COVID-19: Temporary measures introduced by HMRC’s Stamp Office


3rd April 2020

HMRC has announced temporary changes to its Stamp Duty processes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HMRC will not be processing postal applications or correspondence, but will be dealing with Stamp Duty matters electronically using the email address [email protected]. HMRC have stated that guidance will be updated when these changes come to an end.

Our previous post about the temporary arrangements HMRC have put in place for paying Stamp Duty on share transfers can be found here.

Since HMRC posted its initial guidance on 25 March 2020, further updates have been provided regarding communications with the Stamp Office. Specifically, HMRC has revised its procedure in relation to claims for intra-group relief and transfer schemes of arrangements.

Claims for intra-group relief

All claims for group relief should be sent to the above email address and any claims already posted should be re-submitted electronically, or they may not be assessed or returned until the temporary COVID-19 measures come to an end.

The email should include:

  • an electronic copy of the letter of claim
  • stock transfer form or relevant part of the instrument of transfer and supporting evidence

The letter of claim and stock transfer form or instrument should be fully completed, signed and dated (by a Power of Attorney if necessary) and HMRC have stated that the use of e-signatures is permissible during this period.

Unless otherwise requested, HMRC will only require a list of the shareholders and their relevant shareholding (including class of shares) for each company rather than copies of the full register of members.

If relief is due, HMRC will send an email and letter confirming this, as well as assurance that no penalty will be pursued against the Registrar for registering the new ownership of the shares.

Whilst the guidance itself is unclear HMRC has indicated that, once the COVID-19 measures have ended, stock transfer forms or instruments submitted electronically may still need to be re-submitted in the usual way together with the formal letter which HMRC attached to their email for physical stamping.

Transfer schemes of arrangements

Any applications to HMRC for confirmation of whether a court order sanctioning a scheme of arrangement will be subject to Stamp Duty should be sent electronically. All applications must contain the scheme particulars or proposed scheme document, together with a copy of the draft court order sanctioning the scheme.

Where the proposed scheme requires execution of an instrument of transfer, the application must also include an undertaking to present the instrument along with payment of the ad valorem Stamp Duty due.

Obtaining opinions on Stamp Duty payments and penalties

Any queries on whether Stamp Duty is payable or whether a relief or exemption applies should be sent to the above email address, including electronic copies of all relevant documents. HMRC will then respond with an informal opinion on the subject matter. If there are grounds to disagree with HMRC’s determination, the query can be reconsidered by way of a formal opinion. This can be requested using the email address listed above.

HMRC’s general guidance for claiming reliefs and exemptions for Stamp Duty can be found here.

We will continue to monitor the developments and produce guidance on these as quickly as possible.

This article has been co-written by Natalie Powers and Cathy Bryant.

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