In the recent joint cases of The Pollen Estate Trustee Company Limited and King's College London v. The Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, the Upper Tribunal held that SDLT charities relief is not available where there are joint purchasers of land, unless all of the joint purchasers are eligible for the relief.

In the first case, King's College London and a professor at the College jointly acquired a flat in London. The College claimed charities relief from SDLT on the proportion of the price it had contributed.

In the second case, the Pollen Estate Trustee Company Limited (PET) was the bare trustee of a trust whose beneficiaries included the Church Commissioners for England and the Secretary of State for Defence acting as sole trustee for Greenwich Hospital, both of which are charities. When filing SDLT forms in respect of four acquisitions it had made, PET claimed SDLT charities relief on the proportion of the consideration corresponding to the beneficial interest in those properties held by the Church Commissioners and Greenwich Hospital.

Finding in favour of HMRC, the Tribunal held that, for SDLT purposes, there was one land transaction consisting of the acquisition of the entire property rather than separate acquisitions by each beneficial owner of an undivided share in the property. For the purposes of SDLT charities relief, the relevant transaction is this single acquisition of the entire property. Since the "purchaser" in the transaction included a non-charitable person who was not entitled to the relief, the claims failed.

Charities should be aware that SDLT charities relief will not be available where they acquire properties jointly with persons who are not charities. Consideration should be given to each party in such transactions entering into separate transactions for the relevant proportion of the property interest being acquired.