Stamp DutyMay 31 2022

Govt warns homeowners over SDLT refund cold calls

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Govt warns homeowners over SDLT refund cold calls
Darren Staples/Bloomberg

HM Revenue & Customs has warned new homeowners to watch out for cold calls from “rogue” tax repayment agents which could leave them with large tax bills.

In an announcement published yesterday (May 30), the government body said these agents were advising owners to make “speculative” stamp duty land tax refund claims.

The agents, HMRC said, have been known to call new property owners after finding them through Land Registry records and property search websites, promising money back on “unknowingly overpaid” stamp duty.

However, analysis by HMRC has found up to a third of claims for multiple dwelling relief refunds were incorrect.

In many cases, HMRC can raise an enquiry over a claim after the agent has taken their fee, leaving the homeowner to pick up the difference.

Incorrect refund claims must also be repaid with interest to HMRC. The taxman said some could potentially face penalties as well.

Some £11.6bn was collected in stamp duty land tax between 2019 and 2020.

“We are seeing obviously spurious refund claims that are never going to succeed, but will lead to an unnecessary bill for the customer,” said HMRC’s wealthy and mid-size business director, Nicole Newbury.

“So we are warning new homeowners not to get caught out by tax repayment agents promising easy money on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. 

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We want to help people get it right and avoid unnecessary tax bills, so treat promises of easy money with real caution.”

HMRC said anyone approached about a stamp duty refund claim should check with their original conveyancer, take independent professional advice and check its guidance.

In one example, a letter from a "rogue" agent suggested a homeowner may have overpaid £60,000 worth of stamp duty and claimed the home could be designated as two properties, despite "it clearly being one", said HMRC. 

The Financial Conduct Authority has moved to ban cold calling for funeral plans, and pension cold calls are illegal under the Information Commissioner’s Office, but the broader financial services sector is yet to receive a blanket-wide ban.

Ron Wheatcroft, a Kent-based technical manager at Swiss Re, has received a number of cold calls relating to organising meetings to discuss his care costs which, when traced back, link to unregulated lead generation firms.

Some have therefore called for the financial services industry to “wake up” to the realities of rogue lead generation tactics which still rely heavily on cold calling under the guise of fake names.

Alain Desmier, founder of Contact State, a firm attempting to legitimise the lead generation industry, is one such individual trying to cut out cold calling out of the industry.