The Lands and Survey Department has announced a major initiative to chase up outstanding Stamp Duty due on commercial property leases.
The Department suspects that there are many commercial property leases in existence which have not been presented for Stamp Duty assessment. Often this is because landlords and tenants are unaware that by law all such leases must be submitted for the assessment of duty, no matter how long the lease period or whether the lease is required by law to be registered with the Lands Registry or not, states a press release.
Notices will be sent to all companies and persons trading from commercial premises requesting details of their occupational tenure, such as whether the premises are owned or leased, and if rented, whether there is a written lease Agreement in place and whether Stamp Duty has already been paid. Copies of lease agreements will be requested.
It is a criminal offence to fail to provide this information when formally requested by Lands and Survey and any company/person failing to do so within the specified time period will risk legal action.
Although details of leases already submitted since 2000 are recorded by the department, all occupiers will receive a notice, and those already assessed are asked to assist by providing current lease information to ensure the Department’s database is up to date.
‘It is only fair that all companies leasing commercial property, be it offices, warehouses, shops or land, conform to the law and pay their Stamp Duty,’ said Chief Valuation Officer Nigel Bates. ‘As the general public may not be fully conversant with the Stamp Duty Law I can understand how some confusion and misunderstandings may have arisen. However, by publicising this issue and writing to all commercial property-occupiers people will realise their responsibilities in this matter. I would urge them to respond to our mail-out requests for information, and provide a copy of their leases when requested to do so. The law provides for stiff penalties for those who are determined to evade payment. We are, however, expecting full cooperation from the public at large.’
Registrar of Lands, Mrs Aliceann Kirchman continued, ‘I would also point out that under the Registered Land Law all leases greater than two years must be registered (for leases shorter than this period registration is optional). I would encourage registration because this provides protection of the rights of both parties to the lease in the event of dispute. But Stamp Duty is payable in both instances.’