A property specialist is warning about “modern day ambulance chasers” who try to convince buyers they have paid too much stamp duty.
“An increasing number of firms are contacting homebuyers after completion, suggesting they have been overcharged SDLT and are therefore eligible to claim a refund,” explains residential property search professional Kate Bould, who is managing director of the consultancy Index West Midlands Property Information.
“These firms are the modern-day ‘ambulance chasers’ and in my view, predators that are capitalising on the buoyant property market triggered by the SDLT holiday period, and exploiting the improved knowledge of SDLT in its wake” she says.
Bould suggests that conveyancers should be extra-vigilant with stamp duty calculations, and should carry out due diligence if approached by any apparent stamp duty specialist querying payments.
“Information about every commercial and residential property transaction is published and available on the Land Registry website, and being used by this new breed of companies as a source of potential work.
“Using it, these SDLT refund businesses identify potential overpaid SDLT, contact the purchaser to suggest a miscalculation has been made, and then offer their help to claim a refund - for a substantial fee, often pitched as on a ‘no-win, no fee’ basis.
“Unsolicited approaches are pretty much always too good to be true and homebuyers should be told to act with caution and check independently whether a refund is due.”
To date, there have been 49 releases of tax considerations relevant to SDLT and Bould believes conveyancers shouldn’t rely solely on the online SDLT calculator.
“As well as the homebuyers, solicitors are exposing themselves to risks if a property is mis-classified and the SDLT payable to HMRC miscalculated" explains Bould.
“Outsourcing SDLT checks and calculations to a registered SDLT specialist is a personal choice, but SDLT is complicated and sometimes reliefs are overlooked, so using an independent is strongly recommended.”