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  1. Blog
  2. Stamp duty for second homes: What you need to know
Conveyancing help and guides
18 November 2020

Stamp duty for second homes: What you need to know

Daniel Strieff
Mother and child walk small dog in the garden of their second home in English countryside

Table of contents

  1. 1. What is stamp duty land tax?
  2. 2. Do you have to pay stamp duty on a second home?
  3. 3. How much is stamp duty on a second home?
  4. 4. How to avoid stamp duty on a second home
  5. 5. How are Scotland and Wales different?
  6. 6. Stamp duty and divorce
  7. 7. How can I claim a stamp duty refund?
  8. 8. FAQs

For many home buyers, the nine-month stamp duty holiday has been a rare bright spot in an otherwise pandemic-darkened year.

Yet what stamp duty relief may mean for home buyers has not always been clear, particularly for those who own, or are considering buying, a second home.

Before exploring what effect that may have on your circumstances, let’s back up for a moment.

In an effort to help encourage home buyers suffering the ill financial effects of the COVID-19-induced economic downturn, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the government would suspend stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on the initial £500,000 of all England and Northern Ireland property sales from 8 July until 31 March 2021.

What is stamp duty land tax?

Stamp duty land tax is the tax that the government levies on purchases of houses, flats, and other land and buildings in England and Northern Ireland.

It has a different name in Scotland, where it’s called the Land Building Transactions Tax (LBTT), and Wales, where it’s labelled the Land Transaction Tax(LTT) for sales completed on or after 1 April 2018.

Stamp duty tax applies when you buy a freehold property, a leasehold, a property through a shared ownership scheme, or if you are transferred land or property in exchange for payment, such as taking on a mortgage.

It normally applies to anyone buying a main residence, whether they’re a first-time buyer or have previously owned a property.

However, stamp duty doesn’t usually apply to purchases of caravans, mobile homes, or houseboats. If in doubt, check HMRC’s site.

Do you have to pay stamp duty on a second home?

Yes you do have to pay stamp duty on a second home. Outside of the stamp duty holiday, if you’re a landlord or otherwise buying a second home, you’re required to pay a 3% surcharge on top of the normal rates.

Some second-home purchases are exempt from stamp duty altogether, however.

You are exempt if the value of your second home, or the share of the property you buy, is less than £40,000, you don’t need to pay the tax. Purchases of caravans, mobile homes, or houseboats are also exempt. But second home buyers currently benefit from stamp duty relief as well.

These buyers only need to pay the extra 3% of stamp duty they were charged under the previous rules on top of the new rates.

How much is stamp duty on a second home?

Stamp duty on a second homes is currently 3% on top of the typical stamp duty rates:

House ValueStamp Duty RateStamp Duty Rate on a Second homePortion of house value
Up to £125,0000%3%First £125,000
Up to £250,0002%5%£125,001 to £250,000
Up to £925,0005%8%£250,001 to £925,000
Up to £1.5 million10%13%£925,001 to £1.5 million
£1,500,000 and above12%15%£1,500,00.01 +

How to avoid stamp duty on a second home

There are limited cases when you’re exempt from stamp duty.

You can avoid stamp duty on a second home if:

  1. You received land or property in exchange for payment.
  2. Specific, legally-mandated situations, such as divorce proceedings.
  3. If a property is left to you in a will. In that case, you’ll need to pay inheritance tax instead.

Generally, though, stamp duty is a fact of property sales.

Unlawful attempts to avoid it can result in stiff penalty fees.

Stamp duty can sometimes feel like a headache, but usually your solicitor will deal with your return and any payment, though can you do it yourself.

Learn more about what conveyancers do and How much conveyancing costs. with our handy guides.

GetAgent recommends checking with a qualified, independent solicitor if you have further questions about your individual situation.

How are Scotland and Wales different?

However, those specific types of stamp duty relief only apply in England and Northern Ireland.

The savings in Scotland and Wales are less significant, with taxes only temporarily waived on home purchases up to £250,000.

Stamp duty and divorce

Different stamp duty rules apply in the event of divorce, separation, or the breakdown of a civil partnership.

A married couple or civil partnership is treated as a single unit for the purposes of the stamp duty tax until the parties obtain a court order of legal separation or finalised divorce.

Generally, in those cases you don’t need to pay stamp duty if you’re transferring a proportion of your home’s value to your former partner. But sometimes payment of stamp duty is necessary if the property being transferred is subject to a mortgage, for instance.

Stamp duty is also payable in cases when one spouse buys a new property for their primary home, effectively replacing their primary residence. However, even if this individual retains an interest in the house they’re leaving, their new property acquisition should not be charged second home stamp duty rates.

But it’s important to note that if you buy another property before your divorce is finalised, you’re liable to the 3% second home stamp duty surcharge.

A refund can be claimed if, once the divorce is finalised, the first home is sold within three years.

For advice for your specific situation, we’d recommend talking to a family law solicitor.

How can I claim a stamp duty refund?

You can claim a refund in some instances.

The most common occurrence comes if you sold your previous primary residence within three years of purchasing your new home. In that case, you can apply for a refund of the amount you paid above the normal stamp duty rates, had your new house not been an additional property.

To claim your refund you are required to submit your claim to HMRC within three months of the sale or within a year of the date on which the stamp duty was filed on the purchase, whichever comes later.

To apply for a refund, you’ll need to complete a stamp duty return and send it to HMRC. To make a claim, visit the HMRC site


  • - Apply for a repayment of the higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax
  • - Calculate Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
  • - Stamp Duty Land Tax Manual
  • - Land Transaction Tax in Wales Guide
  • - Scottish Tax Policies
  • - Stamp Duty Land Tax Manual
  • - Inheritance Tax

All sources checked 2nd July 2021


Can you avoid second home stamp duty?

No, you can’t avoid the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) second home surcharge. However, there are a couple of ways you can reduce it. For example, if you buy a property that you're going to live in before you sell your current residence, you’ll have to pay the surcharge. However, if you sell within three years you can apply to have the surcharge refunded.

If you’re buying a property with someone who already owns a home, and are intending to put both names on the deed, you’ll still have to pay the 3% SDLT second home charge. However, if the other person sells their previous home, you can reclaim the extra cost. You could also avoid paying the stamp duty surcharge by putting the property solely in your name. Then they can keep their previous property and move in with you without paying the surcharge.

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