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April 17 2002

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(See the full text of the Chancellor's speech here!)

STAMP DUTY ON UK LAND AND BUILDINGS

The Chancellor today announced a package of measures to tackle
current avoidance of stamp duty on commercial property transactions
and launched major reform to modernise stamp duty on land and
buildings in the UK.

Tackling avoidance

Legislation will be included in Finance Bill 2002 to discourage a
range of techniques currently used to avoid stamp duty on high-value
property deals. Left unchecked, this activity represents a major
threat to the Exchequer. The Government is therefore determined to
take steps to ensure stamp duty is paid on the full range of
transactions in UK property. These measures bring forward a
fundamental part of the longer-term modernisation of stamp duty.

Modernising stamp duty

The main reforms are set out in a consultative document published
today, which seeks views on the detail of the modernised regime.
Legislation will be included in the Finance Bill 2003 to reform stamp
duty. The reform will build on the 2002 measures to tackle avoidance,
and will:

- support the Government's e-business agenda, in particular the
introduction of paperless electronic conveyancing, and

- update the framework of the tax, bringing it into line with more
modern taxes.

Individual home-buyers and their agents will see no immediate effect,
but the reform will help pave the way for purchases to be conducted
electronically in the future, making the house-buying process faster
and more efficient.

In welcoming the changes, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury,
Ruth Kelly, said:

"The case for change is overwhelming. Stamp duty on UK land and
buildings is outdated. It does not reflect current commercial
practice and it is not suited to the rapidly developing world of
e-business. Moreover we are determined to stop the growing avoidance
of stamp duty by a minority at the expense of the majority."

DETAILS: 2002 MEASURES

In order to discourage certain avoidance devices, legislation will be
brought forward in the 2002 Finance Bill to:

- 'claw back' group relief where UK property has been transferred
from one company to another in the same group, and within two years
the company in receipt of the property leaves the group.

- 'claw back' the partial relief under Section 76 FA 1986 where a
company acquires the whole or part of an undertaking of another
company in exchange for shares in the acquiring company, and within
two years control of the acquiring company passes to a third party.

- extend the penalty regime for documents executed in the UK to
documents (relating to UK land or buildings) executed outside the
UK. Penalties for the late stamping of documents executed outside
the UK will in future run from 30 days after the date of execution.

- bring contracts for the sale of interests in land with a market
value in excess of #10 million into charge, to tackle the avoidance
of stamp duty on large deals through 'resting on contract' - where
companies deliberately do not complete a transaction in the
traditional way to avoid paying stamp duty on the document that
effectively transfers ownership of property.

Taken together, these measures will ensure stamp duty is payable
where a transfer artificially 'rests' on contract, discourage the use
of companies set up to avoid stamp duty on UK property, and stop the
increasing exploitation of the existing stamp duty reliefs for
company reorganisations.

DETAILS: MODERNISING STAMP DUTY ON LAND AND BUILDINGS IN THE UK

Impact of the revised regime

For the vast majority of individual house-buyers, tenants and their
agents, and for most businesses, stamp duty will continue to be
payable on transactions in the usual way, though there will be
changes to the administration of the tax. Modernisation will pave the
way for future changes to the house-buying process, in particular,
the introduction of electronic documents that will, over time,
replace the current paper-based systems.

For more complex, higher-value commercial transactions, the revised
regime will be less open to abuse and will provide a streamlined
approach to assessing and collecting any stamp duty due. The
consultation will invite views on the detail of how this will work in
practice.

Scope of the charge

The reformed stamp duty charge will apply to all transactions in
respect of interests in UK land and buildings. So, as now, it will
apply to purchases of freeholds and leaseholds over #60,000, and to
certain new leases. The reform will not have any significant impact
on either the stamp duty, or the main stamp duty reserve tax (SDRT),
charge on shares.

It is anticipated that all existing reliefs and provisions will be
carried forward to the revised regime, unless they are no longer
needed or could be exploited to undermine that regime. In particular,
the stamp duty relief for land and property in disadvantaged areas
(see press notice HMT1 for details on this relief) will be carried
forward.

New reliefs

The revised regime will not apply to:

- transfers of, and agreements to transfer, goodwill. These will be
exempted from stamp duty with effect from 23 April 2002. This
change puts goodwill on a consistent footing with other
intellectual property, and will bring immediate benefit to sales of
UK businesses. (see press notice REV/C&E1 for further details)

- transfers of debts. These will be removed from the scope of the
modernised stamp duty regime with effect from late 2003 and will
make it easier for companies to raise finance through debt
factoring and the issue of bonds secured on debt portfolios.

