For many people across Wales, St David’s Day is an important occasion that is often used to make important Welsh announcements. The first of March will be significant this year as it will mark a month until the first specifically Welsh taxes in more than 800 years come into effect in Wales.
As a lawyer who has lived and worked in Wales for 15 years, it is a privilege to have been involved in the development of this legislation. It is the culmination of four years of work, resulting in three assembly acts and more than 20 pieces of secondary legislation putting in place the legal framework for the new taxes.
The Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Act 2016 established the Welsh Revenue Authority as the body responsible for the collection and management of the devolved Welsh taxes. Now an established non-ministerial department of Welsh government, we are in the final steps of preparation for the collection and management of devolved taxes from 1 April.
Breaking new ground
A small and specialist organisation, we know that we are breaking new ground at the WRA. We recognise that this is a new process, system and way of working for conveyancers. And it is an exciting opportunity to do things differently.
We are looking to set the direction for a new body, and shape how tax administration works in Wales. This means innovating to deliver a bilingual, digital system that is efficient and effective for service users. It means creating a draft Taxpayer Charter that is different in its format and approach to others. Soon to be published, it will again set out the values and ways in which we want to work in partnership to deliver a fair tax system in Wales.
Land transaction tax registration now open
From 1 April, transactions in Wales will be subject to land transaction tax (LTT) and returns will need to be submitted to WRA and no longer to HM Revenue & Customs. We are actively encouraging conveyancers to register early for a WRA online tax account, as it will be necessary to allow a period of around 10 working days to complete the process smoothly, including compulsory security checks.
Initially, a registered organisation, which can have multiple users on a single account, will be able to complete, save and submit an LTT return and obtain a copy of the LTT certificate to send to HM Land Registry. Getting the basics right is key, but we will also be considering ways to develop our system into the future.
We have introduced a dedicated tax calculator on the WRA website, reflecting the Welsh government’s rates and bands, to assist with the LTT filing process. We are also taking customer enquiries regarding the application of the tax as well as offering our ‘tax opinion service’, with further information on our website.
Sean Bradley is chief legal and policy officer for the Welsh Revenue Authority
The WRA has partnered closely with bodies, including HMRC and Land Registry, as well as professional membership bodies, including the Law Society, in creating its processes, systems and guidance for land transaction tax. Some key advice includes:
- Cross border/cross title transactions While there is a long border trailing Wales and England, we expect to see a small number of cross-border and cross-title transactions. We are working with Land Registry to produce detailed guidance, with numerous examples available, which will assist in dealing with such cases, and to perform the just and reasonable apportionment that will be necessary.
- Guidance We have worked closely with partners to ensure that the development of technical guidance is carried out in consultation with our future customers. Publication of guidance on the WRA website began in early 2018. This will be carried out in stages in the run-up to 1 April and we encourage customers to visit the site regularly for updates.
- Compliance We recognise that most taxpayers want to pay the right tax at the right time and our aim is to help them to do so. However, we have the tools (including, for example, the General Anti-Avoidance Rule) and expertise to address those who do not want to adhere to the new taxes. We are keen to engage with conveyancers to support them to get things right from the start.
Here, partner and head of residential property at Harding Evans, Wyn Williams (pictured), explains: ‘Our legal practice is based near the Welsh border, and we have a large geographical area, reaching as far as London, where we undertake conveyancing work. We will also be opening new offices in Cardiff so our reach will be even wider.
‘It has therefore been critical for us to be involved from the beginning in the design of the systems and processes for the WRA. I’m pleased to say that our comments have been taken on board through the process.
‘I’ve recently been involved in system testing and I was among the first to register our business on the new registration system, which was simple to use. The devolution of Welsh taxes is an important milestone. Working with the WRA will be important for legal professionals, like myself, to ensure together with the WRA, we see a fair tax system delivered in Wales.’