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Official confirms looking at stamp duty

The government confirmed on Thursday that a property tax is one of the tools it may use to try to kick-start the country's sliding housing market.

Some real estate agents have complained that media speculation that the government could try to help the market by suspending property tax, known as "stamp duty," was aggravating the situation.

"We are looking at a range of options and stamp duty is one of those options," Housing Minister Caroline Flint told BBC's "Newsnight" programme.

But she stressed the government had taken no decision.

"We are taking a long look at a number of different options but it is about making the right decision and not being bumped into making a decision before the pre-budget report," she said.

House prices fell at a record annual rate of nearly 10.9 percent in July to their lowest level in two years, data from the country's biggest mortgage lender HBOS showed on Thursday.

They say some potential house buyers are delaying purchases while they wait to see if the government acts on stamp duty, saving them money.

Finance minister Alistair Darling updates the government's spending plans in his pre-budget report, usually in October.

"Stamp duty in and of itself does not necessarily provide all the answers by removing it," Flint said.

House buyers in Britain must pay the government up to four percent of the purchase price in stamp duty, depending on the value of the property.

Stamp duty raised more than 14 billion pounds in the last fiscal year, according to the latest budget figures, of which around 70 percent came from property.


Print   2008-08-08