Shelter, the campaigning charity that has been hugely critical of private landlords and letting agents in recent years, has now launched a fierce attack on those who have criticised stamp duty for its effects on the housing market.
There have been many campaigns, newspaper articles and political comments in recent weeks ahead of the party political conferences starting next month and a possible autumn fiscal announcement by the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond.
But now Shelter - not known in the past for its detailed analysis of the sales market - has joined the fray, and predictably taking a contrary view.
It says stamp duty “just isn’t very important” and insists that an absence of new build homes and the high prices of existing homes are what deter people from moving - not the level of stamp duty.
“Most older people with spare bedrooms do not live in £1m-plus mansions that fall into higher stamp duty tax brackets but in average priced homes. They have very little financial incentive to downsize, even without stamp duty. House prices are now so eye-wateringly high across the board that moving from, say, a three bed to a two-bed home fails to release enough equity to make the move worthwhile” says Shelter in a blog on its website.
It says scrapping stamp duty wouldn’t make housing cheaper to buy but would merely encourage more buyers to chase a finite number of homes.
“Since the housing market crashed in 2007, government and Bank of England policies have done exactly this: Help to Buy, quantitative easing, inheritance tax cuts and, indeed, stamp duty cuts from 2014 have all served to shore up house prices, freezing more people out of home ownership while limiting choice for those already in the club in the ways outlined above” says the blog.
It insists stamp duty has had only one significant impact on the market - it taxes the overconsumption of housing as those buying a second or additional home will pay the additional three per cent surcharge. “In doing so, stamp duty has a small dampening effect on the demand for housing, giving a competitive edge to those buying to occupy” says Shelter.
It claims that further reforms of stamp duty are not a priority and gets into its stride at its conclusion when it says: “The campaign to axe stamp duty might be dressed up as a civic-minded crusade to help your nan downsize, but the only real winners would be buy to let landlords and those buying holiday homes and £1m-plus mansions.”