Boris Johnson mansion tax

Boris Johnson has claimed that a mansion tax on the super rich would prevent homeowners from carrying out basic repairs such as clearing damp — while conveniently neglecting to mention he lives in a four-storey Georgian townhouse worth millions.

The London mayor writes in his Telegraph column:

“If you see one of those damp patches appear on the ceiling – about the size and colour of a poppadom – you should just lie back and watch it grow. If the floorboards yawn open, just cover the gap with cardboard. Never mind the state of the downstairs lavatory. A faint aroma of ammonia never hurt anyone. Drip from the ceiling? Shove a bucket under it.”

The levy proposed by Ed Miliband last Thursday and described by Boris today as “nihilistic class war” would affect owners of homes worth over £2 million. Call us cynics, but perhaps the London mayor’s fulminations could be related to his leafy Islington pile, which set him back £2.3 million when he bought it in 2009. On inflation trends in the prestigious N1 location, the property is now likely to be worth more than £3 million.

Having put his foot in it by describing his £250,000 Telegraph column as “chicken feed”, Boris defended himself:

“I happen to write extremely fast … I don’t see why on a Sunday morning I shouldn’t knock off an article”

Perhaps he should have stayed in bed yesterday.

UPDATE: The property was the subject of some controversy during the 2012 mayoral election after mischievous Labour Party activists published a photo (below) of them posing outside its front door —  without identifying the occupant. The link to Boris was publicly highlighted by the Guido Fawkes blog, who then had the chutzpah to imply that it put the safety of Boris’ “young family” at risk.

Labour activists pose outside Boris' house

  1. While Boris is in typical exaggeration writing mode, and PS is in typical exaggeration reaction mode – the underlying principle is a well founded one.

    Whenever you tax something based on its value, when the object in question approaches the threshold for higher rates of tax, the inflation rate slows markedly and dubious means are exploited to avoid smashing though that barrier.

    You only have to look at how houses that are worth just over certain limits are sold just under that value to avoid higher stamp duties – with “accessories” sold separately to bring the final transaction back up to the asking price.

    To pretend that people owning a £1.9 million house wont be incentived to avoid repairs etc that push it over the threshold is disingenuous.

  2. To pretend that the mansion tax will stop rich property owners from repairing damp is an insult to families in London and elsewhere living in inadequate housing.

  3. @Ian, if Labour’s proposals are a carbon copy of the Lib Dems’ mansion tax, then it’s only the value above £2 million that’s taxed at 1%. If doing repair work would tip it into the mansion tax, then its value would only just be over £2 million and a very small levy due. So a £2.1 million house would be subject to a £100 per year mansion tax. That’s not going to stop repair works.

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