LONDON (Reuters) - The number of homes sold in the United Kingdom fell by more than half last month after the scaling-back of a tax break designed to encourage home purchases during the coronavirus crisis, official data showed on Tuesday.
Britain's tax office said 73,740 homes were sold in July on a seasonally adjusted basis - 63% fewer than in June when buyers had rushed to complete sales before a COVID emergency tax break was reduced - although 4% more than in July 2020.
Sales were down 24% compared with the same month in 2019, before the pandemic.
British finance minister Rishi Sunak last year temporarily scrapped the stamp duty tax on the first 500,000 pounds ($685,550) of property purchases in England and Northern Ireland.
That full exemption expired at the end of June but buyers in England and Northern Ireland will benefit from a 250,000 pound exemption until the end of September.
A tax exemption measure in Wales ended in June, while Scotland stopped a tax break there in March.
Britain's housing market has also been boosted by demand for bigger properties as more people work from home.
($1 = 0.7293 pounds)
(Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)