During his 32-year career as a salesman for the American food giant Del Monte, Malcolm Clare was affectionately known by friends as the man who liked to say yes — after actor Brian Jackson in the company’s adverts, who approved the fruit it used: ‘The Man from Del Monte, he say yes.’

Today, 79-year-old Malcolm, from Swindon in Wiltshire, is long-retired and looks back on his career with fondness, happy to share pictures of himself dressed up in his pomp as the Man from Del Monte.

Yet, like many homeowners of his generation, Malcolm is now firmly in ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’ mode — that is, ‘no’ to stamp duty, the cost of which has recently prevented him from downsizing to a smaller property less than a mile from where he currently lives with 76-year-old wife Lynne.

‘The Government should encourage us golden oldies to move out of our big houses,’ he says. ‘But it has made downsizing an unviable financial proposition for many of us.’

It’s an issue that he has raised with Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon, who lent him a sympathetic ear. 

Stamp duty is seen by most homeowners as an iniquitous tax - a form of double taxation. It is also an impediment to moving home

Stamp duty is seen by most homeowners as an iniquitous tax – a form of double taxation. It is also an impediment to moving home

And it’s a problem that many Tory MPs now firmly believe Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, should address in the Budget next Wednesday.

In a nutshell, they are calling for the Chancellor to abolish stamp duty for those wishing to downsize in retirement.

Members of the 107-strong One Nation Conservatives, a group of ‘moderate’ Tory MPs, believe such a bold step would free up the housing market, enabling people to move down and up the property ladder; increase the number of transactions; and provide a boost to the economy.

Earlier this week, the well-regarded Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that, although there was a ‘weak’ economic case for tax cuts, stamp duty on property purchases was ‘particularly damaging’ — and should be ‘towards the front of the queue for growth-friendly cuts’.

The calls from One Nation and the IFS follow a campaign launched earlier this month by Money Mail to abolish stamp duty — a move that we believe would be welcomed by young and old.

It would also confirm the Conservative Party, which is struggling in the polls, as the main flag-waver for home ownership.

Stamp duty is seen by most homeowners as an iniquitous tax — a form of double taxation. It is also an impediment to moving home, because the rate ratchets up as the purchase value of a property increases.

Currently, a home mover pays stamp duty on transactions above £250,000. The rate is 5 per cent on the value from £250,001 to £925,000; 10 per cent from £925,001 to £1.5 million; and 12 per cent on any surplus.

So, for example, someone buying a house for £500,000 currently pays stamp duty of £12,500, although from April 2025, this would rise to £18,750 if the nil-rate band falls back to £125,000, as the Government has said it will.

For a buyer of a £900,000 property, the respective stamp duty costs are £32,500 and £38,750. This tax charge is on top of other moving costs such as estate agency fees, solicitor’s fees, and removal van hire.

Can’t move: Anne Savory and her husband Ted want to sell their home in West Suffolk and move closer to their children

Can’t move: Anne Savory and her husband Ted want to sell their home in West Suffolk and move closer to their children

For Malcolm Clare, stamp duty is an ‘insidious’ stealth tax, a ‘national scandal’ which makes downsizing a ‘financial non-starter’. 

This is despite he and Lynne, a former secretary to the chief accountant of a financial services company, being desperate to move.

The Clares live in a four-bedroom house — it has been their home for 37 years. But they now want to move to a bungalow. ‘We’re not getting any younger,’ says Malcolm, ‘and the stairs in our home will become a challenge sooner rather than later.’

They thought they had struck gold last month when they spotted a three-bedroom bungalow for sale less than a mile away from where they live. ‘Bungalows on the market round here are as rare as hen’s teeth,’ he says.

They also attract buyers among both the young and old, resulting in them fetching premium prices.

It meant the bungalow would cost more than the price the Clares could get for their larger home — £435,000 versus £400,000.

As well as finding the money to plug the shortfall, the Clares would have had to pay stamp duty of around £9,250 plus estate agents’ fees ranging from £5,250 to £10,000, as well as other costs.

‘A move didn’t make financial sense,’ says Malcolm. A couple of weeks ago, he wrote to his MP Justin Tomlinson, who responded by saying that he, and the Conservative Party in general, supported changes to stamp duty that would enable people like him to downsize and release ‘family’ homes back onto the market.

Yet, understandably, he could give no assurances as to when any changes would come in.

‘Next Wednesday would do fine,’ says Malcolm.

It is a view shared by other readers. Anne Savory, from Kedington in West Suffolk, lives in a three-bedroom bungalow with husband Ted. 

Both are retired, in their mid-70s, and love the home they have lived in for the past eight years.

‘We have a massive garden with the River Stour at the bottom,’ says Anne, a retired accounts clerk. ‘But we’re getting to the stage where we can’t manage it and the house is far too big for us.’ 

Anne and Ted would love to move closer to their children, three of whom live in and around the Essex and Hertfordshire border.

Malcolm and Lynne Clare from Swindon in Wiltshire are desperate to move from the four-bedroom house they have lived in for 37 years

Malcolm and Lynne Clare from Swindon in Wiltshire are desperate to move from the four-bedroom house they have lived in for 37 years

But the cost of houses in these locations is proving off-putting.

For example, a two-bedroom bungalow in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, where one of their children lives, would cost around £450,000, with a stamp duty bill of £10,000. 

Although their Suffolk home is valued at more, Anne says stamp duty and all the other moving costs would be financial ‘killers’. ‘If stamp duty was abolished or reduced, it would make all the difference,’ she adds.

‘The housing market would also receive a great boost and the bungalow we live in could become a family home again.’

Ray Martyn, from New Milton in Hampshire, also wants to downsize. Now in his late 70s and recovering from cancer, the former civil servant lives with wife Louise in a three-bedroom bungalow with large gardens front and back, which are ‘becoming a chore’ to maintain.

They recently viewed a two-bedroom apartment in a new development nearby which would have cost around £600,000 to purchase. 

But they baulked at the £17,500 stamp duty bill they would have incurred, plus other moving costs that Ray calculated at around £12,000.

Like the Savorys, the Martyns would be able to release equity by downsizing — around £100,000 — but Ray says that money would be earmarked for their three children and six grandchildren. ‘I object to paying £17,500 in tax for moving house,’ says Ray. ‘The Government should think outside the box a little.

‘If it reduced or abolished stamp duty for downsizers, it would still receive value-added tax (VAT) receipts from bills charged by businesses involved in the house-moving process — solicitors, estate agents and removal companies. As it stands, we aren’t moving. Time to look for a good gardener.’

Chris Roberts, a former airline pilot from Great Bookham in Surrey, says the availability of suitable homes for downsizers to move into is also a key issue that needs to be addressed.

The 79-year-old says: ‘Where we live, many homes suitable 30 years ago for downsizing are no longer so as they have been extended — upsized. The result is we rattle around in our five-bedroom house rather than move.’

Fingers crossed for next Wednesday — and some good news on the stamp-duty front. Let’s get the housing market moving (if you know what I mean).

[email protected]

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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