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We've been asked a number of questions by clients over the last months about what a political change might mean for them and what certain proposed policies might look like. Today, I'm going to have a look at the two most frequently raised questions and share our thoughts on them, and it's these questions which are underpinning many people's plans before the election.
One question that's come up a lot from clients concerns the possibility of a wealth tax being introduced here in the UK and if so what can be done about it. Whilst we think it's unlikely there will be an actual wealth tax similar to those say in France and Spain, we do think there's a real chance of some form of property tax or mansion tax being introduced. Property is much harder to shift value away from (or indeed take value out of the country) and much more straightforward to value on an annual basis than most other assets, and all of these factors are needed for such a tax. As a prevailing mood, both in the Labour party and the Lib Dems, that property owners should pay more. So this seems to be the method of choice they've come up with. There could therefore be, for example, a 1% annual charge based on the council tax value system, or even a revalued system and collected in a very similar way. It's likely that if such a tax is introduced, it will not be possible to borrow on a property and remove the funds from the UK so as to depress it's value. Only borrowing taken out to acquire the property will probably be deductible, as is currently the case in France, and is very similar to the inheritance tax system as well.
The real $60 million question, and perhaps the one that has been asked the most over the last year or so, is whether the Labour party will introduce capital controls. This is a very difficult question to answer and hard to predict. John McDonnell confirmed earlier this year that Labour will not do so in the event that they come to power. However, he has also commented that he expects sterling will strengthen in the event of a Labour victory, so there will be no need for capital controls. We suspect this is probably a classical case of wishful thinking and so the strong suspicion is that Labour may well be forced into introducing capital controls, even if they don't want to, so they can protect their spending agenda. This may be on a temporary basis, but this is by no means sure. How successful they'll be and how easy it is to introduce capital controls to such an international country as the UK are very different questions. I suspect it's a watch this space situation. If you're concerned about the possibility of capital controls, or even a mansion tax, then do seek advice now so as to enable you to react swiftly if needed. Unfortunately there's probably little one can do about a mansion tax, short of selling the property of itself, but many clients are at least preparing for the possibility of capital controls and taking certain steps now in this regard.