Land Value Taxation Campaign

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Land rent for public revenue

Stop privatisation of Land Registry

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STOP PLANS TO SELL OFF THE LAND REGISTRY

The petition is addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

The Land Registry records the ownership of all land and property in England and Wales. Under privatisation, the first aim will be to maximise profit. This could mean price rises, reduced services, or, most seriously, conflicts of interests. The Land Registry is a public service that is self funding and is not a drain on public finance. In our view the registration of land ownership is a core government activity.

You can respond to the official consultation here.

 
 

Anything rather than LVT

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An article in the Guardian today reports that "Offshore companies buying UK property could be forced to reveal their ultimate owners under plans being considered by ministers to crack down on tax evasion and money laundering. The proposals would shine a spotlight on the foreign firms that hold billions of pounds in British property without having to declare who is behind them. It could also require foreign companies bidding for public sector contracts to do the same. David Cameron is already forcing all UK companies to reveal their ultimate owners under the new plans for a register of beneficial ownership from June, so the plans would bring foreign owners of British property into line with those rules."

We are all in favour of a public register of beneficial ownership of land, but if an LVT system was in operation, it would not matter who or where the owners were; payment of the LVT would be a condition of the continued validity of the land title. If the LVT was not paid, the title would lapse. Unfortunately, we are the only people saying this. The politicians are silent, the journalists are silent, the academics are silent, and there is no place for comment in the place where comment is purportedly free.

 

More missing the point

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There is a lot of point-missing going on this morning. Is there something in the air? This article talks about the fact that cheap money has driven up house prices, but the author fails to understand that if interest rates were raised, housing would still be just as unaffordable. Prices would drop but monthly repayments would stay the same as it is these that fix the price levels. The primary value of real estate is its annual rental, not the selling price.

Low interest rates have indeed sustained a bubble, but the way to deflate it is through effective property taxation.

 

Willfully missing the point

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Today's Guardian hand-wringing session on the "Panama Papers" includes this piece, called,  "Panama Papers: 10 ways for the UK to get its house in order". One of the ten is the following.

"Root corrupt money out of the UK property market and reveal the true holders of the keys to UK homes." The files include the details of 2,800 secret companies, or “vehicles”, linked to 6,000 title deeds worth more than £7bn in the UK. Historical data from UK law enforcement has confirmed that anonymous companies like these are the main vehicles used by corrupt individuals to launder illicit funds into the UK property market. Overseas companies should declare who really owns them before purchasing UK property."

This is interesting in that it does at least refer to title deeds. But it ignores the fact that residential property in central London, ie in the boroughs of Westminster and Kensington, and Chelsea, is subject only to Band G Council Tax, a trivial amount in relation to its value.

If this property was taxed at realistic rates, preferably on the basis of the value of the land it is standing on, the land titles would be of no interest to anyone unless they wanted to live in it. Given effective property taxation, the offshore funds would stay away. It is successive UK governments that have created and sustained the real tax havens, which are not in Panama but in the middle of London. It is a pity that the Guardian journalists, in this case Ed Vulliamy, cannot see what ought to be blindingly obvious. One has to ask why, and why, too, and strikingly, no article on this subject is open to comment.

 

Comment is not free

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Until it changed its name in 1959, The Guardian was the Manchester Guardian. A century ago its editor, and later, its owner, was the renowned radical, C P Scott (1846-1932). He used the slogan "Comment is free, but facts are sacred" to sum up his championship of honest reporting and freedom of speech. The contemporary Guardian boasts the slogan on its news web-site. However, the number of articles on which comment is allowed has dropped sharply over the past month. Since the comments are often more worth reading than the articles, and the commentators better informed and better able to present an argument than the journalists who get paid to write them, the effect is to impoverish the web site to the point that it reflects only the Guardian's predictable line. The web site is now hardly worth the bother of a visit. Given the Guardian's investment in, and committment to, its web site, the only effect will be to reduce the number of mouse-clicks on revenue-earning links.

This has been noticeable since the release of the Panama Papers, which have been a principal, and frankly, boring, part of the newspaper's offerring for over a week now. It is striking that not a single one of the articles on the subject has been open for readers' comments. The conclusion to be drawn is that there must be something the Guardian management does not want talked about.

Once the Guardian had dug up the information that the "offshore" investments were substantially in high-end London residential property, much of the rest was irrelevant information.

The real tax havens are not the offshore islands but the streets of the capital. Any journalist worth his salt would have drawn attention to this, from which point the possible solutions are obvious and do not require international action.

 

 

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