If you are purchasing a property in Singapore, you will need to pay for Buyer’s Stamp Duties. Stamp duty refers to the tax on documents relating to the purchase or lease of a property, payable to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). Stamp Duty is payable on the purchase price or market price, whichever is higher.

  • Purchase price of the property (as stated in the signed sale and purchase agreement)
  • Market value of the property (based on the property’s valuation reports)

This means if a property is valued at $1.5millions and you managed to negotiate to purchase at $1.2millions, the BSD will be calculated based on $1.5millions as it is higher among the 2 amounts.

Before 20th February 2018, the BSD rate was up to 3%. With effect from 20 Feb 2018, there are differentiated BSD rates between residential and non-residential properties.

The top marginal BSD rate for purchasing residential properties on or after 20 Feb 2018 is 4%.

BSD Rates on or after 20th Feb 2018

Purchase Price/Market ValueBSD For Residential PropertiesBSD For Non-Residential Properties
First $180,0001%1%
Next $180,0002%2%
Next $640,0003%3%
Remaining4%3%
BSD is rounded down to the nearest dollar, subject to a minimum duty of $1.

 

As a Singaporean Citizen, if you purchase a private condominium at $1.5million and you will need to pay:-

1% of the first $180,000 -> $180,000 x 1% = $1,800

2% of the next $180,000 -> $180,000 x 2% = $3,600

3% of the next $640,000 -> $640,000 x 3% = $19,200

Remaining Amount of $500,000 -> S$500,000 x 4% = S$20,000

So, the BSD payable would be a total of:-

$1,800 + $3,600 + $19,200 + $20,000 = $44,600

In addition to the BSD, there is also the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), and this a tax on the purchase of residential property in Singapore if:-

  • A Singapore citizen who is purchasing more than one property
  • A Permanent Resident
  • A foreigner
Buyer’s Citizen TypeRate of 1st Property Purchase2nd Property Purchase3rd and Subsequent Property Purchase
Singapore Citizen (SC)Not Applicable12%15%
Permanent Resident (PR)5%15%15%
Foreigner20%20%20%
HDB property is counted as a first property in the computation of ABSD.

 

The implementation of ABSD is to curb property speculation. Together with other cooling measures like Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) and Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD), it has made the dream of many Singaporeans to own multiple properties hard to fulfil. 

Nevertheless, there are only a few ways to save on ABSD legally:

  1. Instead of buying property as a couple, consider using 1 owner for a property

     

  2. Consider split/transfer the ownership of the property

     

  3. Buying the property under your child who is at least 21 years old

     

  4. Set up a property trust for your child below 21 years old and buy the property under the trust with you as Trustee

(1) Instead of buying property as a couple, consider using 1 owner for a property

To support future growth in the property investment portfolio, the most straightforward way is to consider buying the property under 1 owner.  

*Note: In the case of a HDB flat, a couple can check and see whether they are eligible to adopt the Owner + Essential Occupier holding manner to bid for a HDB BTO/resale HDB. An essential occupier, as defined by HDB, “is a family member who forms a family nucleus with the applicant to qualify for a flat from HDB.” This can be a spouse, child, parent, or sibling. He/she does not have any share in the flat, even if he/she has paid cash for it.

This method will allow the spouse who is not listed as an owner to purchase another property as a first-time home buyer without paying for ABSD (or only pay 5% ABSD if they are a Permanent Resident).  

Of course, there are considerations to own property under 1 owner:-

  1. Only the sole owner’s CPF Ordinary Account (CPF-OA) can be used. The sole owner is the one who holds the deed to the property even if the spouse contributes to the mortgage.

     

  2. Only one party’s income can be considered for loan application.
    • For brand new executive condominiums and HDB flats, the loan repayments cannot exceed 30% of the sole borrower’s gross monthly income (This is known as Mortgage Servicing Ratio).

       

    • For private properties and resale executive condominiums, the home loan – plus all existing debt obligations – cannot exceed 60% of the sole borrower’s gross monthly income. (This is known as Total Debt Servicing Ratio). 

