Monday, April 03, 2006

One Fiscal Crumb for Empty Homes

On the threshold of the new financial year I thought it would be appropriate to give todays post a fiscal theme. As you may have noticed 31 March came and went and as predicted here the government did not use the opportunity presented by the EU window to harmonise VAT on new build and refurbishment. However there was at least a tiny bit of movement on stamp duty, the threshold for 1% stamp duty on property purchases moved up from £120,000 to £125,000. As discussed here on earlier posts a higher threshold gives greater incentive for people to buy derelict properties and refurbish them. This change barely keeps up with house price inflation, but at least it was better than nothing at all.

So a very small chear for the budget. Here are some suggestions to the government for next time for fiscal changes they could make that would help encourage more empty homes into use.

· Create a level playing field and harmonise VAT between new build and refurbishment.
· Review stamp duty and consider exempting purchases of long-term empty properties that are acquired for refurbishment and reoccupation.
· Ring fence the additional revenue generated by removal or reduction of council tax discounts on empty homes and channel it into tackling empty property.
· Remove the exemption from council tax for uninhabitable properties.

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