Stamp duty can significantly add to the cost of your property and how much you need to save for your deposit, but many people don't understand what it is, where the money goes and the exemptions they could be entitled to.
Blogger: Lachlan Walker, Place Advisory
For many people, the cost of buying a property is overwhelming in its own right. From the initial deposit to the home loan, the amount of money to be paid can seem endless.
But wait… there’s more! Many people forget about the infamous stamp duty levy. This tax, which varies state to state, is unfortunately an inescapable step in the process of buying property in Australia.
Here, we look at what this duty entails, where the money goes, how much you could be paying, and possible concessions and exemptions you could be entitled to.
Historically, stamp duty literally referred to the cost of the physical stamp which was attached on documents regarding land transactions and other legal matters. Today, it means a tax which is imposed on numerous acquisitions most prominently including the selling of real estate.
Stamp duty can also be imposed on home loans, some insurance, and gifts. The transaction is charged with duty based on the greater of the market value of the property, or the price paid, including any GST. Therefore, the more expensive a property, the higher stamp duty rate that must be paid. In real estate terms, stamp duty is always paid by the purchaser, and must be paid within 30 days of the property settlement.
Like all taxes, stamp duty is reinvested back into the economy. This revenue is added into all State Government budgets which typically include sectors such as Health, Transport & Roads, Police, Justice and Emergency Services.
Use of tax payers’ money is always a touchy topic, and stamp duty is no different. Many have questioned its necessity and whether the money is being spent wisely. However, according to the Housing Industry Association, removing the stamp duty tax completely for all first home buyers would result in a loss of $712 million—money that the State Government would be forced to recover elsewhere.
For the time being, although it may seem like an unnecessary outlay, stamp duty is an unavoidable expense that must be incurred when purchasing a property.
As stamp duty is decided by the State Government rather than the Australian Federal Government, rates vary from state to state. Working out the amount you have to pay can become confusing due to the different approaches by each state. Beyond that, there are concessions for first-time buyers, and varying rates if you’re buying land.
For these reasons, Stamp Duty Calculators are useful and accurate tools to work out the amount of duty required.
While exemptions for stamp duty are available under extreme circumstances, including the death of a property owner or joint tenant, there are other situations which do not require a stamp duty payment.
For instance, the transfers of ownership to a spouse, as well as a change of tenure, do not require duty payment. A number of concessions also apply which have the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of stamp duty payable. Buyers purchasing a residence that they intend to occupy as their home, or purchasing a property intended to be their first home, may be eligible for the Home and First Home concessions respectively. Similarly, the First Home Vacant Land concession may apply if you are acquiring vacant land where you intent to build your first home.
For new investors, or those buying interstate, stamp duty has the potential to slide under the radar, and can be a nasty surprise when the time to pay rolls around.
If you are thinking about entering the property market, do not forget to factor this duty into your budget. If you work out how much needs to be paid from the offset, you could save yourself a lot of stress in the long run.