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Stamp duty, home ownership, retirement and pensions

3 March 2017

10:55 AM

3 March 2017

10:55 AM

It’s the bane of home-buyers’ lives – and now a major building society has said that stamp duty is due a major overhaul.

The Yorkshire Building Society said that nearly three-quarters of first-time buyers pay the tax, compared with just over half in 2006. It wants stamp duty to be a tax on property sellers, rather than buyers, according to the BBC.

While house prices have risen, the stamp duty threshold has remained the same. It is levied on properties of more than £125,000, or £145,000 in Scotland.

Home ownership

The Guardian reports that home ownership in England has dropped to its lowest level for three decades but the amount of people who rent privately is higher than in the early 1960s.

The latest English Housing Survey, produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government, shows that the private rented sector has doubled in size since 2004, with almost half of all people in England aged 25 to 34 paying a private landlord for their accommodation.

The Guardian said: ‘Labour claimed the figures showed that the government was “out of ideas” and had no long-term plan to fix the housing crisis. The Generation Rent campaign group said runaway house price inflation and the difficulty of saving a deposit had trapped millions in private rented housing, “even more [people] than in the days of slum landlords like Rachman”.’

Retirement


ThisisMoney reports on new data by Prudential which has found that the majority of workers in Britain’s largest cities are pessimistic that their pensions will provide for a comfortable old age.

According to ThisisMoney: ‘People in Belfast, Cardiff and Nottingham are least likely to be confident about their retirement finances. Meanwhile, the workforces of Plymouth, Newcastle and Manchester are most optimistic, but even in those places less than half believe they will have enough put by for later life.’

Vince Smith-Hughes, a retirement income expert at Prudential, said: ‘These figures paint an interesting picture of the UK’s retirement planning cityscapes, and while it is reassuring to see people being realistic about the money they’ll need to live on when they give up work, it is also worrying how many of them fear they haven’t saved enough to be comfortable.’

Home insurance

New research from NFU Mutual, conducted in partnership with YouGov, has revealed that one in six homeowners have never calculated the true value of their home contents, leaving millions of pounds’ worth of items in homes across Britain at risk of being uninsured.

Looking specifically at the items within the home, almost a quarter of British homeowners believe the single most expensive item in their home is a piece of technology or device, with jewellery a close second. Worryingly, one in five don’t know what the most expensive item in their house is.

Pensions

New statistics from the Office for National Statistics show a ‘worrying rise’ in the proportion of private sector workers saving just the legal minimum into a workplace pension.

The latest report of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) for 2016 found that the percentage of workers saving ‘more than 0 per cent but less than 2 per cent’ of their pay into a workplace pension has risen to 42  per cent, compared with 40 per cent a year earlier. Under the government’s automatic enrolment scheme, participating employees are currently obliged to contribute just 1 per cent of their pay into a pension, with a further 1 per cent contributed by their employer.

Commenting on the figures, Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London, said: ‘The way things are going, by the time automatic enrolment is complete, around half of all private sector workers will be paying at or around the statutory minimum level of contributions. Even when the statutory minimum rises to 8 per cent, this is still far too little for most people on average earnings or above to have an acceptable standard of living in retirement. Millions of people face a disappointing retirement unless the government takes action to get contribution rates up.’

Services sector

Growth in the services sector eased to a five-month low in February, according to IHS Markit. The UK Services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) recorded growth of 53.3, down from 54.5 in January but still well above the 50 threshold that separates growth from contraction.

Mike Ashley

The Times reports on the bitter row over the sale of Agent Provocateur to a fashion agency part-owned by Sports Direct.

The struggling lingerie chain has been sold to Four Holdings, leading to concerns about job losses, store closures and losses for creditors.

Joe Corré, co-founder of Agent Provocateur, claimed that 3i, the private equity group which owned the lingerie chain, had been ‘negligent and incompetent by artificially allowing a great British brand like Agent Provocateur to crash into administration’.


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