AS a property solicitor I have been awaiting Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty update with bated breath.
The cliff edge that we have seen in front of us, as conveyancers scramble to meet the deadline, has caused serious problems in almost any firm that does conveyancing and anguish in the lives of the people trying to buy their home before the end of the deadline.
I see that the Chancellor will extend what is cheerfully (but inaccurately) called a stamp duty holiday until the end of June 2021 in the Budget to further boost the housing market.
It’s quite jolly of him, of course, but is totally missing the point.
Any hard deadline causes an unsustainable surge in the market and buyers who are rightly keen to benefit from the tax break need their conveyancers to meet the deadline.
Imagine this happening hundreds of thousands of times – something, somewhere is going to break.
Both the country’s money and emotions are tied up in residential property.
Under undue pressure the risk is that mistakes are made and, in this case, the people who will suffer are the homeowners.
The real solution to the artificial deadline the Treasury has foisted upon us is to have a staggered end to the Covid-19-related stamp duty break.
I envisage a scenario where we are able to complete on matters with a 12-week window in which we can complete transactions that were instructed before the end of the June deadline.
Getting an instruction before the deadline does not mean all the work has to be substantially completed before that date and conveyancing businesses are then able to say which rate of duty their clients are paying.
The additional 12-week window allows the cases that are already progressing to complete safely, without risk to the buyers and without all the conveyancers dropping dead from exhaustion.
The 12-week window will also deter chancers who are offering on property with no intention of buying until a year next Michaelmas from benefiting from the recovery measures.
While this does not totally get rid of the risk that buyers could miss out, it does seem to be a fairer, and frankly more sensible, approach.
Unfortunately, Mr Sunak does not appear to have thought about any of this and has seen fit only to kick the ball further down the road.
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