Property experts urge Scotland to match Chancellor's expected stamp duty relief extension

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in originally upping the stamp duty threshold to £500,000 from £125,000 the move was to “catalyse the housing market and boost confidence”.

If Scotland doesn't follow England's expected lead, its housing market will suffer, according to one expert. Picture: PA.
If Scotland doesn't follow England's expected lead, its housing market will suffer, according to one expert. Picture: PA.

Now following confirmation that stamp duty and building tax holidays have helped propel housing transactions, Mr Sunak is reportedly set to extend the holiday conclusion date from March 31 to the end of June to help catalyse the property market alongside the emergence from lockdown.

The point at which Scotland’s equivalent – Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) – kicks in has been upped to £250,000 from £145,000 until March 31.

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But leading players in the property sector north of the border have reiterated calls to see this deadline pushed back.

Edinburgh-based, UK-wide lettings firm Apropos said extending LBTT relief would ensure a level playing field in the property market from April to June.

The firm’s joint chief executive David Alexander said the tax reduction has already proven a “win-win” that has helped homeowners and buoyed the nation’s coffers, with Apropos saying the Scottish Government has received £222.8 million in revenue over the past five months – a year-on-year jump of about £40m.

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Also highlighting the positive financial impact is David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation. He said that on the face of it, the Scottish Government has “little to lose” if it follows in Mr Sunak’s expected footsteps, and revenues have been above average since the LBTT relief’s introduction.

He said: “We continue to urge the finance secretary to extend the LBTT discount in Scotland until at least the summer. This will help to bridge the gap between the current end date of the measure in April and the more widespread reopening of our economy in subsequent months.”

Mr Alexander – also the founder and joint head of DJ Alexander – cited signs of a property market downturn, with the volume of residential sales nearly halving between December and January.

“If Scotland fails to match the stamp duty threshold freeze in April, then it is clear that the Scottish housing market will be put at a considerable disadvantage for the second quarter,” he said.

“Given the fragility of the economy and the uncertainty of the immediate future, it seems a considerable risk to potentially plunge the housing market into reverse when it has been showing such signs of remarkable resilience."

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But while the needs of extending LBTT relief are seen as clear, whether the Scottish Government would make such a move is less certain, with Mr Alexander saying it is reluctant to recognise the benefits of LBTT relief both to individual homebuyers and to the wider economy.

Casting serious doubt on whether Scotland would opt for such a move is Wilson Browne, partner at Edinburgh estate agency Coulters, which he attributed to the political chasm between the SNP and Westminster.

“There’s clearly a financial impact here, and we’d push for an extension, because the Scottish property market is under huge pressure, and transactions are at an all-time high for March with the April cut-off looming,” he said.

“We’re already seeing some transactions slipping into April, which will result in people losing the current relief. This rush to push transactions through is clearly stressful for buyers and sellers.”

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