Tax hike for farm buildings
NEWS leaked over the weekend suggesting that Chancellor Gordon Brown may be planning a new £300 million "stealth" tax which could cripple farmers and make private homes in the countryside much more expensive to run.
It would mean imposing business rate taxes on farm land and agricultural buildings - which have been exempt from such charges for 70 years - and increasing council taxes on domestic properties in rural areas.
The plans were sneaked out by the Treasury just before the Easter break but only became known to the general public yesterday. The possibility of such swingeing tax hikes has been put forward by former local government expert Sir Michael Lyons, who has already recommended "re-banding" domestic properties which could cause huge increases in council taxes.
Brown has already said that the "re-banding" exercise will not take place until after the next General Election - it is expected to be wildly unpopular as council tax in England has doubled since New Labour came to power.
But brown has promised a series of radical reforms in his first 100-days if, as expected, he takes over as Prime Minister when Tony Blair steps down in two months time - and Tories fear that one of the "reforms" will include extra taxes in rural areas where Labour has little electoral support.