Real estate transfer tax break faces long odds in House

Measure to be voted on Thursday, but passage seems unlikely

It’s unlikely that when it meets on Thursday the NH House will offer a break on the state’s real estate transfer tax to first-time homebuyers.

Senate Bill 301, which cut the 75-cents-per-$100 tax to 50 cents for first-time buyers of homes valued at less than $300,000, easily passed the Senate. But it met a stiff wall of resistance in the House Ways and Means Committee, which voted, 22-1, to send it to study.

Supporters of the bill said it was a way to encourage young families to settle in New Hampshire, helping counter the state’s aging demographics.

But Ways and Means members questioned whether the cut was enough to provide an incentive, particularly to first-time homebuyers, who might not even be aware of the transfer tax until closing.

There were also some concerns that the cut would hurt municipalities, particularly because the state Department of Revenue Administration could not estimate its fiscal impact. They also voiced concerns that the state is giving out too many credits and cuts, which is a drain on the treasury.

Others worried about what to do when the buyers were a couple that included a previous homebuyer, or when a buyer was a new corporate entity owned by someone who had purchased property in the past.

The bill is on the consent calendar, which means it will be grouped with a number of other committee recommendations and will be voted on at the same time without a separate debate. That could change, if a representative asks that the measure be pulled from the calendar, but even then chances of passage are slim. 

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