Introducing a tax on empty properties
While the availability of affordable housing persists as a nation-wide problem, hundreds of thousands of
homes in the UK remain empty. Empty Homes, an independent charity, estimated that nearly 250,000
privately owned homes in England have been vacant for longer than six months.
Table 3: Number of privately owned homes empty for longer than six months, by region1
17,245 54,486 32,108
22,350 23,169 30,010 21,555 249,418
Source: Empty Homes
Levying a greater tax on these homes would again reinforce the principle that property owners have a
social and economic responsibility towards their communities. Hence, if they leave the property
unoccupied for six months or longer thereby neglecting this responsibility it is arguably fair for them to
encounter a higher tax.
Until early 2013 owners of empty properties enjoyed a council tax exemption for the first six months and
would get a 50% discount thereafter. Since 2013 this has been abolished and councils can also charge a
50% premium on properties that have been unoccupied for longer than two years. When the changes
were introduced, the justification given by the Institute of Revenues, Rating, and Valuation (IRRV) was
that the government was trying to get a greater yield from council tax in order to keep the overall level
down. The measure was also meant to encourage the occupation of empty homes.2
number of empty homes has been declining since 2008 (as shown in Figure 3)
, it is still substantial. Hence,
the 2013 council tax reform arguably did not go far enough in encouraging occupation of empty homes.
1 Regional data is from 2012, the most recent year for which detailed data is available
2 Based on remarks by IRRV’s chief executive David Magor to Radio 4.
© Centre for Economics and Business Research for the FairHomeTax Campaign Feb 2015 commissioned by Howard Cox