Fighting form

Mark Smulian investigates the problems which solicitors are having with the new stamp duty land tax forms. Take the land transaction return form, known as the SDLT1, which is six pages long and has 71 questions. All must be answered by filling in small boxes in black ink and capital letters, with boxes that do not apply left blank, nothing crossed out, and then the whole form returned without a crease on its surface.

There were not many problems when they were checked manually, but now that they are checked after being scanned, many have been rejected. For example, in a freehold transaction, some ink seeped through from one page to another, so as to make it appear as an entry in a section about leaseholds. A human would have seen the problem, but the scanner was baffled by what seemed to be both a freehold and leasehold transaction, and so rejected it.

The problems have not lead to a loss in confidence among solicitors for e-systems in general, but rather believe that for such systems to work they must not be rushed to implementation, or under resourced. Whatever the problems, there is no escaping the computer's onward march into the heart of the solicitor's offices.

Article on Law Gazette

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