Sean Randall’s critique of the stamp duty land tax regime (‘Taxing obligations’) illustrates the pitfalls in endeavouring to negotiate its minutiae. This was underlined by my experience.

A client required specific advice on this to decide whether to move forward in a transaction. My first port of call was the SDLT website. Unfortunately, this omitted several basic definitions, without which a definitive ruling could not be established. Consequently, I telephoned the SDLT ‘helpline’ and explained the nature of my enquiry. However, they said they could not offer advice and recommended that I consult the website. Back to square one.

They suggested I write to them (and I use the word ‘write’ advisedly since they indicated they did not have the facility to correspond by email), although I was informed that a reply may take a month or longer. A (not entirely satisfactory) reply was indeed received after a month. However, by that time the client’s moment had passed – I had not been able to offer satisfactory guidance and he had abandoned the transaction.

Why should the process of ascertaining SDLT incidence entail such a futile ‘wild goose chase’?

Barry Borman, Edgware