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Monday, 15 May 2017

THE ARITHMETIC of Converting SDLT to a Land Value Tax (LVT).

 Average SDLT Revenue per Transaction 2005-2015
(These are my own calculations based on figures in previous references)

The effect of Converting the 1-off SDLT into an annual LVT

SDLT is a drag on the housing market, and can discourage some people from putting their home up for sale. Two of the worst features of SDLT could be fixed straight away.

—Instead of a lump sum at the time of the sale, there will be a much smaller on-going payment based on the land-value of the plot.

—Regular movers, the heroes of the flexible economy, will be freer to move because they won’t be hit by a big SDLT every time they move.

Will the politicians, especially the Chancellor approve of this change?

That would depend on the rate of LVT to be charged.

To keep the Chancellor of the Exchequer happy we should try to be ‘revenue neutral’ — generating as much tax revenue as before. Let’s look at the sums.

I’ve done the calculations and this is what I recon should do the trick

and the slogan might be

“House-buyers: Don’t pay a big lump of SDLT now! Spread your payments out as a yearly charge of just one-half of one percent of the value of the plot of land your house is built on!”

Politicians will also be very keen to know how the switch from SDLT to LVT affects different households. They all remember the Great Poll Tax fiasco, and would be horrified of a repeat.

‘Winners & Losers’ is the name of this game.

Winners from tax changes are happy to quietly pocket their bonus. Losers will scream blue murder — and in the case of the Poll Tax it brought down the Prime Minister.

While “No SDLT and an annual LVT at ½%“  may sound modest, it hides a nasty  surprise for many house-buyers and would not be much of a bargain. In my next posting I’ll look at ways that this particular political time-bomb could be diffused.

The arithmetic of SDLT:

The rest of this post explains how I arrived at my figure of ½%. If you don’t like statistics, or you trust that I can do my sums right, there is no need to read on.

I’m also trying to hit a moving target here. Rates of SDLT have been changed significantly of late, especially by George Osborne when Chancellor.

SDLT has already been devolved to Scotland and soon will be to Wales. The following generally applies to England only.

Meanwhile back to the calculations

 Where did I get the figure of ½ a percent of the land value?

 ‘Stamp Duty’ is not a huge revenue earner for the government. It brings in about 1.5% of the total that HMRC (the UK taxman) collects, that’s £8.5 billion out of a total tax-take of £477 billion (in 2015).

                                                The Yield from SDLT

This graph[1] shows the total tax take from SDLT in the last few years.

The yield from Stamp Duty peaked at around £9 bn in 2007-08, slumped post the GFC (Great Financial Crash), but by 2014 had climbed back to almost the same level. Although the rates of SDLT have been raised, the number of transactions has risen and fallen as the fortunes of the housing market have changed. 

Back in the year 2007, just before the Crash there were 1.8 million houses traded. After the slump this had dropped to less than 700,000 in the 2009. Volumes have recovered a bit since then, but not by much, and are still way below the peak.

This matters in terms of revenue, because SDLT is only levied when a sale is made, so fewer sales mean less tax revenue for the Chancellor.

Putting these two factors together — rates of SDLT and number of transactions — let’s have a look at the average SDLT revenue for each house bought:

 Revenue per Transaction, and how it has changed 2005-2015

(These are my own calculations based on figures in previous references)

It is clear that the Chancellor has been squeezing this source of revenue, with average contribution going up from £3,000 to over £6,000 per property sold. Averages can be deceptive.

One quarter of all transactors are exempt and pay no SDLT.

A small number of upmarket houses are being hit for huge amounts. If you buy a house for £1 million, in 2016 the SDLT bill is £43,750.

The impact of SDLT is concentrated geographically as well, with just a handful of high-priced boroughs mainly in London and the South-East accounting for a high proportion of all SDLT the paid.
            Whatever is proposed should be revenue neutral, keeping up the revenue stream for the Chancellor. Will the amount be sufficient eventually to provide a similar or better flow of revenue for the Chancellor? I say ‘eventually’ because the Chancellor, rational fellow that he is (it has never been a she), will realise that a future flow of funds can be discounted back to an equivalent present-value lump-sum.
            Detailed calculations are given in an article on my website[2] of how I worked out the LVT which could be substituted for the one-off SDLT (but which would have recurred at each subsequent sale).


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