Why we can’t tax land right now

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I suggested yesterday that we should tax vacant properties, heavily. It is an idea I first proposed for the TUC in 2009. I stick by that idea. I think its time has come.

I also think we need to tax land more comprehensively. Council tax is a bad tax: it is not local and should be. It is not really within council's control, and should be. Worse, it is capped, so it is regressive. Proportionately it is charged most heavily on low value properties as if it is a service charge when it should be a tax. And it does not capture land value as a tax base, which is madness when it is one that is readily available and a clear indicator of wealth, which drives much of the social divide in the UK.

But there are problems in taxing land. Ownership is hidden, as the latest Guardian survey shows.

A significant amount of land has never been registered in the UK; if it has not changed hands much of it does not need to have been. Wealth is therefore untraceable.

And now the government is proposing to sell the Land Registry that could be custodian of data on this tax base - which has to be the most absurd act as in future we would need to then ask a private company for the data to impose a tax charge.

What we actually need is a register of all land in the UK.

We need to know who the beneficial owners are - the people behind the names that claim to own land when they're just front companies in the BVI (and here we're talking about supermarkets as much as the wealthy).

And we need to say you forfeit your land if you do not register. It's really quite straightforward as sanctions go, and effective.

We can tax land.

We need to tax land.

But we need to find who owns it first if this is to be done in an appropriate fashion.

A commitment to that process should be in every manifesto in 2015.

I wonder though, will any do it? And if not, why not?