Stamp Duty Delay Wrecks Sales

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Stamp Duty Delay Wrecks Sales


Byline: JOE MURPHY

HOUSE sales have begun falling through because of Alistair Darling's hints of a stamp duty "holiday", it was revealed today.

Furious estate agents reported that some buyers have pulled out at the last minute in the hope that they may escape paying thousands of pounds in tax by hanging on.

The industry begged the Chancellor to end the damaging speculation by making an immediate announcement on his plans.

Some agents accused him of ham-fistedly making the stricken property market worse. One branded him "irresponsible".

But despite fears of bigger falls ahead and the risk of a recession, the Bank of England this afternoon held base interest rates at five per cent. It decided that the risks of inflation were too big to cut the cost of borrowing, even though house prices are in freefall and families are being squeezed by higher food and fuel prices.

On Tuesday Mr Darling was asked about a possible plan to scrap temporarily the tax or let buyers postpone paying it for years.

The Chancellor refused to confirm or deny it, but said he was considering options to aid the market.

One London homeowner who was due to exchange this morning told the Standard his buyer postponed after hearing Mr Darling's comments. "It is unbelievable that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have caused this to happen," said Peter, who did not want his full name published.

"My house, an ordinary Victorian terrace in south- west London, was going for ? 770,000 which meant a stamp duty bill of ? 30,800.

"I completely sympathise with my buyer who is understandably unhappy about paying that amount if there is a chance of avoiding the tax but it has left me in a real mess.

"The removal agents have been booked, my daughter has a place in her new school and we were all ready to exchange on the house that we are buying. …

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