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Accountants call for sellers to pay stamp duty

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An accountancy group is calling on the Government to make sellers pay stamp duty, rather than buyers.

The Association of Accounting Technicians, which has more than 140,000 members, made the suggestion in its Budget submission to the Chancellor this week.

The AAT says: “In recent weeks there have been calls from politicians, the property industry and various other commentators, to scrap stamp duty for a variety of reasons, some sound, some less so. None of these calls to scrap the tax have put forward any suggestions as to how the money it raises could be found elsewhere.”

However, Yorkshire Building Society made the same suggestion a year ago.

The AAT says the costs of stamp duty can be huge, up to £5,000 on a £300,000 home, £15,000 on a £500,000 home and £20,000 on a £600,000 property.

AAT head of public affairs & public policy Phil Hall says: “It’s widely accepted that stamp duty adds a burden to any homeowners seeking to move – especially first-time buyers – because they must pay the tax as an immediate upfront cost together with finding a deposit and paying surveyors and solicitors fees and so on.

“This stunts mobility, impacting on employment and productivity as well as reducing the supply of new homes, which adds to the affordability crisis. Switching liability to the seller would be a relatively simple way of solving these problems.”

The body does not want stamp duty to be scrapped entirely, as it raises more than £11bn a year for Government coffers.

The AAT says the reform could cut upfront costs, helping first-time buyers.

AAT has also shot down two arguments against the idea – sellers increasing their sale price and the effects on older people seeking to downsize.

Hall says: “In 2014 it was suggested that sellers would pocket any stamp duty savings realised by changes to the slab/slicing methods of payment but this didn’t happen.

“Likewise I doubt sellers will add the whole cost on to the asking price if they have to pay stamp duty. Even if they did, the buyer will still benefit from a lower upfront cost as no tax is payable.”

On the downsizing point, Hall says many downsizers would have no mortgage and a lot of equity, so were the best-placed homeowners to pay extra.

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