March 21

Think Tank Suggests Council Tax Rebates for Renters


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A think tank is advocating for the UK government to explore the possibility of introducing tax incentives for private renters. This initiative aims to facilitate faster savings accumulation among renters, ultimately assisting them in their journey towards homeownership. The proposal from the Social Market Foundation, spearheaded by a Conservative peer and guided by a former Daily Telegraph executive, suggests that adopting innovative tax measures could potentially reshape the dynamics of the housing market.

By implementing tax perks tailored specifically for private renters, individuals would have a greater opportunity to build financial stability and eventually transition into homeownership. This strategic approach to taxation could serve as a catalyst for empowering renters to save more efficiently, thereby fostering a more accessible path to property ownership. Through thoughtful consideration and implementation of such measures, the government could play a pivotal role in addressing housing affordability challenges and promoting greater inclusivity within the housing market.

The proposed strategy also presents an opportunity to generate additional revenue for the government, enabling it to allocate resources to various initiatives. For instance, one suggestion involves providing council tax rebates to private sector renters, thereby facilitating their ability to save for a property deposit and enhancing their prospects of homeownership.

In its examination of housing policies across English-speaking nations such as Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, the Social Market Foundation (SMF) highlighted significant findings. Among these, the study revealed that the UK possesses the lowest rate of homeownership within this cohort. Additionally, saving for a deposit emerged as the primary obstacle hindering individuals from entering the property market. Furthermore, the SMF noted that Britons bear the highest housing costs relative to disposable income, amounting to over a quarter of their financial resources.

In the realm of property transactions, the UK government currently imposes a 2% surcharge on home purchases made in England and Northern Ireland by individuals lacking citizenship or residency status. This surcharge, while existing, is notably more conservative compared to jurisdictions like Australia, where the cumulative excise taxes on non-residents can ascend to 15% in certain states, or Canada, where they may peak at a staggering 25%.

It’s worth noting that last year, the Labour party entertained the idea of introducing a more elevated surcharge on foreign buyers. As outlined by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), contemplating a significantly heightened tax rate, potentially reaching up to 25%, could result in a substantial annual revenue surge of approximately £855 million.

Furthermore, shedding light on a pertinent issue, the SMF identifies an estimated 1.5 million vacant dwellings scattered across the UK. Leveraging this latent resource, even through the implementation of a nominal levy representing just 1% of the properties’ value, presents a lucrative opportunity for the Treasury to augment its coffers significantly. Notably, countries like Australia and Canada have already enacted measures to tax vacant homes, with rates reaching up to 3% depending on their geographical location.

In Australia and Canada, there’s a comprehensive taxation system in place that fully taxes any gains obtained from selling a property within a year of its purchase. This approach aims to discourage rapid property turnover, commonly referred to as ‘house flipping’, by eliminating the possibility of capital gains tax exemptions for sellers. If the UK were to adopt a similar strategy, it’s estimated that approximately 2.3% of home sales would be subject to this tax. Based on existing figures, imposing a 50% tax rate on the profits generated from house flipping activities in the UK could potentially yield an annual revenue of £550 million.


Recommendations from the report to increase access to homeownership include:


– Introduce council tax rebates aimed at assisting private sector renters in accumulating funds for property deposits.

– Implement insurance options tailored for high loan-to-value mortgages, similar to the model adopted in Canada. These insurance products, typically utilized for mortgages with deposits below 20%, incentivize banks to extend loans to individuals with limited deposits, contributing to a more balanced and resilient housing market.

– Mandate banks to furnish mortgage applicants with details regarding 10, 15, or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage options. While prevalent in other regions, such extended fixed-rate mortgage terms remain uncommon in the UK. Their adoption elsewhere has fostered more secure and accessible housing markets.

– Overhaul the council tax system to enhance its progressiveness, anchoring it on contemporary property valuations revisited every three years. Presently, affluent households bear a disproportionately lower council tax burden, compounded by the fact that property valuations in England and Scotland are based on 1991 assessments. This divergence from international practices underscores the need for modernization and alignment with current property values.

– Eliminate stamp duty to facilitate downsizing for homeowners, offsetting the revenue loss by reducing capital gains tax exemptions on secondary properties. Stamp duty, while financially rewarding, imposes burdens on the wrong party during housing transactions and obstructs fluidity in the property market.


According to a representative from the SMF, there are approximately 1.5 million vacant homes in the UK, with an additional 200,000 owned by non-residents. Instead of allowing these properties to remain unused, they could serve as significant sources of revenue for the government. By implementing taxes on these properties, the billions in generated revenue could be directed towards aiding those disadvantaged in the housing market.


Social Market Foundation, Tax, Think Tank, Think Tank Suggests Council Tax Rebates for Renters

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