Thursday, 14 June 2012

Is 'Progressive' Fairer?

The Scottish Parliament will have new financial powers, from 2015, over taxes on land and property transactions and on disposal to landfill.  The new powers come courtesy of the Scotland Act 2012.

This week John Swinney unveiled his plans to scrap Stamp Duty land tax to the Parliament and announced a consultation on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, which will replace Stamp Duty.

Initially, when I read about this new tax being 'progressive', I immediately assumed it would be a licence to force more money out of people's pockets, but I hope to be proved wrong. (Green energy taxes were described as progressive when they were first mooted).

John Swinney's description of the new tax may appear to be fairer than the current system, although there is little detail. He proposes to decrease tax on properties under £325,000 (or thereabouts) and suggests that would bring benefits to around 95% of the property market. Those looking to buy a home worth £180,000 or less would be exempt from paying tax altogether - a move to encourage first-time buyers.

However these proposals will not make house purchasing less expensive. Anyone purchasing a property in Scotland has to provide a Home Report which can cost several hundred pounds. Since the introduction of these reports I have yet to meet anyone who has purchased a house solely using the content and they have -sensibly - also acquired their own independent survey; thereby pushing purchase costs higher.

The new tax may well curb the regular increase in house prices, although some may think that's a good thing, but that is not necessarily so. If fewer people buy pricier properties, because the tax will be higher than elsewhere in the UK, then they may well fall into disrepair.

In general Scotland's house prices have always been lower than many south of the border and in recent years, that has attracted those who have sold property in these areas to buy here.  The new tax will make no difference to situations where locals are unable to afford to buy because bidding wars push properties outwith their budgets.

Another consideration should be given to the exemption on properties under £180,000.  Will this encourage more developers (purchasing on a buy-to-let basis) rather than first-time buyers?

I do hope a revision of the banding system is included in the consultation, but that was not mentioned in John Swinney's statement.

The devil will be in the detail no doubt, but until we get rid of the mandatory Home Report - which England did some time ago - house buying in Scotland will continue to be more expensive than the English system.


Woodsy42 said...

Lateral thinking -
Perhaps the sensible answer might be a transaction tax set at, say, 10% and a personal transaction allowance of 200k per year. That would free first time buyers and people moving to and from ordinary houses but clobber large houses and anyone buying multiple properties.

subrosa said...

A suggestion worth considering Woodsy.

RMcGeddon said...

That home information pack means we have to cough up about £800 before putting our house on the market. England dumped the 'HIP' for a £60 'energy report'.
And after 6 months a new HIP is required if the house doesn't sell ( most likely in the present market).
And of course you would be buying a house using the sellers survey which would worry me.

subrosa said...

Someone contacted me yesterday RM to say their report had cost just short of £1000 and, as you say, they had to renew it because their house didn't sell in the first 6 months.

It's a scam. said...

The HomeBuyers pack was so unpopular in England they had to dump it. Was a disaster waiting to happen. But then is Scotland you do not have the gazumping we have in England. A progressive stamp duty has got to be fairer than current system.

subrosa said...

What House, we're getting more and more gazumping in recent years.

Once upon a time a house was sold on a handshake here but that no longer applies.

Gazumping has become a regular worry in the buying/selling process.

RMcGeddon said...

The home info pack (HIP) is a scam right enough SR.
Thousands of expensive surveys needlessly carried out on houses that will never sell.
Jobs for the boys I suppose. Deals done in backrooms.
Not as bad as the global warming scam but bad enough.

subrosa said...

It's not on the scale of the AWG right enough RM, but it's an obvious scam. Yet no one protests.

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