' relief and must pay the standard rate.

Read HMRC’s guidance on relief for first-time buyers

Other reliefs

Several other reliefs can be claimed, including for:

  • purchases of multiple dwellings
  • purchases by a charity of land and property for charitable purposes
  • right to buy purchases

Read HMRC’s guidance on reliefs

If the purchaser is buying a property through a shared ownership scheme operated by an approved qualifying body such as a housing association or local authority, they can decide to either:

  • pay SDLT based on the total market value of the property – this is called a ‘market value election’, or
  • pay SDLT just on the initial share they are buying

If they choose to pay SDLT just based on the initial share, they will need to make a further payment if they later buy additional shares that take their ownership above 80%.

Read HMRC’s guidance on SDLT for shared ownership property

The purchaser must file a land transaction return even if they do not need to pay any tax, unless the transaction is exempt from SDLT or from notification. You may be required to do this on the purchaser’s behalf.


You do not have to file a return if a land transaction is exempt from SDLT, such as where there is no chargeable consideration.

A land transaction may also be exempt from notification, for example, where it is a grant of a lease for a term of less than seven years where the chargeable consideration does not exceed the zero-rate threshold.

Read HMRC’s guidance on exemptions


The purchaser must file the return and pay the tax within 14 days of the ‘effective date’ of the transaction. However, you may be obliged to do this on behalf of the purchaser/buyer, for example if their mortgagee requires it.

The ‘effective date’ is usually the completion date, but it can be the date when the contract is ‘substantially performed’ if this happens before completion – for example if the purchaser is given possession of the property early.

Online returns

If you’re a solicitor you will need to register to use HMRC’s Stamp Taxes Online service. Find out how to register.

You can then submit SDLT returns online.

As soon as you submit the return you will receive an online SDLT5 certificate and a unique transaction reference number (UTRN). You’ll need to send the UTRN to HM Land Registry when you make an application to register the transaction.

Paper returns

A person who is not a solicitor or conveyancer cannot file a return online and will need to send a paper return to HMRC, using form SDLT1. It must include a valid local authority code and be signed by the purchaser.

The deadline for paying the tax is the same as the deadline for filing the return: 14 days from the effective date of the transaction.

When paying, it’s important to use the correct 11-digit UTRN and the correct HMRC bank account. This will allow HMRC to link the payment to the SDLT return. If you filed online, the UTRN will be on the SDLT5 certificate. If you filed a paper return, the UTRN is on the payslip at the back of the form.

There are several ways to pay. Some methods take longer than others and you’ll need to allow enough time for the payment to go through before the deadline. Payment methods include:

  • Faster Payments
  • BACS
  • online using a debit card or corporate credit card
  • at a bank or building society
  • by cheque through the post

Read HMRC’s guidance on paying SDLT

Penalties and interest for late filing and non-payment

A penalty of £100 is payable for a late return, or £200 if it is more than three months late. A tax-based penalty may also be imposed if the tax is not paid within 12 months of the filing deadline. Interest is charged on the amount owed.

Find out more about penalties and interest

You should be aware of the anti-avoidance measures applicable to SDLT.

There are anti-avoidance rules contained in the SDLT legislation, notably the wide rules at section 75A, 75B and 75C of the Finance Act 2003 and the rules on linked transactions at section 55 of the Finance Act 2003.

There are also relevant measures outside of the SDLT legislation, including the rules of the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) and the General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR), both of which apply to SDLT.

Read the SRA’s warning notice on SDLT schemes

Read our practice note on disclosure of tax avoidance schemes

Read the government's general anti-abuse rule guidance

Watch out for situations not necessarily covered by the guidance above, such as:

  • purchases by non-UK residents
  • purchases by companies or other non-natural persons
  • commercial property purchases
  • linked transactions
  • new leasehold sales and transfers
  • if the property price is not the same as relevant consideration for SDLT purposes
  • cases where multiple dwellings relief might apply
  • properties with annexes, subsidiary dwellings, paddocks or fields
  • shared ownership properties
  • not sold old main residence when buying a new main residence

If in doubt, seek specialist advice.

The rules are different for properties in Wales.

Read the Welsh government guidance on land transaction tax

The government regularly makes changes to SDLT which are often announced in the Budget. Changes are usually introduced through the Finance Act each year.

Budget March 2021

The March 2021 budget announced an extension of the temporary ‘SDLT holiday’, which was originally introduced in July 2020.

The SDLT reduction operated by way of an increase in the residential SDLT nil rate band. The level of that band marks the residential property value at which SDLT starts to be payable.

The nil rate band remained at the full concessionary level of £500,000 until 30 June 2021.

From 1 July 2021, the nil rate band was set at £250,000 until 30 September 2021, before it returned to £125,000 on 1 October 2021.

Read the HMRC guidance on the temporary reduced rates

Economic update July 2020

The chancellor of the exchequer announced a temporary reduction to SDLT rates in response to uncertainty in the housing market as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The residential property value at which SDLT begins to be paid was temporarily raised from £125,000 to £500,000. The 3% SDLT surcharge for purchases of additional properties continued to apply on top of the temporarily reduced rates.

The revised rates took effect from 8 July 2020. They were originally intended to remain in effect until 31 March 2021. (This was subsequently extended by the March 2021 budget.)

Budget March 2020

The government announced it would introduce a 2% SDLT surcharge on non-UK residents purchasing residential property in England and Northern Ireland from 1 April 2021.

This change was preceded by a government consultation. Read our response to the consultation from May 2019.

Finance Act 2019

The SDLT changes announced at budget 2017 and budget 2018 which were enacted in the Finance Act 2019 included:

  • relief and repayment for first-time buyers in cases of shared ownership
  • changes to rules on the higher rates of tax for additional dwellings
  • changes for periods for delivering returns and paying tax

These three changes are explained in some more detail below.

First-time buyers’ relief and shared ownership

Relief for first-time buyers was extended to purchases of qualifying shared ownership property where the purchaser chooses not to make a market value election but to pay SDLT in stages.

Where the market value of the shared ownership property is £500,000 or less, the SDLT rates for first-time buyers are applied to the first share purchased. Relief will also apply to the rental payments.

Buyers who make a market election were already eligible for the relief.

The changes took effect on 29 October 2018 and apply retrospectively from 22 November 2017.

The buyer can claim a refund of tax if:

  • the effective date of the purchase was on or after 22 November 2017 but before 29 October 2018
  • a return was filed and SDLT paid as if no relief was due, and
  • the purchase would now qualify for first-time buyers’ relief

Purchasers who have made a market election can also claim refunds for SDLT paid on the rent.

Higher rates for additional dwellings

The time limit for claiming a repayment of SDLT was extended for buyers who pay the higher rates for additional dwellings (HRAD) on the purchase of a property which they intend to be used as a main home, and who later sell their previous main home.

The buyer must claim either:

  • within 12 months of selling the previous main home, or
  • within 12 months of filing the SDLT return for the new home on which they paid HRAD, if this is later

The changes apply where the old main residence is sold on or after 29 October 2018.

The definition of ‘major interest’ was also changed for the purposes of HRAD to make clear that it includes an ‘undivided share’ in a dwelling.

Changes to the filing and payment process

As confirmed in the autumn 2017 Budget, the time limit to file an SDLT return and pay the tax due reduced from 30 days to 14 days, for all transactions on or after 1 March 2019.

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