Unconfirmed reports of a planned tax hike on a key part of the house-buying process prompted the Law Society of England and Wales today to urge HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to clarify the position.

Rumours are swirling among conveyancing professionals that from 1 January 2017 VAT will be imposed on local authority conveyancing searches.

The Law Society has sought confirmation from HMRC over how these changes will apply to the range of complex searches and situations which arise during the process of buying a home, but has had not reply.

’A lack of clarity around conveyancing processes and costs helps no one, and we are asking HMRC urgently to explain if, and if so, how and when, these changes will come into effect,’ said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

’A surprise new year’s tax hike will only create confusion and delays in the conveyancing process. With no public announcement from HMRC about these changes to fees, buyers and their lenders could face delays in getting the information they require. Even small delays in the home buying process can have big consequences, including the possibility of a sale falling through, causing enormous stress for consumers. ’Property buyers and their solicitors need certainty, so they can focus on completing the transaction quickly and with minimum fuss. Clear, consistent, and well-signalled rules let everyone get on with their jobs, and HMRC needs to provide the property market with that certainty as soon as possible’.