Second home owners 'must pay' as rules set to stop tax dodge

Cromer with boats in North Norfolk

Second home owners need to pay up, says a North Norfolk district councillor because authorities are losing out because of a tax dodge. - Credit: Archant

People owning second homes in Norfolk must pay a "fair contribution", a councillor has said, after government plans to tighten tax loopholes were revealed. 

The call came from a district councillor in North Norfolk where there is the highest number of second homes in the county.

It comes as people are set to return to places like Brancaster and Burnham Market to their holiday homes with the easing of lockdown.

Burnham Market North Norfolk

The government is set to clampdown on second home owners in North Norfolk who evade council tax by exploiting a loophole in the tax rules. - Credit: Archant

Currently second home owners can avoid paying council tax if they claim they intend to use the property as a holiday let for 140 days a year. 

They are then eligible for business tax instead and in many cases, qualify for small business rates relief which means they pay nothing at all.

Councils also may have lost out further by paying out coronavirus grants to 'holiday let' owners when in fact people had registered for this because of the tax dodge.

But now the government is set to tighten the rules, possibly bringing in verification checks that properties are rented out or that owners have tried to do so.

Liz Withington won a Sheringham by-election. Picture: Karen Bethell

Liz Withington. - Credit: Archant

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North Norfolk district councillor and chairwoman of the town and parish council forum, Liz Withington has been fighting for government action for four years.

"Balancing the number of second homes and holiday lets is very important in areas such as North Norfolk for sustaining the local tourist economy but also for ensuring there are sufficient affordable homes, particularly rental homes to meet the local need.

"Second home owners must pay a fair contribution to not only the services and amenities and the upkeep of our wonderful area that they benefit from but also towards the negative impact that high numbers of second homes can have on those local communities. 

"If more second homes are then eligible for business rates relief there are then further considerations in regard to the income that will be available to local authorities."

At the end of last year, North Norfolk had 4,476 properties classed as second homes and 2,221 furnished holiday lets. If those holiday lets were classed as second homes, the district council would make an extra £4.2m a year in council tax.

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