Stamp duty

Stamp duty reform for buy-to-let landlords could kickstart property market

Tax on property transactions is a contentious issue, and the government is again being urged to rethink the way it taxes property investors to spark the housing market.

In a plea to the government to reduce stamp duty charges to ease pressure on the UK property market,, an online mortgage broker, believes the buy-to-let market should be a major focus.

Stamp duty was last increased for all property purchases in 2014, while April 2016 saw the second home surcharge introduced, meaning that a 3% additional charge was payable for any buy-to-let or additional properties bought.

This came in alongside the announcement of progressive tax relief cuts for landlords – Section 24 – which is currently in phase three and will mean that landlords will only be able to claim income tax relief on residential finance costs at the basic rate of tax by April 2020.

Negative impact of tax measures

Paul Flavin, managing director of, said: “The increased stamp duty payable on buy-to-let purchases, and the removal of the ability to offset mortgage costs has put many investors off the property market, with a knock on effect of reducing the stock of rental properties.

“We would encourage the Chancellor to look again at the negative impact these measures have.”

Mr Flavin said: “We have two basic messages for the Chancellor. Relief for buy-to-let investors and measures to stabilise the economy with clarity once and for all on Brexit, are both needed urgently.

“The alternative is for a continuance of a depressed housing market which is healthy neither for the economy nor the government if an election is on the horizon.”

Landlords as scapegoats

A paper released earlier this year written by Philip Booth and Rosalind Beck, titled Taxation without justification, also argued that the private rented sector seems to have borne the brunt of the government’s recent policy. While the government imposed these measures apparently as a stimulus for the owner-occupier market, the result according to the paper has been less than successful.

Furthermore, it claims that landlords have been made “scapegoats for a housing crisis primarily caused by land-use planning restrictions”.

“The increase in stamp duty was introduced with the expressed intention of promoting buying over renting. This may happen at the margin. However, any such effects will benefit a small minority of potential purchasers who will be relatively well off.

“Increases in taxes on landlords are likely to reduce the supply of rental housing, increase rents, reduce quality and reduce the size of the ‘professional’ landlord sector which is most affected by the changes.”

Read the report here.

Switching not an option

One proposal, supported in particular by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), is to switch the stamp duty burden from the buyer to the seller, but this idea was quashed by Chancellor Sajid Javid earlier this month.

Javid commented: “I know from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that we need bold measures on housing – but this isn’t one of them.”

The idea behind the switch would be to remove stamp duty for all first-time buyers regardless of property price, while encouraging upsizing, and would mean that those selling the most expensive properties would be liable to pay the biggest bill.

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