MSPs Back Extra Charge For Second Homes

An extra charge for buy-to-let properties and second homes has been supported by MSPs.

Holyrood's Finance Committee backed a new supplement of 3% of the total price of properties over #40,000 but called for a number of exemptions to the charge.

The committee also wants its impact to be closely monitored and reviewed to ensure it does not have any unintended consequences, after warnings it could push up rents in the private sector as the additional cost is passed on to tenants.

MSPs also heard fears the supplement, to be paid on top of the new land and buildings transaction tax (LBTT), could deter investors, exacerbate property shortages and disadvantage first-time buyers.

The committee wants a grace period to allow time for a previous property to be sold and the introduction of a relief when six properties or more are bought together, as well as for registered social landlords, local authorities and student accommodation.

It also asks the Scottish Government to consider the possibility of ring-fencing revenues to support housing investment or initiatives such as help to buy.

Finance Secretary John Swinney has said the aim of the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill was to ensure opportunities for first-time buyers ''are as strong as they possibly can be''.

Committee convener Kenneth Gibson said: ``Whilst the committee is supportive of the Bill's aim to support first-time buyers' entry into the property market, there are a number of areas that we wish to see addressed as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

"The committee heard concerns, for instance, about the impact on people who rent, whether through choice or necessity.

"The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has suggested that the supplement could lead to a rise in rents as additional costs are passed on to tenants.

"We feel that the support given to first-time buyers must not be at the expense of those people who rent their homes.''

Mr Swinney's move followed a similar decision by Chancellor George Osborne in November's UK Autumn Statement.

The committee has raised concerns about the lack of time available for parliamentary scrutiny of the measure.

Mr Gibson added:" Many organisations have commented on the truncated timetable that this legislation has been subject to.

"I agree that it is far from ideal, however this is a problem that I would expect to occur with greater frequency as the Parliament assumes more powers and the Scottish Government responds to decisions made by the UK Chancellor that impact on Scotland.''

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Our LBTT additional homes supplement will ensure that opportunities for first-time buyers to enter the housing market in Scotland remain as strong as they possibly can.

"We welcome the Finance Committee's support for the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, and we will carefully consider all of the recommendations which have been made by the committee.''

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