We continue our theme of international research with an extended pause in the UK (because as anybody who knows me knows, I’ll take *any* excuse to pause there!). This week, guest blogger Ben Rymer shares with us some tantalizing news about high net worth real estate in Britain. Ben is the Fundraising Research and Insight Manager at Age UK, the UK’s largest charity working with and for older people, where he has worked for four years. His professional interest and specialism is in measuring affinity and gauging capacity to give using data. This is his first article for the Intelligent Edge. He tweets at @benrymer.
An Englishman’s home may soon become his mansion, to paraphrase the old maxim. British opposition leader Ed Miliband pledged in September to enact a ‘Mansion Tax’ on all UK homes valued at £2m or more to pay for healthcare services if his party wins in 2015.
If this happens, the big winners would be property solicitors, surveyors and valuation experts, as all British homes worth close to £2m – and, depending on the implementation, possibly more — would have to be valued so that the tax can be enforced.
UK property values can vary wildly from home to home, so valuations will have to be done at, or near, the household level, making this an enormous job. There might be ways to mitigate this – for example, the equivalent French system requires homeowners to submit valuations to the Government, with big fines for mistakes to ensure accurate and timely submissions.
Existing repositories are ideally placed to hold the data – the Land Registry (the Government’s register of land and property ownership) and HM Revenue & Customs (the British tax agency) being obvious examples. The Land Registry, in particular, would then be a goldmine for prospect researchers, as it would hold accurate information on both land and property for the entire country, and be open access.
What will this mean?
Well, for us prospect researchers, accurate, open property price data is a game changer.
At £4.3 trillion, housing is the biggest asset class in the UK, bigger than government bonds (£1.2 trillion), corporate bonds, (£400 billion), commercial property (£800 billion) and the FTSE All share index (£1.8 trillion) combined.
Of course, we’d all love the information to be open and free. But even having reports on trends and predictions would be an improvement. A prospect researcher’s paradise would surely combine the new Land Registry and Companies House (where all new British company directorships are registered).
Together with projects like the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) and the World Top Incomes database, and vendor data from wealth screenings and modelling, these sources would hugely expand our level of insight into the dynamics of wealth and income.
This should enable us to raise more money, more effectively.
The devil may yet be in the details. We know nothing yet as to how the valuation data will be stored, shared or updated; property valuations for other British property types are decades out of date. No governing party wants to deliver massive tax rises, but property values have rocketed since 1991 when the last valuations were carried out.
It’s possible the data may be sold for profit, as nearly happened with a group of huge UK public datasets recently. The wider trend is clear however: wealth taxes are news, with cash-strapped Governments needing ways to raise revenue and bolster credibility by taxing ‘the 1%’.
We wait to see the detail of Mr Miliband’s proposals, but from what we know so far, wealth and property taxes and the insights their associated data bring could be the best thing to happen to prospect researchers in a very long time.