The IFS And Council Tax

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There’s an assumption buried in this idea:

More than 10m households would benefit from lower council tax bills if the government reformed the “arbitrary and unfair” annual property charge to reflect the growing divide between London and the south-east and the rest of England.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said average bills across most of the Midlands and north would fall by more than 20%, with more modest falls across much of the south-west and parts of east England should ministers introduce a system more aligned with house price growth over the past 30 years.

Council tax bills would fall by 56% in Blackpool, 57% in Stoke-on-Trent and 60% in Kingston upon Hull, the tax and spending watchdog said, ending decades of punishing tax rates in many of Britain’s most deprived areas.

That assumption being:

The IFS said revaluation and reform of council tax could contribute to the government’s “levelling up” agenda. “But this depends crucially on central government funding for different councils being reallocated in line with the updated property valuations and council tax system.

“If this funding were not adjusted, each council would need to raise as much council tax as now if it wanted to maintain spending.”

To explain. Changing the rates system itself – or the valuations it is based upon – won’t make any damn difference at all if we remain with the overall system itself. For each local council is trying to squeeze a certain amount of money out of the local population to pay for local services. Which is, obviously, as it should be. Local taxes for local people.

So, if we change the ratings bands, the property valuations, then to gain the same cash end result, local councils will have to change the multiple of those valuations which is charged as tax. Bills only change in cash terms if we assume that the multiple (or, actually, fraction) stays static while the valuation changes.

The only way the cash bill changes on average over a local council area is if there is redistribution of the domestic rates across local authority boundaries. Which is something the Blair government ramped up and something that the Tories have dampened down. For the obvious reason that the poorer areas tend to vote Labour, the richer Tory. It’s easy enough to read who would support redistribution from richer to poorer given that.

As to what should happen about redistribution. We’ve already got a highly redistributive national tax system and a highly redistributive national benefits system. Which is enough. Local councils should be living off what they can raise locally in order to pay for local services. At which point the revaluation of rates across the country makes no difference at all to local – cash – rates bills. Which is as it should be.

Now watch people like Owen and Polly demanding this revaluation – without mentioning the redistribution inherent in their demands.

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isp001
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isp001

Even funnier. Read the IFS Mirrlees review and they admit reality, which is that taxation on housing gets capitalised into house prices. So even if the tax looks random house by house it is still entirely fair – as higher taxes were reflected in cheaper house prices (and v.v). We have had the same system for 30+ years and given turnover of the housing stock almost all homes were bought on the basis of the current system of taxation. Any change to the system which leaves total tax take alone just causes huge gains/losses (capitalisation is on roughly a 25x… Read more »

jgh
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jgh

That’s interesting, I’ll have to look into that. I’ve been banging on for years that the Council Tax system is broken. If you’re going to have a property tax, set it at a fraction of the property value, not in bands. Ok, if you’re going to have bands, set them across the whole of the property value range. Sigh, ok, if you’re not going to set them across the whole of the property value range, adjust them annually to follow the property values. Sheesh, OK! If you’re not going to adjust them, set them individually in each tax-raising area, not… Read more »

isp001
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isp001

capitalisation means that intuition on this subject is a terrible guide to fairness/efficiency

most think tanks get it wrong. and not in a different-views wrong, in a this-is-maths-and-you-haven’t-thought-it-through-wrong

the mirrlees is huge pdf but the relevant section on capitalisation is short

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

But it’s not a property tax. It’s a tax to pay reasonably directly for what you use.

jgh
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jgh

It is a property tax. You are taxed if you occupy property, not if you use local services. The Community Charge was an attempt at billing you for your nominal use of local services.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

Somewhat off topic, but I got my new council tax bill this week, accompanied by a leaflet explaining how brilliant the council is.

First they whined that the evil Tories had cut £68m from the funding over the last ten years. Then they boasted that they had stripped out £93m of wasteful spending over the last five years and negotiated a record £685m from property developers.

Hmm.

John B
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John B

In France there are two taxes, one on the property paid by the property owner, the second on the occupier – obviously if owner occupies, they pay both. Both taxes are based on the median rental value for the area, taking into account size of property and it’s amenities… higher if you have a garage or swimming pool for example. It seems fair because vacant property is still taxed, and where the property is rented the owner and occupier share the cost. It has worked very well for a lot of years which is why Idiot Macron is changing it… Read more »

Bongoi
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Bongoi

We could redistribute the costs across local authorities rather than the tax receipts. The two biggest budget items paid out of Council Tax are adult social care and children’s services. So redistribute the scrotes that won’t or can’t look after their parents, and the scrotes engaging with social workers, till we’ve roughly equal proportions in all LAs.
Erm, maybe not.