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Calls grow to reform ALL property taxes, not just stamp duty

Pressure is building for widespread property tax reform beyond short term issues regarding stamp duty.

Many MPs in this week’s 65-minute special debate on the stamp duty holiday spoke for an extension to the deadline in the short term, and a more fundamental reform in the longer term.

Now the issue has been taken up by Caspar Harvard-Walls of the buying agency Black Brick. He says a simplified system of property taxation generally would be welcome.


“Shifting away from punitively high stamp duty rates at the top of the market to a property tax could encourage the older generation in large family houses to sell. This would both release family homes back into the system and fresh capital” he says. 

“With the seven-year relief still in place for inheritance tax gifts, the younger generation could then benefit from freed up equity and lower stamp duty charges to trade up. The cost of downsizing right now is just too prohibitive but older owners are sitting on huge unrealized capital gains” Harvard-Walls continues. 

And he adds: “There is a need to unblock the market and scrapping stamp duty could help to achieve this. People are not selling but we need plenty of transactions for a healthy market.” 

Two months ago a new group of Conservative MPs - including the outgoing chairman of Hunters Group, Kevin Hollinrake - launched under the title of the Property Research Group.

Hollinrake says there is a need to investigate “the whole landscape of property tax” - a point he repeated in this week’s debate on the stamp duty holiday extension.

The PRG is particularly concerned about council tax, which Hollinrake says has a disproportionately higher impact on younger and poorer people in low value homes.

And Conservative MP John Stevenson, who represents Carlisle, says on the Conservative Home website that widespread property tax changes would help his party keep the so-called ‘Red Wall’ constituencies at the next General Election.

“The two obvious examples which irritate people from every walk of life are council tax and stamp duty” he writes. 

He argues that council tax is based on property values from 1991 so is 30 years out of date in its application and losing favour with the public. Meanwhile stamp duty is, he says, “an attack on aspiration and ownership” hitting everyone from first time buyers to downsizers. 

“A fairer system would be to completely abolish both council tax and stamp duty and replace them with a new property tax which reflects the current value of people’s homes. A proportional property tax if you will” suggests Stevenson. 

“By setting that tax rate at 0.48 per cent the campaign group, Fairer Share, has calculated that over three quarters of households would be instantly better off … From a political perspective, 97 per cent of households located in the ‘Red Wall’ seats in England that the Conservatives took from Labour at the last election, would be better off. Traditional Tory seats would also fare well from this policy” he adds.

All these calls for reform come after two recent heavyweight reports on the subject.

Last year the Office for Tax Simplification, acting on the instruction of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, looked at whether Capital Gains Tax could be simplified and made more fit for purpose.

The OTS subsequently called for an increase to CGT in line with income tax rates, and a reduction in the annual allowance.

Specifically the OTS recommended CGT for buy to let properties and holiday homes to rise to 20 per cent for basic rate taxpayers and 40 per cent for high rate tax payers, with the annual allowance for CGT plummeting from £12,300 to £2,000.

And more recently the Wealth Tax Commission has proposed a one-off tax on individuals with assets over £500,000, or £1m for couples, to help fill 'black holes’ in public finances caused by Coronavirus measures. 

The Commission wants assets to include property wealth and property law firm Mishcon de Reya says: “Many are already asking whether they are outside the scope of a potential wealth tax, and if so, whether they can take any action to mitigate its effect … Speculation is rife as to whether the government will follow the recommendations of the report in the upcoming Budget.”

Poll: Which property tax needs the most urgent reform?


  • icon

    Perhaps there is need for reform across the sector - however SDLT is deemed expensive for property buyers at the upper level of the market and those fortunate enough to to have more than one property. These buyers are the minority not the majority of buyers. For the majority of buyers, average house prices in the UK being at £250,000, SDLT is either ZERO or close to that amount.

  • Steven Heath

    A Flat Tax of 10% on everything , vat , gross earnings , no accountants needed , no allowances , on everything .

  • icon

    SDLT, CGT, IHT, Council Tax are all unfair because of the impact of your postcode. Anyone in the South will pay extra SDLT, CGT & IHT because property values are so high and anyone outside London pays disproportionately high Council Tax because there are more payers in London!

    All of these taxes should be revised to be fairer.

  • icon

    “Shifting away from punitively high stamp duty rates at the top of the market to a property tax could encourage the older generation in large family houses to sell - Sellers don't pay SDLT.

    Tricia I understand the point you are trying to make but
    Council Tax is set by the Local Authority not Central Government based upon the level of services it needs or is willing to pay for.
    Proposed budgets are published by all Uniatry authorities which allow you to challenge the budget.
    IHT- For couples the tax free allowance for Inheritance Tax that can be claimed is £1m. A single person allowance is £500,000.
    The average semi-detached house price in London is currently valued at £590K - well below that threshold. Most High Net Worth Individuals take advantage of the other measures in place.
    T , In 2019, the government raised around £5.3bn from IHT - nearly equal to the anticipated cost of the current SDLT holiday
    Capital Gains Tax is a proportionate tax. The greater the gain from the asset the greater tax. It is not in a anyway restricted to gains made in the property market although residential property is taxed at 18%. and increases 20% if your household income exceeds £50,000. In an upward price movement such as seen last year in the housing market, the higher priced houses subject to CGT will pay more tax but proportionately will still be more advantaged than the lower priced property.
    SDLT is a tax that affects on an average year just over 4% of homeowners and less than 2% of the total adult population. The cost of removing SDLT to the Treasury would be over £12bn per year. To replace these tax funds income tax would have to be raised by 2p for everyone.

    The real tax issue is the cost TRUE cost of taxation. Over the past 30 years all Governments have tried to steer away from direct taxation such as Income Tax, and substantially increase the rate of indirect taxation such as VAT, fuel duty,. There are numerous fiscal studies on this subject but even as far back as 2016, it was estimated that the average taxpayer was paying an additional £5000 per year in tax through indirect taxation. VAT tax receipts alone are close to 76% of the tax collected through Income Tax. There is also the National Insurance now set for employees at 12% to consider.

    Perhaps the level of personal taxation is more of a pressing issue?


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