Finance Secretary, John Swinney’s first effort at creating a tax was his replacement for the British Stamp Duty – the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax [LBTT].
This came into effect on 1st April 2015, since which Revenue Scotland, which describes itself as ‘an open and transparent organisation’ has wihtout fail published each month’s revenue takings from this tax on the first day of the following month – until now.
This tax has been shown to have been underperforming on official expectations, with Mr Swinney claiming that at its first year end, it would still be seen to have delivered to target.
But the figures for the March revenue takings were not published on the sue date of 1st April and ae now slated for 22nd April – arguably too close to the Scottish Election date of 5th May 2016 to make much of an impact.
Not surprisingly, the SNP has been accused of ‘burying bad news’ at election time to avoid fresh questions over this failing housebuying tax.
The delay in publication of the Mach figures – the month that will reveal the complete first year takings from this tax – means that the SNP governement has avoided having to admit that revenues for the tax have fallen short of original estimates – leaving a multi-million pound black hole in Scotland’s finances.
Estimates suggest that the Swinney tax will fall short by between £38mM and £42M on its original claim that LBTT would collect £235M in 2015-16.
The Scottish Conservatives – on the attack on the ‘burying bad news’ tactic – has warned repeatedly of the damage to house sales revenue and to the market that the Swiney LBTT could do.
Party leader, Ruth Davidson, says: ‘The SNP’s approach in this election campaign has been to bury bad news and spin its way back into office. It is the action of an arrogant governing party which has spent too long in power.
‘These figures were published regularly at the end of each month for the last eleven months. Why suddenly the silence now?
‘We know the SNP tried to hide the truth over its negotiations with Chinese firms. Now we discover that information on its failed house-buying tax is missing.
‘Voters are entitled to draw the conclusion that this is a party which is trying to run away from any inconvenient truths.
‘Our own calculations suggest that the SNP’s black hole is between £38m and $42m.
‘If the SNP wants to challenge that then it knows how – stop hiding the facts, and publish the truth.’
For Argyll understands that industry figures are shortly to be released showing a fall in house prices in Scotland from January 2016, which would be the first fall since June 2015.
It may be that the fall in house prices has overcome sales volume figures in further reducing the tax take from LBTT. We will see when these figures are released later in the week – and Scotland will see the measure of Mr Swinney’s capability in tax making on 22nd April – if indeed the March figures for LBTT are released on that date.