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HMRC puts its stamp on social distancing

16 April 2020

With vast numbers of people now working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, HMRC have put in place an electronic process for the payment of stamp duty and stamping of share transfer documents.

HMRC have updated their guidance on the stamping of share transfer documents due to current social distancing restrictions. This guidance applies to any stock transfer form (for an acquisition of shares) or form SH03 (for a share buyback) and requires the following:

  • Payment of stamp duty must be made electronically, before you send any documents to HMRC.
  • Forms should not be posted or submitted in hard copy, and if any forms have been posted recently, they should be re-submitted by email.
  • Forms can be signed by hand (in “wet ink”) or electronically.
  • Details of the transaction (if required in the ordinary course) must be emailed to HMRC, rather than sent by post. This should be dealt with in a cover email with the forms to be stamped attached, and the email should include the reference used when you made the stamp duty payment.

HMRC plan to issue confirmation letters by email if a stamp duty submission is accepted and processed during the pandemic. Forms will not be physically or electronically stamped and so copies of this confirmation letter must be retained as evidence of stamp duty payment.

In line with this, Companies House will file an unstamped SH03 if submitted to them with a copy of the HMRC confirmation letter evidencing the payment. However the HMRC letter will not appear on the filing history seen by the public.

HMRC have made clear that this process is only temporary, whilst social distancing measures are in place.

Our thoughts on this

Sending hard copy documents to HMRC and Companies House has long been a cumbersome process.  We will be interested to see if they will consider roll out of an electronic process on a longer term basis, now that the pandemic has forced their hand.

You can read more detail on e-signing in our recent article here:

https://www.lewissilkin.com/en/insights/social-distancing-and-the-use-of-electronic-signatures

You can also review the full guidance from HMRC here, including the relevant email address and bank details:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/stamp-duty-on-shares

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pay-stamp-duty

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