letter: Superband tax threatens historic buildings

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The Independent Online
You report town hall and Whitehall suggestions for a council tax "superband" for properties worth over pounds 500,000 ("Are you a member of a growing superband?", 22 June).

The concept of a banded property tax was always a bad idea. It is rough justice and there were well over a million appeals against the initial valuations. To introduce a superband, even as an interim measure, would only compound the problem and could provoke the kind of "constructive vandalism" - partial demolition - adopted as a means of avoiding liability under the business rate. This would be particularly serious because many higher-value houses are historic buildings.

There is no really satisfactory interim remedy for the deficiencies of the council tax and thorough-going reform is needed. The fairest and most practical solution would be to shift to assessments based on site values - the annual rental value of the land. This is the simplest system to administer and does not penalise development or improvement - a major drawback of the council tax, the uniform business rate and the old rating system; if the owner of a shed replaces it with a well-appointed modern building, the reward is higher tax bills.

Henry Law

Brighton, East Sussex