Business Law: James Skellorn on how the reform of Stamp Duty Land Tax will affect farmers

James Skellorn, Barker Gotelee

James Skellorn, Barker Gotelee - Credit: Archant

The major reform of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) may help to revive a flagging housing market just in time for the election, but a key point for farmers is that new high rates of Stamp Duty (10% on value between £925,001.00 and £1.5m and value in excess of £1.5m taxed at 12%) apply only to residential properties.

Farms qualify as “mixed residential and commercial”. A substantial farmhouse, which, if bought for £2m on its own, would prompt SDLT at 12% on the top slice of value, suffers SDLT at only 4% if purchased as part of a farm.

By contrast, a farm worker’s cottage, which if purchased separately for £200,000, would attract SDLT of £1,500, if purchased as part of a substantial farm (costing, say £1m) will suffer SDLT of £8000. Swings and roundabouts...

Whether this will create a market for farmhouses with 20 or 30 acres of land, which are sold as farms, and attract the lower rate of SDLT, remains to be seen.

The next point of interest to anyone with some savings, is a change to the rules for ISAs. Previously, if one of a married couple died, his or her ISAs lost their ISA status when they passed to the surviving spouse.

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Now if one spouse dies, the surviving spouse benefits from an increase in his or her ISA allowance equal in value to the value of the ISAs of the late spouse.

The surviving spouse can have the ISAs transferred over and preserve their tax free status. Note that ISAs always have been able to pass free of inheritance tax to a surviving spouse as they are covered by spouse exemption (like all other property passing between spouses).

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A final point is a new tax relief for businesses which contribute to a partnership funding flood defence scheme. The increased risk of flooding for farmers along the coast of Suffolk has led to a lot of effort to come up with new ways to fund the cost of flood defences.

One method is a partnership funding scheme, which is a vehicle for flood defences to be funded by a combination of donations from businesses and grant funding. This tax break makes it clear that any donations by a private business will receive income tax or corporation tax relief.

: : James Skellorn is senior partner at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

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