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Should Stamp Duty be scrapped for downsizers?

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Many older homeowners with large properties can't downsize because the Stamp Duty is too expensive
Should Stamp Duty be scrapped for downsizers?

Scrapping Stamp Duty for downsizers would free up family homes for those who need them and boost transactions, at little cost to the Treasury, according to Reallymoving.

The homemoving services business analysed its data from 240,000 homebuyers since the beginning of 2017 along with HMRC data to reveal that downsizers are responsible for only 7% of stamp duty paid to the Treasury in 2017/18, totalling £938 million.

This is just a fraction of the £4,201 million (31.2%) paid by upsizers, £4,120 million paid by first time buyers (30.6%) and £4,193 million (31.2%) paid by others such as investors.

The business argues that a tax break for downsizers would not only help that specific group but would benefit the entire market, including first time buyers, through greater fluidity and less competition for property, reducing pressure on prices.

It said that Government policy over the last few years has focused solely on helping first time buyers onto the ladder, through Help to Buy and First Time Buyer Relief, but nothing has been done to tackle the blockage at the other end, where an estimated 1.1 million homes with two or more spare bedrooms are lived in by a single person over 65, according to think tank Policy Exchange.

What will Boris do?

There have been rumours that new Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering a reduction in tax for all homes under £500,000 and slashing the current rate paid for homes worth over £1.5m from 12% to 7%. There has also been speculation that he may switch responsibility for paying the tax from buyer to the seller. This would reduce immediate upfront costs for all homebuyers except for downsizers and therefore while it would encourage people to move, it would not help free up the family homes required at the top of the chain.

Rob Houghton, CEO of reallymoving, said: “Scrapping stamp duty for downsizers is the simplest and most cost-effective way of freeing up the housing market, allowing older people to move into more suitable homes if they so wish and reducing competition among families for larger homes.

“Since downsizers account for just 7% of stamp duty contributions, this proposal wouldn’t be disastrous for the Treasury. When a larger house gets sold it enables a chain of transactions and I believe the lost stamp duty revenue would be more than recovered by boosted transaction levels across the market, not to mention the release of vast equity by over-65s which has been locked into property for decades with no benefit to the wider economy.”

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