Tackling avoidance

A key objective of modernising is to stop avoidance and ensure that
everyone pays their full share of the tax. Under the revised regime,
a range of current avoidance techniques will be stopped.

In particular, there will be specific rules to stop avoidance through
the use of companies and non-corporate vehicles (such as trusts and
partnerships), often known as "special purpose vehicles" or SPVs.
Under the revised stamp duty regime, the Government proposes to
create a charge triggered in certain circumstances by transfers of
shares or interests in a limited range of property-owning vehicles.
Broadly, the charge will be equivalent to the stamp duty that would
be due if the land and buildings contained in the vehicle had been
transferred directly to a new owner. The intention is to put the
stamp duty treatment of property transfers by way of special vehicles
on the same footing as transfers by way of sale.

The charge will apply to all qualifying transactions taking place
after the introduction of the rules, including future transactions in
vehicles already in existence, and regardless of whether they are
registered inside or outside the UK.

The precise scope of this charge, and the type of vehicles affected,
will be the subject of detailed discussion in the summer as part of
the wider consultation.

Stamp duty on new leases

The Government also wishes to review the current stamp duty charge on
the grant of new leases (known as "lease duty"). At present this
charge does not always reflect modern commercial practice nor the
value of the lease. The Government would welcome views on the best
methodology for charging new leases, with the presumption that the
revised charge will:

- correspond more closely to the stamp duty charge on a freehold
transfer or lease assignment of a property of similar value;

- better reflect modern commercial practice; and

- discourage the use of leases to reduce the stamp duty charge on the
sale of freehold property.

Stamp duty on shares

In the main, transfers of shares and securities are charged to stamp
duty reserve tax (SDRT), which was introduced in 1986. This reform
will not disturb the scope and impact of the main SDRT charge and of
stamp duty as it applies to share transfers.

NOTES

Stamp duty is over three hundred years old and the legislation was
last consolidated in 1891. It is a charge on documents that transfer
property, and most of the yield arises from conveyances of land and
transfers of shares. The modernising proposals focus on the
transactions in UK land and buildings (the existing rules for shares
will remain unchanged).

When duty is paid, stamps are still impressed physically on the
document concerned. Unlike more modern taxes there is no provision
for the tax to be collected directly from taxpayers by assessment.
The main sanction for failure to pay is that the document cannot be
registered with the UK land registries or other registry, or used in
evidence in court proceedings.

Stamp duty on land and property currently raises over #4 billion (of
which, about #300 million relates to lease duty). It is paid each
year by around 1.4 million individuals buying houses, around 80,000
companies purchasing commercial property, land or housing stock, and
around 250,000 individuals and businesses taking out new leases on
residential and commercial property.

During the last few years, however, there has been a growth in
arrangements designed to avoid stamp duty on transfers of land and
buildings, relying on amongst other things the lack of enforcement
powers.

A tax on paper documents is simply not suited to modern commercial
practice, e-business or future developments in the house-buying
process. In particular, a primary reason for modernising stamp duty
is to introduce a regime that is fully able to support wider
Government plans to facilitate e-business. For England and Wales, HM
Land Registry is to publish a major consultation on the plans for
e-conveyancing shortly. The Keeper of the Registers of Scotland also
intends to consult on the results of the recently completed pilot of
"Automated Registration of Title to Land" later this year. The Inland
Revenue has worked closely with both these offices over the past
months, and it is generally agreed that, ultimately, such electronic
systems will encompass the collection of stamp duty.

Copies of the consultative document are available on the Inland
Revenue website at www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/consult_new.
Alternatively, they can be obtained from the following address:

Inland Revenue Visitors Information Centre Ground Floor, South West
Wing, Bush House, Strand, London WC2B 4RD

The closing date for responses is 19 July 2002.

A partial Regulatory Impact Assessment has been prepared for the
reform of stamp duty and is available on the Revenue website or from
the above address.

HM TREASURY PRESS OFFICE

Non-media enquiries: 020 7270 4558

INLAND REVENUE PRESS OFFICE


Non-media enquiries: 020 7944 3000
(office hours only)

GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT INTERNET SITES

Further information and all published documents relating to Budget
2002 may be found on the Internet at the following addresses:

HM Treasury www.hm-treasury.gov.uk

Inland Revenue www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk

HM Customs and Excise www.hmce.gov.uk




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last modified: April 17, 2002