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Needs must: it’s time to tax homes

The Office for Budget Responsibility reports that Britain’s public finances are “on an unsustainable path”. What’s new, asks Nils Pratley. The difference now is that Covid-19 has made the debt numbers so large that “big, radical long-term solutions” are needed. Ultimately, “there are only two places that a hard-up Chancellor can go to raise large sums slowly: pensions and property”. The former presents “huge political pitfalls” – so how about tapping the £5.1trn estimated to sit in home equity? The Social Market Foundation reckons that a 10% capital gains tax when selling primary residences could raise £421bn over 25 years. True, the idea is likely to be “toxic” to home-owning older voters. “Yet the list of virtues is long” – starting with “fairness”. Unearned gains on property are a better target than earned income. And surely “the beneficiaries of 30 years of house price inflation should be able to see that the UK’s current 100% debtto-GDP ratio, if unaddressed, is a burden on the young”. The only question is whether Rishi Sunak is brave enough to bite the bullet.

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