Scotland politics

MSPs debate changes to stamp duty on Scots properties

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Media captionThe Scottish government said the change should help first time buyers

Plans to replace stamp duty on properties sold in Scotland have been debated by MSPs at Holyrood.

The Scottish Parliament will be given control over the property tax in 2015.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the rates for the new tax would not be announced until September 2014 at the earliest.

Mr Swinney said the replacement for stamp duty would be more progressive but some buyers would end up paying more.

The current system, which is administered by the UK Treasury, sees tax paid on the whole value of properties worth more than £125,000.

The progressive nature of the new system, which abolishes the current "slab rate" tax brackets, was praised by parties across the Holyrood chamber.

Mr Swinney believed the changes in the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Bill would help first time buyers by increasing the threshold before they pay tax.

The proposal has already been backed by Holyrood's finance committee, which welcomed measures to clamp down on tax avoidance on transactions involving land and buildings in Scotland.

It has also called for clarity on the roles and responsibilities of two organisations involved in the tax - Revenue Scotland and Registers of Scotland.

Revenue Scotland will be set up to ensure the "efficient" and "effective" care and management of the devolved taxes, including the replacement for stamp duty, while Registers of Scotland will collect land and buildings transaction tax.

Mr Swinney told the parliament the new tax would provide "a system that will meet the needs of a modern, 21st Century Scotland".

It would be the first purely Scottish tax introduced in more than 300 years.

Mr Swinney continued: "We are proposing a progressive system of taxation where the amount paid is more closely related to the value of the property, and therefore to the ability of the individual to pay.

"This approach has been warmly welcomed by tax professionals and others during the public consultation."

Rates and bands

Mr Swinney also said the specific rates and bands for the new tax would not be published until September 2014, during the publication of the Scottish Parliament's draft budget, at the earliest.

While supporting the general principals of the bill, Ken Macintosh - who speaks for the Labour Party on finance - said he was concerned about the timing of when both the rates and bands would be made public.

Mr Macintosh said that led to "quite a degree of uncertainty".

He continued: "If the cabinet secretary will perhaps indicate to the finance committee and department when he has actually agreed on a date, so we can have some clarity on this matter, I think that would help."

Those concerns were echoed by the Scottish Conservatives' Gavin Brown who said the uncertainty over the rate was particularly a worry for the commercial property sector.

'Acutely monitoring'

The Scottish Conservatives also voiced concerns that the new collection agency, Revenue Scotland, working alongside Registers of Scotland, would be up and running in time to collect the new tax effectively.

Mr Swinney told the chamber the system was currently a "work in progress".

He added: "The project board that supervises the implementation of these proposals is acutely monitoring those very important issues."

Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes raised the idea of tax breaks for those who have the most energy efficient homes.

She said: "I fear that the government has not been quite as ambitious as it could have been.

"These new powers could be used to design a system that incentivises the use of empty properties, the development of brown field sites, as well as tackling fuel poverty and climate change."

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