London property prices are at new highs. UK share prices have been hitting new decade long highs. Property and unquoted shares around the country have risen in value considerably. It is curious therefore to see a further slump in Capital Gains Tax receipts in the latest January figures.
January is the big month for the Revenue to collect CGT, based as it is on annual tax returns. This January the Revenue collected just £2.45 bn, down by more than a sixth on the £3bn in January 2013. CGT has been running at around half the peak level it reached before the 2008 crash. The interesting thing is the rate was then 18% and the rate today is 28%.
It is quite clear that the new higher rate puts people off realising capital gains. Owners of second properties and holders of shares have plenty of opportunity now to take profits, given what has happened to values. It appears they chose not to. Some may not take profits because they hope values will rise further. Others have instructed their investment advisers, or have decided themselves not to trade, so they do not sell shares that take them over the CGT tax free limit. Owners of buy to let and other properties that are not a person’s own residence also seem to have decided to hold on, in part deterred by the high rate of CGT.
The current rate of CGT is preventing the government optimising its tax take on gains, as the rate is too high to maximise the revenue. It may also be standing in the way of some people moving property into hands of others who might be able to make better use of it. The curious case of the vanishing CGT receipts is more good evidence that a government which needs revenue needs to set realistic rates. It is also more proof that plenty of people avoid tax – in this case by the simple expedient of not selling assets which have gone up in value.
Yesterday’s spending and borrowing figures show the government is making some more progress in cutting the deficit, thanks to rises in revenue from Income Tax, VAT. Stamp Duty and Corporation Tax. There was further confirmation that high earners earn more and pay more at 45% than they did at 50%.