- Do you enjoy paying tax?
- Probably not the highlight of your year, I imagine.
- Do you accept that you need to pay some tax?
I certainly do, although I also resent the fact that a vast percentage of the money is wasted through bureaucracy and incompetence.
HOWEVER, THERE IS A LIMIT
As countless governments across the globe have proven time and time again, excessive taxation is counter-productive. Think of the 90%+ tax rate in the 70’s in the UK that effectively dis-incentivised people to work past a certain point.
Or more recently Hollande’s much vaunted tax attack on the wealthy which has proven to be wholly unsuccessful and made him the least popular premiere in French history (since polling began). In fact, most of his policies have now been swept under the carpet.
In both cases, the entrepreneurs and high earners fled to more receptive countries. This is often referred to as a “Brain Drain”. The brightest and most motivated flee to where their talents are recognised. This is ultimately why socialism, which is the forced redistribution of wealth, fails. If you are in any doubt try to name one capitalist country where the border controls are to keep people in and one communist country where the borders are to keep economic immigrants out).
Unfortunately, politicians seem intent on repeating the same mistakes. In this instance, they “saved” the world economy by engaging in monumental amounts of QE. The unintended consequence (unless one is being particularly cynical) of this was to boost asset prices.
This has created an awkward problem for the Tories:
A whole generation is beginning to feel disenfranchised because they see no way of ever being able to afford a home. The Tories are aware that this represents a substantial core of voters. Hence ridiculous policies such as “Buy to Let ISA’s”, “Right To Buy” and “Help To Buy”. Not only do these barely scratch the surface but they will also make it harder for the following years’ buyers to afford property.
The Conservatives are aware of this. Unfortunately this has led them to come up with another cunning plan. “We need to not only help the beleaguered first time buyer”, said the policy wonks, “We must be seen to be punishing the wealthy for taking advantage of QE and the tax system”.
Of course, the fact that they are directly responsible for both is neatly overlooked. So, they wrack their brains to find a way to create a more equitable system.
“I know”, says Norman, a lifetime civil servant with a guaranteed pension who has never worked in the private sector, never had to risk his own money or ever tried to create a business from scratch, “Let’s raise Stamp Duty. We’ll raise more money because the rich can afford to pay a little more. The younger generation and swing voters will also recognise that we are on their side. Slam Dunk! Win, Win!!”
And the result of this brilliant policy:
SDLT revenue declined 12.1pc during the first ten months of last year due to a sharp reduction in the number of transactions, according to research by Knight Frank. This is £620m less than the same period in 2014.
This is clearly not what was planned, but it creates an opportunity for you because:
- If SDLT revenues continue to decline then the government will have to admit that the policy isn’t working and reduce the SDLT rate, because it is costing the country money. This would automatically give a boost to prices.
- If SDLT revenue rises, it is because transactions have increased. This would signal that the government has gambled correctly in this instance and the increase in SDLT has been absorbed by the market mainly through the falls in price over the last 14 months.
Of course, this does not mean that you should rush out and buy a property
There are still many properties that are idiotically valued. For example, I was speaking to an agent on Monday who said he had valued a house at £2.5m last week which has just come on the market at £3.25m and there are far worse examples out there.
However, there are a few very good opportunities to buy high quality properties at discounted prices. This means that you have a margin of safety if there are any further falls in prices while you also have substantial upside should prices start to rise again.
Remember that the statistics published focus on averages. What they and the press commentary fail to distinguish is that the best properties are far more resilient to price falls in weaker markets because they are always in demand. And for the same reason, they command higher premiums in good markets.
The opportunity arises when the owners of the best properties feel they have to sell.
Reasons recently have included an owner who has been burnt on another investment (oil related) so needs to liquidate quickly. Divorce is another common reason. But there are also a surprising number of owners who are ill-informed and sell for reasons that are completely unfounded or illogical.
You must be alert to these situations. There aren’t a huge number of them, in large part due to the fact that by definition there can only be a few “best in breed” properties.
So if you would like to discover how you can have access to these opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 389 4280 (or +448003894280 from outside the UK).
As I say, there are a huge number of overpriced properties on the market (as there are so few forced sellers) and I am still seeing average properties being bought by unwary people at painfully inflated prices.
This is true in both the traditional and new build markets (I would still avoid a large number of the new build developments unless you can secure an apartment at a significant discount. I expect there to be much better opportunities in the months to come).
However, if you are planning to buy a traditional London property, then you should start looking now or at the very least start your preparation.