Lib Dems look at extending mansion tax

country house Holiday homes and rented property could be included in the mansion tax

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The Liberal Democrats are considering whether to extend their policy of levying a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m to cover other properties, including second homes.

An internal consultation paper being drawn up says there "may be merit" in applying the 1% levy on those with a property portfolio worth that amount.

It comes after Labour backed the idea of a £2m mansion tax on Thursday.

Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable said he "welcomed" Labour's move.

Although he warned that Labour was "probably playing political games" by backing a mansion tax, the policy was "an idea whose time has come", Mr Cable told Sky News.

'Whacky'

The Lib Dem proposals, to be debated in March at the party's spring conference in Brighton, could see owners of rented properties and holiday homes drawn into paying the tax.

Options under consultation also include a French-style wealth tax on personal assets, such as jewellery and paintings, according to the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times.

Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt - who has helped to draw up the consultation paper - described the move as an "interesting idea" which would be put to members at the forthcoming conference.

But the business secretary said some of the proposals in the paper were "a bit whacky".

Mr Cable said: "The idea of taxing jewellery is completely impractical and intrusive."

It was "most emphatically not party policy", he added.

Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Stephen Williams predicted the plans would be "firmly spiked" by the conference. The document itself says the move would be "generally quite complex to administer".

Commons vote

The Lib Dems believe that an increase in taxes on the most expensive properties is a potential vote-winner.

"It's a very sensible proposal which is designed to deal with extreme inequalities of wealth. It's also designed to puncture the bubble in massive house prices, particularly in London and the south east at the top end of the range," Mr Cable said.

The move to impose higher taxes on second homes - set out as part of preparations for the 2015 general election manifesto - emerged after Labour pledged to support a mansion tax to fund a return of the 10p starting rate of tax, scrapped by Gordon Brown in 2008.

Labour has challenged the Lib Dems to support its mansion tax proposals in a Commons vote.

Mr Cable said his party's support would depend "entirely" on how Labour worded its Commons motion.

"It's up to the Labour party how they deal with their opposition days, let's see what they put down on paper," he said.

A spokesman for the Lib Dems described its consultation as "part of the process of asking for ideas on how to ensure a fairer tax system.

"It is up to Lib Dem party members as to whether these eventually become party policy."

The idea of a mansion tax was first proposed by the Lib Dems before the last election, although the Conservatives oppose the move and the policy was not adopted by the coalition government.

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