Stamp duty

I rarely get a night in front of the TV but found myself in for once tonight; free time with Freeview.

I enjoy Location, location, location, even if it is property porn. Phil & Kirstie are a great presenting team; warm, practical, and highly likeable – even though they are guilty of dissing Islington in the past. I suspect that if I was really trying to move house, it would be unbearable; but as I’m not (estate agents please note), it’s a bit of escapism. Snapshots of different bits of the country (Thirsk looks a good place for a weekend away), sneeky peeks at other people’s kitchens and gardens, what’s not to like?

So it was a bit disconcerting to find a sudden debate about stamp duty popping up among the conservatories and loft conversions. Messages left for Caroline Flint, a telephone chat with Vince Cable, and a policy line from the Tories; no surprise perhaps given Kirstie’s other role, but a bit beyond the show’s usual remit.

Stamp duty certainly needs reform. It’s a crude tax and unrelated to ability to pay. Phil & Kirstie’s proposal is to abolish stamp duty on property sales under £250k for first time buyers and then introduce graduated bands of stamp duty upwards. That’s in line with Lib Dem policies for banding stamp duty relative to house prices; and that could incorporate a stamp-duty free starting band. We would also scrap stamp duty on all carbon neutral homes, whatever their price.

Would abolishing stamp duty under £250K help people in Islington? Not on its own. As it happens we had another estate agent freesheet through the door today; the cheapest flat, a 1 bed near Finsbury Park, is £275k. So why not switch stamp duty from the purchaser to the vendor? As I’ve argued before, that would by definition help all first-time buyers; and it could even console vendors for falling house prices.

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