Guest blog: Could first time buyers be set for a Stamp Duty cut?

Tue 14 Nov 2017

With the Autumn Budget looming on 22nd November, all eyes are on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, and the decisions he could potentially make. This year, there is talk of a potential cut to stamp duty for those who are trying to get onto the first rung of the housing ladder. There have been calls from several quarters for stamp duty to be reduced or eradicated for first-time buyers, and now it looks increasingly likely this could happen.

While some have campaigned to get rid of stamp duty altogether, the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has suggested the tax should be paid by those who are selling, rather than those who are buying. The tax applies to property sales in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but not to properties in Scotland. The existing residential property threshold is £125,000; properties costing less than this incur no stamp duty.

Potential changes for first-time buyers

“There is logic to the idea of stamp duty being paid by people who are selling properties rather than those who are buying them,” agreed Darren Pescod, CEO of The Mortgage Broker Limited. “However, it looks more likely the Chancellor will remove the need for first-time buyers to pay stamp duty, so it then becomes easier for them to get onto the housing ladder. 

“It is also likely this would be a temporary move to perk up the market and make life easier for first-time buyers. I would be surprised if it turned out to be permanent. All other property buyers would pay the duty as per the current rules and regulations.”

Could older homeowners be made exempt from the tax too?

You don’t need to look far to encounter plenty of suggestions for changes to stamp duty. The current rules have led to a record number of receipts for the tax as far as the government is concerned. However, housing sales have nosedived, and the tax is being mooted as one of the reasons why.

Some have suggested older homeowners could also be made exempt from paying stamp duty. This would mean older property owners could move without the need to find the cash to pay stamp duty. This would free up more properties for those who need them, especially when downsizing from larger homes to smaller ones in retirement.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It would be surprising if the Chancellor did not get rid of stamp duty for first-time buyers given the reports that are coming to light, but it is unlikely to be permanent. Of course, there are areas further north where the average price paid by a first-time buyer to get onto the housing ladder is barely more than the £125,000 minimum for activating stamp duty fees.

So, perhaps this is not the best solution for jump-starting the housing market for first-time buyers after all. It may take far longer than the time it takes the Chancellor to report on his Budget for the housing market to bounce back.

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