There are a number of scenarios in which a couple may decide to put a property which was previously in sole name into joint names. This may happen when the couple start to live together, get married or enter a civil partnership. Alternatively, it may occur if the couple take advantage of the capital gains tax no gain/no loss rule for spouses and civil partners to transfer ownership of an investment property into joint name prior to sale to reduce the capital gains tax bill.
While most people are aware that stamp duty land tax is payable when they purchase a property, they may be unaware of the potential charge that may arise if they put a property in joint names – it all depends on the value of the consideration, if any.
It should be noted that Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) applies to properties in Scotland Land Transaction Tax to properties in Wales.
What counts as consideration?
The problem is that the definition of ‘consideration’ extends to more than just money – it also includes taking over a debt, the release of a debt and the provision of goods, works and services. So, while there may be no transfer of money when a couple put a property in joint names, if they also put the mortgage in joint names, depending on the amount of the mortgage taken on, they may trigger an SDLT charge.
Case study 1
Following their marriage, Lily moves into Karl’s house. They decide to put the property in joint names as well as the mortgage of £200,000. There is no transfer of money, but Lily assumes responsibility for half the mortgage. Lily is a first-time buyer having previously rented.
The valuable consideration is the share of the mortgage taken on by Lily, i.e. £100,000. As this is less than the first-time buyer threshold of £300,000, there is no SDLT to pay.
Case study 2
Anna has several investment properties in her sole name. She is planning on selling a property and expects to realise a chargeable gain of £30,000. As her wife Petra has not used her annual exempt amount, she transfers 50% of the property into Petra’s name to make use of this. There is a £50,000 mortgage on the property, which remains in Anna’s sole name.
There is no valuable consideration and no SDLT to pay.
Case study 3
Following their marriage, Helen moves into her new husband Michael’s home. The property is worth £700,000 and has a mortgage of £400,000. Helen gives Michael £100,000 from the sale of her previous home, which he uses to reduce the mortgage. They then transfer the remaining mortgage of £300,000 into joint name,
Helen had assumed that there would be no SDLT to pay as the £100,000 she had given Michael is less than the SDLT threshold of £125,000. However, the consideration also includes the share of the mortgage taken on of £150,000, so the total consideration is £250,000. As a result, SDLT of £2,500 (on the slice from £125,000 to £250,000 at 2%) is payable.
The whole picture
It is important to look at the whole picture when putting property in joint names – sharing the mortgage may trigger an unexpected SDLT bill.