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Autumn Statement stamp duty move taken with a general election in mind


Common-sense move: Chancellor George Osborne

Common-sense move: Chancellor George Osborne


Common-sense move: Chancellor George Osborne

Were you surprised by the sudden reform of the rules for stamp duty on property purchases? I certainly was. There have been calls for ages for a change in the tax to make it more fair - and, at a stroke, George Osborne did just that in his Autumn Statement.

To remind you, he has scrapped the old "slab system" where homebuyers paid the highest-rate tax on the whole amount. That's been replaced with a way of charging that is similar to income tax and, in my view, much fairer. In short, homebuyers will now only pay tax, or a higher rate of tax, on sums above a certain threshold.

As an example, anyone buying a home under the old regime for £185,000 would have paid 1% on the full amount, working out at £1,850. Now they will pay nothing on the first £125,000 and 2% on the remaining £60,000, which works out at £1,200, or a saving of £650.

The change means stamp duty will be cut for 98% of homebuyers, according to Mr Osborne. He also said that only homes costing more than £937,000 will pay more stamp duty under the new system than they did under the old.

In other words, the news was good for first-time buyers and those purchasing average-priced homes, but annoying for those buying upmarket. You might think that was an odd thing for a Conservative Chancellor to do, but that would only be if you had forgotten that there's a general election next May.

Will the move be a vote-winner? Mr Osborne has made the tax much fairer; it's a common-sense move rather than a tax giveaway. However, you would hope that most of us remain cautious about Tory plans for the future.