8 March 2018

Why Philip Hammond should give the economy and the property market a boost in his spring statement?

Next Tuesday Philip Hammond will deliver his spring budget statement. No doubt he will keep it bland and not risk upsetting the apple cart with any meaningful announcements. With tax receipts exceeding expectations in January he is ahead of schedule in his efforts to pay down the deficit so we won’t be too surprised if there are no surprises. There is, however, a great opportunity to not only re-invigorate the housing market but also re-invigorate the broader economy into the bargain.

I refer, of course, to stamp duty. This pernicious tax on aspiration is the number one reason why people are no longer moving up the housing ladder or, for that matter, moving down the housing ladder. As a consequence of this change in behaviour we find that the vast majority of properties that come to the market are as a consequence of death, long term care, genuine relocation or divorce. Very few people move house these days because they want something bigger or something smaller.

Abolishing stamp duty or even a meaningful reform of property taxes would stimulate more activity in the housing market and this would not only get people moving again, it would also stimulate the broader economy. An increase in transactions would result in HM Treasury being flooded with VAT receipts from all of the associated costs of moving, such as estate agency fees, removal costs, solicitor’s fees, broker’s fees and surveyor’s fees. There would also be a huge increase in VAT receipts from purchases of new kitchens, bathrooms, carpets and associated building alterations and extensions.

So come on Mr Hammond! Look at the big picture and kick stamp duty into touch for good.