Ministers have assured the Public Accounts Committee that more details ofexempted works of art will be included in upgraded computerisedregisters.
A formal response to the committee's criticism of the scheme promisedconsideration of how to give more publicity to the conditional exemptionscheme, including linking the Capital taxes Office website withthe Countryside Agency's site and others.
Meanwhile the Earl of Leicester, President of the Historic HousesAssociation, claimed Government proposals for greater public access toconditionally exempt chattels 'pose the greatest threat to this country'sArt Heritage since the threatened imposition of the Wealth Tax 25 yearsago.'
He claimed to have received an assurance that the scheme will do all itcan to respect the dignity and privacy of owners and take into accountthe security problems they may face.
Leicester also highlighted in an address to the association's AGM thethreat posed by the removal in April 2001 of "one estate election"enabling some stately home owners to set building maintenance againstprofits from their estates.
New proposals are being drawn up by the Historic Houses Association togive the owners of stately homes a form of tax relief on buildingmaintenance.
But the association fear they will be unable to agree details in time forfull consideration by the Treasury prior to the spring Budget.
It means a further year of uncertainty for the owners of small to medium-sized piles which attract a modest income from tourists.
The relief only benefitted those historic houses which still have largeestates - and the relief was not restricted to those open to the public.
More popular houses have sufficient income from visitors to set thatagainst maintenance costs.
Treasury ministers are understood to be sympathetic to the case, but wantto ensure any new relief is tightly targeted on those whose buildings areopen to the public and keep buildings and contents together.
Association Taxation Committee chairman James Hervey-Bathurst played downthe row over retrospective access requirements for those allowed topostpone inheritance taxes on works of art over which there is littleministerial sympathy.
He warned there is little possibility now of a maintenance concessionnext spring, but said proposals are being drawn up for submission to theTreasury later.
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