New stamp duty surcharge could leave divorced partners unable to buy their own home

The Government’s new stamp duty surcharge could leave divorced estranged partners unable to buy their own home, leaving divorce settlements open to appeal.

The Daily Telegraph has reported the warning, saying that the surcharge, which was introduced in April, will see a husband or wife who is granted an interest in a property after a divorce become liable for thousands of pounds in extra tax when they buy their own home.

The new rules mean that anyone who buys an additional property has to pay extra stamp duty of three percentage points on top of the existing tax liability for their property’s value.

The tax is particularly likely to affect women who lived with a husband but did not have a stake in the marital home, and who are granted other property in a separation.

According to The Daily Telegraph, divorce lawyers were largely in the dark about the new law and that the tax is not being factored into settlements.

John Pratley, a family lawyer at Simpson Millar Solicitors, told The Daily Telegraph that because buy-to-let properties were widespread, people really needed to get advice about the surcharge.

“Obviously, where people have buy-to-let properties they have to agree what to do with them following a divorce, and it is common to transfer them [to the other spouse], so I can see this causing a problem,” he said.

Elizabeth Hicks, a family lawyer at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, said anyone in this situation could have a case against their solicitor, or could go back to court to have the divorce settlement thrown out.

“Unless the settlement was made on the assumption that she would sell the properties, she could look at setting aside the original order on the basis that this tax wasn’t taken into account,” she said.