A significant amount of tomorrow's UK Budget is likely to be devoted to addressing the housing crisis. This may include a stamp duty break of some sort for first time buyers. However the mutterings in the property industry about a broader reduction in SDLT are surely wishful thinking and if this lobbying did one day result in the current SDLT regime coming crashing down then it would probably be replaced by an even greater bogeyman of the rich, a wealth tax.
Even more likely is that the Government will keep SDLT and introduce a wealth tax. In the private wealth industry our firms and our professional bodies are increasingly keen to be seen as influential and agenda setting, but on which clients' behalf are we lobbying and what are the consequences? More often than not they are unintended. Our time is better spent helping clients make difficult choices.
More and more often I come across elderly clients who find too much of their wealth has become tied up in their main home and/or other properties. This means they lack the liquidity to properly provide for themselves or pass their wealth to their children in a tax efficient manner. It was said in a recent report that SDLT is a major barrier to older house-owners down-sizing. They are discouraged from moving to a smaller or at least less valuable property by the SDLT cost of acquiring the new property. This may be the case but taking everything into account is not rational, and rather than encouraging the false hope that the SDLT regime will change we should help clients make wise decisions within the regime which exists.
It was only when the soon-to-be-divorced hedge fund manager began looking for a new home in London that he fully realised how much stamp duty tax would weigh on his purchase.