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New Clause 9 — Lower rate of tax and mansion tax

Part of Finance Bill (Ways and Means) – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 1st July 2013.

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Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary 7:30 pm, 1st July 2013

Let me reply by echoing what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions during Question Time this afternoon. For all that we hear from Labour Members about the so-called bedroom tax—the spare-room subsidy—they have given no indication that they would reverse the current Government’s policy. For all the bluster on that—[Interruption.] Let me make this point. Labour Members should be straightforward about the fact that their policy would have an impact on, for example, elderly widows who have lived for many years in a property whose value has increased. Would they seek to address that?

In addition, the mansion tax would not be precisely targeted at the very wealthy. It would not take into account the number of properties owned. Therefore, a person owning two properties valued at £1.9 million each would not fall within its scope but a family owning a £2 million home would, even though their property wealth was much lower. Any mansion tax would be complex to introduce and administratively burdensome for HMRC to operate. It would come at a cost for taxpayers, not to mention that it would be intrusive for the person having their home inspected.

I know that the essence of Labour’s argument is that we already have the annual tax on enveloped dwellings. However, that is a very targeted tax. Essentially, only 1,000 properties are likely to be affected by it, so it applies to only a very small group of taxpayers. HMRC can therefore administer the tax manageably, relying on self-assessment, with a limited number of inquiries. A mansion tax would affect a much larger number of taxpayers and require greater administration and valuation, which would make it much more expensive, time consuming and difficult to collect.