11 July 2019

Talk has turned once again to Stamp Duty, following a recent election pledge made by Boris Johnson to lower rates. As someone who derives a living from the property market, clearly I would welcome any reduction in taxes on property, which should result in an increase in the volume of transactions (good for estate agents), an increase in social mobility (good for everyone) and, according to the Laffer Curve economic theory, an increase in the overall revenue to the government (good for the economy).

However, despite my evident self-interest, when one looks at this with a wider perspective, one might despair at the prospect of another change to Stamp Duty as successive governments have made overly frequent changes to the tax. Since 1999 Stamp Duty has been changed a staggering thirteen times and more often than not it has led to a period of stagnation in the market, either as buyers have waited for new beneficial rates to be implemented or as buyers have shelved their immediate plans aghast at the exorbitant amount of tax they are being asked to pay.

Perhaps the best thing would be for any further changes to be implemented with a mandatory minimum period within which we are promised that no further changes will be brought. Unlikely, I know, as no chancellor likes having their hands tied.

Ben Marchbank – Burnham Market Office