Cornwall councillors keen to follow Wales’ lead and triple tax on second homes
Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter
Cornwall councillors have called for the UK Government to allow them to follow Wales and triple council tax bills for second home owners.
New powers are set to come into force in April 2024 to allow local councils to double council tax for second homes, but Cornwall councillors say they should be allowed to go higher.
The call for even more charges for second homes was made by Independent councillor Julian German who said that if the council was allowed to triple council tax it would put it in line with rules in Wales.
Cornwall Council’s customer and support services overview and scrutiny committee discussed the issue of council tax on second homes at its meeting yesterday. Under the current proposals the doubling of council tax for more than 13,000 second homes in Cornwall could generate an additional £27million.
The number of second homes has been cited as a key contributor to the current housing crisis which means that many homes are out of reach of local people and there are a lack of homes for sale or rent. Many also believe that second home owners should be charged more council tax to help pay for local services or provide more affordable housing.
However, whilst councils will be able to charge second homes a 100 per cent premium on their council tax there are fears that some will continue to avoid any charges by registering their properties as businesses and then claiming business rates relief.
Mark Read, strategic director for customer and business operations, told the committee: “There are some concerns that if this comes in it will trigger second home owners to turn their properties for business rates and they could then get business rates relief. The current rules are that they need to provide evidence that their property is available to let for 140 days a year. From April 23 the Government is bringing in additional criteria that means as well as showing that it is available for let for 140 days a year that they also have evidence of actually letting their property for at least 70 days a year. That will bring it in line with Wales where it has happened for some time.”
Mark Read told councillors that when he spoke to councils in Wales he found that in some cases the introduction of new rules which meant second home owners had to provide evidence of their properties being let had led to them instead switching their properties back as second homes and starting to pay council tax.
He said that in some areas of Wales they had seen a positive benefit to the new rule changes which will come into force here next year.
Cllr German raised the issue of how much extra council tax the council will be able to get from second homes and said that rather than it being restricted to 100 per cent that the council should be able to charge a 200 per cent premium as is allowed in Wales.
He proposed an additional recommendation to the committee that the leader of the council should write to the Secretary of State asking for the right to raise council tax on second homes to triple the normal rate.
Richard Pears, Cabinet member for customers, said he knew of people who had formed relationships later in life and as a result had two homes and said it wouldn’t be fair for the council to charge them extra tax.
But he added: “If that is OK what is to stop people transferring their second homes into their spouses’ names to avoid the whole thing?”
Council deputy leader David Harris responded saying: “We do not need you giving people hints on how to avoid council tax.”.
The committee agreed to support in principle charging second home owners a 100 per cent premium on their council tax; and a 100 per cent premium on homes which have been left empty for between one and five years.
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