Is it a legal requirement in the UK to publish purchase prices for land (not property) or can this be omitted from such a public register on commercially sensitive grounds?
Is it a legal requirement in the UK to publish purchase prices for land...
Section 8(2) of the Land Registration Rules 2003 requires..
Where practicable, the registrar must enter in the proprietorship register—
(a)on first registration of a registered estate,
(b)following completion by registration of a lease which is a registrable disposition, and
(c)on a subsequent change of proprietor of a registered estate,
the price paid or value declared for the registered estate.
And note that:
The terms of a confidentiality clause will not override the obligation on the registrar to enter the price paid in the register. Source
Rule 5(g) of the Land Registration (Scotland) Rules 2006 requires the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland to record in the "Title Sheet":
any consideration stated for the transfer of the interest in land;
Rule 41 of the Land Registration Rules (Northern Ireland) 1994 requires that...
A transfer of ownership shall be made by a deed in Form 9 [to] 16
...and all those Forms (found at pages 105 to 115) require details of the consideration made or paid.
If for some reason you want to conceal the price of a land trade, then form a company which exists to own the land. You can't avoid publishing the sale price from you to your own company, however it need not reflect actual land value.
When you wish to sell the land, don't. Sell the company instead. The company continues to own the land, so there is no reportable change of ownership of the land.
In Scotland, the current position is expressed in the Land Registration (Scotland) Rules 2003, 5(g),
- The Keeper shall enter in the Proprietorship Section–
(g) any consideration stated for the transfer of the interest in land
There are practice rules concerning how this "consideration" should be listed. In the common case, it would be an amount of money in pounds, but it might also be in another currency, or be an amount of shares, or an exchange for a different property, or an undertaking to repay a debt, or a combination of the above. More typically for non-commercial property, we might see such phrases as "certain good and onerous causes" (transfer in the settlement of a divorce) or "love, favour and affection" (on marriage). While there is no mechanism for not recording the consideration - the Keeper will reject an application if this information is not provided - the structuring of complex conveyancing transactions may mean that what's written in the register is not a useful indication of what "really" went on between the parties. For example, if consideration is the repayment of a security, then the precise terms of that security might not be registered, just enough information to identify which security is being talked about.
Another provision affecting registration is that the buyer must pay any Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) required, and the Registers require evidence of an LBTT return being submitted. The rules for LBTT take account of various complications to the "chargeable consideration" of a transaction, such as non-monetary consideration, deferred payments, and so on. Data is shared between Revenue Scotland and the Registers in order to confirm this has been done. So the easiest thing to do is be consistent and straightfoward between what makes it into the public register, and what is paid in tax.
Information of this kind has been part of the general public registers since their creation in 1617, consolidating the various local registers which had existed previously (not always consistently). The act, 1617 c. 16, says among other things that
all instrumentis of seasing, salbe registrat
which is to say, "instruments of sasine", the standard legal instrument for transferring rights to land under the Scottish feudal system. (Other kinds of instrument were used for inheritance, transfers from the Crown, etc.) Because feudal tenure could involve complex obligations and conditions, there was good reason to have the entire agreement noted down so as to protect potential buyers, and give confidence between the fee-holder and their superiors. So the purchase price naturally made its way into the public record, for any property which transferred commercially. Subsequent legislation maintained that position, even though what's now recorded is the current title to the property rather than the instrument of transfer.