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September 14, 2010

Research Opportunities in LVT for UK?

As a reporter in the Mail discovered last Saturday, one of the Coalition parties (no prizes for guessing which one!) will be debating Land Value Taxation at its Conference, next week in Liverpool. The call comes as part of a Motion on Fairness in a Time of Austerity. It merely asks that Lib Dem Ministers be allowed to commission research "to fully assess the viability and practicalities of increasing taxation on wealth - including land ­values".

Ten years ago this month, a small piece of research on Smart Tax (as it was then dubbed) began with the cooperation of Lib Dem run Liverpool City Council. It looked at how commercial property owners and occupiers - and rating professionals - would respond to a switch of the Business Rate basis off buildings and onto land, as had happened in some 20 cities in Pennsylvania which were facing economic distress. The report can be obtained free, as a download PDF, from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cambridge MA USA.

From then on, Lib Dems have increasingly warmed to LVT. The irony is that, for 13 years under Labour the government chose not to pursue such research. Now we have one of Labour's leadership contenders calling for it!

The closest Britain came to LVT under Labour was an alliance between Lords taking a Conservative or Lib Dem 'whip' trying to get property owners included in Business Improvement District (BID) legislation in 2001 - their 'subscription' to a BID being a supplementary levy based on site value. Labour opposed this idea, which was based on how BIDs work in North America - where property tax is paid by owners not occupiers.

In Britain, it has proved impossible for researchers to access the official data held by certain bodies for tax purposes, unless there is government sanction for it. So long as government remains opposed to any serious consideration of such a radical reform, research is severely constrained. The Lib Dem Motion next week is careful not to call for implementation of LVT: it merely asks for official backing to research.

If PLRG can assist - even with putting the case for more research, let alone doing it - we shall endeavour to do so.

Posted by Tony Vickers at September 14, 2010 1:59 PM | TrackBack

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