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Comment: New season, new rules

You can perhaps tell that a Budget is imminent because there is plenty of media coverage around stamp duty, and various organisation highlighting their views about what they want changed.

You will note as well that no-one is suggesting we keep the status quo, which perhaps tells you all you need to know about the way stamp duty works and the belief in changing it to produce a better housing market.

Of course, the next Budget is likely to come sooner rather than later, given that we will have a new prime minister within a couple of weeks, and (unless hell freezes over) a new chancellor delivering it.

Indeed, what are the odds on two to three Budget announcements being made before the year is out? One to accompany the new PM, one to accompany a no-deal Brexit, and one to accompany a general election ushering in a new government (and perhaps another new PM). Such is the state of flux in British politics at present that you wouldn’t bet against all three happening.

But back to stamp duty. Boris Johnson has already made clear he will change it – cutting it for all property sales under £500k and reducing the higher rate threshold from 12 per cent to 7 per cent.

Now, we hear – albeit not from the horse’s mouth – that Johnson is considering the most radical change of all, moving it from being paid by the purchaser to the seller. Whether Johnson really wants to go this far remains to be seen, and I am rather sceptical of a PM/chancellor going out on such a limb in their first Budget.

Let’s be honest – the government needs all the revenues it can generate, and while some believe this change would deliver the same amount, and free the state from having to cover the relief on stamp duty paid by first-timers for instance, there are others who might advise against any such change for fear of it delivering the opposite effect.

However, it looks likely that stamp duty changes are coming, and coming soon, and the hope is that they provide a much-needed boost to the housing purchase market, and perhaps allow those who have been put off by large costs to make their moves sooner rather than later. That would clearly be beneficial to all, particularly mortgage advisers.

Stamp duty though has been a political football for a very long time – it looks very likely that the rules of the game are about to be changed once again. Let’s hope this time we are all winners as a result.

Mark Snape, managing director, Broker Conveyancing

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