Autumn Statement: Industry laments no mention of stamp duty

Ryan Bembridge

November 23, 2016

Property professionals are disappointed that Chancellor Philip Hammond failed to make an announcement about stamp duty in today’s Autumn Statement.

Despite widespread calls for the tax to be altered from the likes of Robert Sinclair of AMI and Ray Boulger of John Charcol Hammond failed to mention the tax.

Some commentators hoped it would become a seller’s tax, some called for a reduction on higher value properties where the market is slowing and some wanted the government to go some way to reversing the 3%  surcharge on buy-to-let landlords and people buying second homes.

Russell Quirk, founder and chief executive of online estate agent eMoov, said: “More of a stamp duty refrain rather than a stamp duty reform by Mr Hammond today.

“Stamp duty is an archaic tax and one that the industry has been crying to be changed in a manner that benefits UK buyers.

“Rather than penalise struggling UK buyers the government needs to flip stamp duty on its head and make the seller accountable for paying it.

“This would help those buyers already paying the price of homeownership, whilst those that have benefited from the appreciating price of their property are in a better position to stomach the sour taste of stamp duty tax.”

According to a report from Oxford Economics since stamp duty was reformed from a slab to a tiered structure in 2014 which meant £1m + homebuyers had to pay more – revenue has dropped from an expected £700m to £370m.

Nick Leeming, chairman of another estate agent Jackson-Stops & Staff, said: “A cut in current prohibitive stamp duty levels would get the market moving at all levels and give welcome relief to first-time buyers, who are having to grapple with a multitude of costs including saving for a deposit.

“This reform would have resulted in a chain reaction up the housing ladder, spurring current home owners to take their next step and freeing up housing suitable for first-time buyers and second steppers. “

Mortgage broker Mark Harris, chief executive of SPF Private Clients, also questioned the snub.

He said: “The Chancellor didn’t make any changes to stamp duty, which is no real surprise but it is still an issue that needs addressing because it is not just about rich people.

“Punitive stamp duty charges higher up the chain stalls the overall market – and prevents people moving up and down.

“It is questionable whether higher stamp duty has really worked as the take at the top end has certainly fallen.”

Jonathan Sealey, chief executive of bridging lender Hope Capital, said: “We all had high hopes that the Chancellor would tackle the one thing that many believe is killing the market; but disappointingly stamp duty was again conspicuous by its absence.”

Yorkshire Building Society research found that 60% of aspiring first-time buyers would be more likely to buy if they didn’t have to pay stamp duty and up-front costs remain one of the biggest barriers to homeownership.

Andrew McPhillips, the society’s chief economist, said: “House price inflation has significantly outpaced wage growth in recent years, so measures which ease the cost of buying a home are crucial.

“And it isn’t just aspiring homeowners who could benefit – existing homeowners who want to move up the property ladder would also face a lower tax bill.”

Hammond also failed to mention ‘starter homes’, an initiative announced two years ago which promised 100,000 first-time buyers a 20% discount.

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