Stamp Duty abolished for First Time 'Buyers' - is it really that simple?

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As of 22 November 2017, certain individuals who buy a residential property in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, at a price up to £300,000 can claim a complete exemption from stamp duty, and a flat rate of 5% stamp duty on the portion from £300,001 to £500,000.

The lucky ones are being referred to as ‘first time buyers’, but more accurately it should be first time ‘owners’, as exemption applies to buyers who have never previously ‘owned’ a residential freehold or leasehold (over 21 years duration) property, or part of one.

The word ‘owned’ includes having purchased, having been gifted, having inherited, or by a financial institution on behalf of a person under an alternative finance scheme - and even a trustee buying if they were also a beneficiary.

However, the fine print does not stop there. There are 4 extra hurdles before exemption can be claimed:

1.   If there is more than one buyer, then all must qualify for the exemption, or they all fail;

2.   Previous ownership includes anywhere in the world, not just the UK;

3.   There must be an ‘intention to occupy’ the property as the main residence;

4.   The property being purchased must be a single dwelling (i.e a self-contained part of a building where residents can live independently can disqualify the exemption)