SNP stamp duty replacement under fire

Cash raised from the SNP's new land and buildings transaction tax has not met expectations. Picture: Jane Barlow
Cash raised from the SNP's new land and buildings transaction tax has not met expectations. Picture: Jane Barlow
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MSPs have questioned an apparent shortfall in the amount of tax collected since the introduction of Scotland’s stamp duty replacement by the SNP’s government.

Labour said the latest figures showed a potential £40 million shortfall for the first year of land and buildings transaction tax (LBTT).

A paper prepared for Holyrood’s finance Committee by new tax body Revenue Scotland said £96.2 million had been collected in the first six months since the tax took effect in April.

That compares to the Scottish Government’s forecast for LBTT revenues of £235 million for the year 2015-16.

Eleanor Emberson, chief executive of Revenue Scotland, cautioned the two figures were not directly comparable and pointed out that seasonal differences in house sales and the impact of forestalling should also be taken into account.

Scottish Labour said the findings showed the SNP’s “flagship property tax is facing a huge shortfall” in its first year.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “My maths is shaky but judging from the amount raised and the amount anticipated to be raised, even if I was generous and doubled the figure that’s there, we are looking at quite a substantial shortfall of potentially over £40 million.”

Ms Emberson, giving evidence to the committee for the first time since the tax was introduced, said: “Our numbers are cashflow effectively, they are tax declared and paid within a given month.

“Forecasts are really based on an accruals basis effectively. They are transactions within a year, and obviously in the first year of a new tax that effect comes into play far more strongly than it will in subsequent years.

“There is a cashflow effect going on here as well as any other effects that people are trying to model.”

She added: “We don’t have any seasonal pattern to go on LBTT but we have looked at stamp duty land tax and, yes, there is a seasonal pattern where you would expect more sales in the summer months and a drop-off in winter.”

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown said: “I agree if you just look at it on a cash basis it is crude, it may be that the second six months are naturally going to be better than the first six months. Has there been no analysis on that?”

Ms Emberson said: “We are trying not to confuse the landscape on forecasting. It probably wouldn’t help the committee or anyone else really if there was a Revenue Scotland forecast and a Scottish Government forecast.

“We are not trying to do that, we are concentrating on trying to make sure the money comes in and we’ll provide the data to the Scottish Government and the Fiscal Commission who will look at the forecasting.”