A new report has highlighted that Australians are paying more on stamp duty now than ever before, as well as just how reliant state governments are on stamp duty.
The release of the Housing Industry Association (HIA)’s Stamp Duty Watch report revealed that Australian property buyers spent over $21.3 billion in stamp duty to state governments over the 2017–18 financial year, which is an all-time high for the tax.
“The report shows that revenue from stamp duty across the states and territories has doubled over the past eight years. This has added considerably to the cost of buying a home and represents a real setback for affordability,” said Shane Garret, senior economist at the HIA.
State governments are making as much usage of stamp duty as possible, as it accounts for 26.2 per cent of total taxation revenue, which the report claims is one of the highest shares on record.
“State governments are more dependent on stamp duty than at any time in the last decade. Stamp duty is notoriously unstable and Australia’s largest states are heavily exposed to any downturn in duty receipts should economic conditions change,” Mr Garrett said.
Additionally, since financial year 2001–02, stamp duty revenue has approximately tripled across states and territories, and it is only set to increase from here.
“The recent set of state budgets envisage stamp duty revenues increasing by another 11 per cent over the next four years,” Mr Garrett said.
“This will involve homebuyers’ having their pockets drained to the tune of $23.1 billion annually by 2021–22 through stamp duty.
“Housing affordability and the sustainability of government finances would both be winners if stamp duty was replaced by better revenue-raising designs. Australian governments really need to tackle this issue once and for all.”
The report also looks at the increased stamp duty foreign investors face, as foreign investors help expand the rental market to which the report stated is “an important link in the economic chain” and needed to face job expansion and economic activity.
For foreign buyers, stamp duty can be as high as 12.6 per cent. Using the example of a Sydney unit purchased for $719,000, a foreign investor can pay a total of $90,365. In other states, foreign investors can pay nearly $75,000 in Melbourne, $43,200 in Brisbane and $40,930 in Adelaide. Additionally, come January 2019, Western Australia will introduce a stamp duty surcharge of 7 per cent for foreign investors; for a unit bought for $406,000, foreign investors will have to pay $46,760, or 11.5 per cent of the value of the unit.
“The timing of this intervention is particularly unfortunate given that there are tentative signs that WA’s new home building downturn is coming to an end. Imposing such a punitive tax at this stage risks stifling any recovery,” the report noted.