An announcement today by the Department of Communities and Local Government will hit those that own empty homes and those with more than one property . But we don’t suppose most property owners will be particularly concerned.
Local authorities currently allow council tax discounts on holiday homes and those that are left vacant for whatever reason. 80% of councils offer 10% subsidies and 20% offer up to 50% off their annual council tax bill.
Now, many say that the way that revenue is raised for local services by way of a tax on property is blunt and unfair. Especially when it taxes value regardless of ability to pay. A ‘fairer way’ was introduced in England in 1990 (1989 in Scotland) as a Community Charge and which soon became known as the Poll Tax. Despite its equitable approach to levying funding for councils to provide street cleaning, parks, rubbish collection etc on a per capita basis, it culminated in a million protestors taking to the streets of London to remonstrate how ‘unfair’ it was to most families.
It was binned, as was its biggest proponent Margaret Thatcher herself in a leadership challenge from Michael Heseltine who took advantage of public and Conservative Party unrest at the unpopular measure. Council Tax replaced the Community Charge just a year after its implementation.
It’s quite inarguable that Council Tax is unfair, indeed almost as unfair as its predecessor. More so in some people’s eyes. But here we have it in any case until some bright politician or civil servant dares to run the gauntlet of another alternative. Perhaps a window tax?
You think we’re kidding? One such levy was introduced in the UK in 1696.
Fast forwarding to 2011, the Government intend to try to re-balance the current method of local taxation by removing the discount for empty homes and holiday properties. It could reduce the typical household council tax bill by £20.00 a year in one swoop in addition to the benefit gained by the Government’s decision to freeze council tax two years in a row since taking office in 2010.
The rationale is that to do so will put pressure on individuals, companies and lenders in possession to ensure that their properties are not left vacant and are brought into use. That’s quite important considering the current shortage of housing generally.
And they also wish, as a nod to the Lib Dem element of the coalition no doubt, to realign the financial burden in favour of the majority of ‘ordinary’ folk that own only one home and against the hoi poloi that own more. A dig at the middle classes if you will?
Will we see the ‘well heeled’, holiday home owning fraternity demonstrating in Whitehall at this we wonder?
May we humbly suggest that disposal is the most effective form of protest. And so if you really want to have a dig, simply instruct eMoov online estate agents to market your Cornwall holiday let or boarded up house. Doing so will not only save you from the impending Treasury cash grab but will also save you a pretty penny in estate agents fees too!