SDLT with a current top rate of 15% (17% after the introduction of non-resident SDLT for most residential purchases by non-residents on or after 1 April 2020) is both complex and increasingly unpopular. It is also a significant bar to people moving up and down the property ladder. And it has been noted that the labyrinthine rules lead to uncertainty and potential non-compliance.
However, swapping a purchase tax to a sales tax wouldn't, in my view, increase the popularity of property taxes; and may not increase the tax take (assuming a 10% rate). Despite its faults, SDLT is a relatively easy tax for HMRC to collect.
The report's author, Michael Johnson, acknowledges that the new tax would fall largely on older people (who own most of the property in England) and that is part of the point of this proposal, i.e. to deliberately shift the tax burden away from the young, whose economic prospects have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the current economic situation.
Such a move wouldn't (I suspect) encourage downsizing, and would mean many more large homes will be occupied by a single elderly person.
The change would require complex calculations having to be made by all property owners, as surely capital improvements should be taken into account in calculating the gain? For many people this would be their first experience of dealing with CGT, or perhaps any self-assessed tax.
Voters who expected to see their property pass intact to the next generation, as they were below the IHT threshold, would be likely to be underwhelmed by their contact with the tax regime.
It will be interesting to see if a government seeking re-election would be this radical in their first term.
And of course a tax rate of 10% may increase over time...
A thinktank (the Social Market Foundation) has proposed scrapping Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) on the purchase of a main residence and replacing it with 10% CGT on the growth in value of the property to pay for the coronavirus.