What is Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) ? – SDLT Explained In Brief

Buying a property is a huge decision – one that requires you to spend a lot of time, money, and resources. Before you can make money out of the property, you’ll initially have to spend a considerable amount. You’ll incur the agent/legal fees and have to pay mandatory taxes such as land tax or stamp duty on the property.

No matter if you are a first-time buyer or are adding another house to your property portfolio, you’ll have a legal obligation to pay the stamp duty. Here is everything you need to know about Stamp Duty Land Tax.

Read more about Residential SDLT, Investor SDLT & Property Developer SDLT

What is Stamp Duty Land Tax?

The Stamp Duty Land Tax, or SDLT, is a tax that is charged on buyers purchasing a piece of land or a residential property costing more than £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland.

What Land Transaction does It Involve?

This tax is applicable on properties bought outright or with a mortgage – both freehold and leasehold properties. When you acquire an interest in land, the SDLT is triggered. This involves buying a house, assigning a lease or even creating one.

When is the Tax Payable?

The tax is triggered when the contract on the land acquisition is significantly performed. It means the tax is triggered from the date the property possession is completed. Similarly, the tax is triggered even if the purchaser takes control of the property before its completion.

What is the Tax Charged on?

Stamp Duty Land Tax is usually charged on the cash that is exchanged between the purchaser and the seller during the sale. It encompasses all situations where value is transferred in forms other than cash too. For instance, instead of giving money, if the purchaser accepts certain work on the property, this tax is incurred.

How much is the Stamp Duty Land Tax?

Stamp Duty is calculated on the value of the house. The stamp duty tax changes according to the property price. These temporarily reduced rates are applicable for properties bought between July 8th, 2020, and September 30th, 2021.

Purchase Price of the Residential Property SDLT Band Rate
 £0 – £500,00  0 %
 £500,001 – 925,000    5 %  
  £925,001 – 1,500,000    10 %
£1,500,001 and above  12 %

Main Residence

Here is an example to help you understand the above table better. If you’ve purchased a property for £750,000, the Stamp Duty Land tax you’d have to pay would be:

  1. For the first £500,000, it would be 0%.
  2. 5% tax would be calculated on the remaining £250,000.
  3. So, the total SDLT tax you’ve got to pay will be £125,000.

Additional Properties

Any property, which is not considered your main residence, is termed a ‘second home’. And if this new property is purchased at £40,000 or more, it attracts an additional 3% surcharge (more than the SDLT rates shown in the above table). Although the stamp duty is taxed on a tiered basis, the 3% surcharge is calculated as a slab. That means the surcharge is calculated on the price of the entire place.

So taking forward the same example, if you buy a second residence at £750,000 in England or Northern Ireland, in addition to the stamp duty tax of £125,000, you’ll also have to pay a 3% surcharge. That means you’ll have to pay £22500 as the surcharge bringing the total payable amount to £147,500.

Some additional details:

  1. If the purchasers acquire a new residence before disposing of their current primary residence, they have 36 months for the higher rates refund.
  2. The purchasers do not have to pay higher tax rates if they can sell their main residence and replace it with another main residence within 36 months.
  3. Inheriting a small portion of a property will not be regarded as additional property if the inheritance happened 36 months before the transaction.

Joint Ownership

In case you purchase an additional property jointly with a partner or a friend before selling your main residence, then you’ll still incur surcharge charges. This tax is charged regardless of whether the joint owner owns a house or not. You’ll still be able to make a refund claim if you meet the necessary criteria. Here is good read on Top Tax Saving Tips for Jointly Owned Properties

First-time Buyers

For residential property values of including and up to £300,000, first-time property buyers have to pay 0% SDLT. From £300,000 to £500,000, the tax will be calculated at 5%, and standard SDLT charges will apply for properties beyond £500,000.

Surcharge on non-UK Residents

For non-UK residents buying a property in England and Northern Ireland, a 2% surcharge will be levied from April 1st, 2021. Transactional rules might apply for property contracts initiated before March 11th, 2020, but completed or considerably performed by April 1st, 2021.

How is the Tax Calculated on Leases?

In case you buy an existing lease, then the SDLT is calculated similarly to the purchase of a freehold property. Suppose the lease is worked out for a premium amount in addition to rent. In that case, the premium amount is considered for SDLT calculation, and this is calculated as a freehold property. You can also make use of government-provided SDLT calculators to help work out your stamp duty tax easily.


There are a few exemptions where the land transfer will not be used for SDLT calculation. They include:

  1. A piece of land that is gifted (however, inheritance tax might still apply)
  2. Land transferred in case of divorce, separation, or the termination of civil partnership
  3. License to occupy land
  4. Land transferred within a group of companies
  5. Land transferred to a charity

How Do I Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax?

You’ll have to complete the SDLT return and submit the same to the HMRC office within 14days of acquiring possession of your property or transaction. In case you need help with the filing, you can directly contact HMRC. A late tax return will trigger a penalty of £100, and interest will also be charged. Once the HMRC accepts the tax return filed, they will send a certificate to acknowledge the tax paid. You’ll need this certificate to change the property ownership details at the Land Registry. A certificate from the HMRC doesn’t necessarily mean that the office has accepted the tax returns filed. The HMRC can decide to challenge the amount and enquire into the filing within the next 9 months.

Wrapping Up

The Stamp Duty Land Tax calculations might seem overwhelming at first. However, you can get help directly from the HMRC office or engage the services of established auditors or property accountants.

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