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Stamp presses close as electronic stamp duty process becomes the new normal

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) closed the stamp presses in March 2020 as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck and an alternative electronic process for dealing with documents that required stamping was hurriedly put in place.

The change did not affect transfers of land and property that are subject to stamp duty land tax.

However, it impacted the range of documents still within the stamp duty regime, including stock transfer forms transferring shares.

HMRC has announced that it will retire the stamp presses on 19 July 2021 and effectively put the temporary electronic processes on a more permanent footing.

HMRC guidance states that where stamp duty has been paid on a stock transfer form using the electronic process since March 2020, that instrument is duly stamped for all purposes.

HMRC states that you do not need to resubmit any documents to be stamped under the previous physical stamping system.

This will be welcome news for many practitioners concerned about how the backlog of documents that have not been physically stamped would be dealt with.

It comes after we questioned the need for the presses to open again in our consultation response on the modernisation of stamp taxes on shares last summer.

We suggested a legislative change might be considered to support the formalisation of the temporary electronic process. HMRC seems to have concluded that is unnecessary.

It may have been helped in reaching this position by the extra flexibility given by the Stamp Duty (Method of Denoting Duty) Regulations 2019, which extended some of the legislative definitions to allow HMRC to denote duty other than by impressed stamps.

Read more in HMRC’s press release, Stamp Taxes on Shares Manual, and the London Gazette notice of the retirement of the presses.

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