Party leader backs Suffolk’s campaign to close second home tax loophole
- Credit: David Beavan
A Suffolk-led campaign to close a loophole enabling second home owners to avoid tax has been backed by a party leader.
Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, recently met with Southwold party branch members to add his name to the online petition which calls for a tightening of the rules around second homes.
'This is a part of my plan to make housing available to everyone and I commend the Southwold branch for their campaigning,' he told the party members who were celebrating their branch's 30th birthday in St Mary's Hall.
Campaigners in the town have highlighted concerns about the current system, which allows second home owners to register the properties as holiday-lets, claim small business rate relief and pay no tax.
To qualify, the property needs only to be 'available to let' for 140 days a year – which could mean as little as a window advert.
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It has led to concerns local councils could be missing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax every year, and national calls for the loophole to be closed.
The campaign has won support in the Upper House, where peers including Lord Deben and Lord Shipley back plans for the system to be brought in line with Wales where holiday lets must actually be let for a minimum of 70 days a year.
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However, a debate last week in the House of Commons, failed to get the same support, leading Southwold campaigner David Beavan to accuse Government of 'trying to kick this issue into the long grass'.
Mr Beavan said he was disappointed with the suggestion that people who had concerns about the system being exploited should report it as fraud.
'How do you prove that a house is not available to let for 140 days? Are we supposed to spy on our neighbours? It will split our community between residents and blow-ins,' he added.
'If you claim the dole, you have to prove that you are actively seeking work.
'If these second home owners want the same handout they should at least have to prove they are actively seeking lets. The government can't just take their word for it. That is double standards.'
Visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/219417 to view the online petition, which is seeking 10,000 signatures by November 2018.