Will Stormont bite the LVT bullet?

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An interesting article appears out of the blue:

Last night the Department of Finance and Personnel reiterated the answer they gave to Mr O’Loan when he asked what consideration the minister (Peter Robinson] was giving to the rating of agricultural land.

It said: “Under the current rating system agricultural land is not valued nor rated and there are no plans to do so.

“However as you are aware the current review of the new domestic rating system that was introduced by direct rule ministers in April 2007 is examining a wide range of options for change in the shorter and longer terms, which were included in terms of reference agreed by the Executive.

“Strand 2 of the review is addressing longer term issues including possible alternatives to the current arrangements and one such alternative is Land Value Taxation.

“I have commissioned the Ulster University to investigate the experience of other jurisdictions that have used Land Value Taxation.”

This is being presented as a scandalous attack on farmers, but Tony Vickers makes an excellent case in his recent book for the replacement of agricultural subsidies in favour of LVT.

Either way, it is interesting to see that Stormont is investigating LVT as a possible replacement of the rates – the Tory government in the 80s not having scrapped them in Northern Ireland along with everywhere else. Without being saddled with the mess that is a Council Tax that hasn’t been revalued in 17 years, it would be relatively painless to introduce there and the potential benefits would be immense. And if it could be shown to work there, it would be an easier sell for the rest of the UK.

This is all putting the cart before the horse of course – it remains to be seen if the mishmash coalition in Stormont is capable of pushing anything through. But it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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