 

(2) Consider split/transfer the ownership of the property

Many of the newlywed couples will register as co-owners when a purchase for their first property. However, instead of going for joint tenancy, you can opt for tenancy-in-common. 

A joint tenancy means:-

  • Both owners will have the same equal interest and rights, regardless of how much each one contributes. If to sell the property, both owners need to agree on the selling.

     

  • Property is automatically transferred to the co-owners upon death.

Tenancy-in-common means:-

  • Each co-owner holds a separate and distinct share, i.e., 99% own by the husband and 1% by the wife. Any co-owners can choose to sell their share in the property to a third party or leave it to a third party in their Will without the other co-owner’s permission.

However, upon the death of one owner, the share will not automatically transfer to the surviving owner. If there is no Will, his interest in the flat will be distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act.

Tenancy-in-common allows you to split the property ownership. 

Some of the benefits are: –

  1. Both incomes and CPF Ordinary Account (CPF-OA) can be used for the down payment and support home loan application/on-going mortgage instalments.
  2. You can transfer as little as 1% of ownership to your spouse. And this helps to reduce the ABSD. This means the spouse/partner who has no ownership under any property will hold the higher share, i.e., 99% and 1% share is sold to the co-owner who already have a property own under his/her name. The ABSD incurs will only on the value of the 1% being transferred.

*Note: For couples holding existing HDBs as joint tenants, they are no longer allowed to transfer their ownership as of 2016 (known as decoupling). Today, changes in flat ownership are possible only on the grounds of marriage, divorce, death of an owner, financial hardship, renunciation of citizenship, and medical reasons.

There are considerations for this method, which includes: – 

  1. Two conveyancing law firms will need to be appointed to represent each party (one act for the seller and another act for the buyer) and possibly mortgage loan restructuring fees and penalties. This can easily cost $6,000 – $8,000.

     

  2. You would have to work out the finance with your spouse/partner. The higher-income owner should hold the higher value property.
  3. Even if, in reality, the spouse/partner contributes as much or more to the mortgage with the least ownership share, disputes may arise later. 

*A word of caution: You need to work with experienced conveyancing lawyers. It may cost you more financially and emotionally if you do not hire the right legal professional to advise you on this proceeding.

 

(3) Buying the property under your child who is at least 21 years old

For this to work, your child must be Singaporean and is at least 21 years old. You purchase the property under their name as a first-time home-owner with you paying for the property. 

However, you need to consider this carefully as there may be complications down the road, not limited to below: –

  1. Your child must be qualified for the home loan since he/she is listed as the owner. Hence, if your child is still in school, this is not a feasible method.

     

  2. If your child is to get married in a few years and want to purchase for their own property, you either have to dispose of the property and pay for Seller Stamp Duty of 4-12% depending on the year of transfer, or transfer the property back to you with ABSD payable.

     

  3. If your child is to buy a Build To Order (BTO) flat or Executive Condominium with the spouse, they would have to dispose of the private property at least 30 months ahead of their application.

It is possible to result in family disputes. Hence, it is important to anticipate all possible issues that may arise in the future. 

 

(4) Set up a property trust for your child below 21 years old and buy the property under the trust with you as Trustee

This method to work requires full payment (including Buyer Stamp Duty) to purchase the property in cash without a loan or CPF usage. Banks do not grant loans for properties under trust.

As your child is below 21 years old, you will be purchasing the property under the trust with you as the Trustee and your child as beneficiary. Legally speaking, the property is not yours but belongs to your child. However, you will be liable to pay for any taxes and expenses on the property. 

Obviously, you are not subject to ABSD because legally, you are not the property owner, so it does not add to your property count as more than 1 property. The same will be applied to any rental income or sales proceeding from the property that will belong to your child, not you. 

 

Conclusions

The methods shared are legal, and as in which method works for you, it depends on your family profile, short- and long-term plans, and most importantly, your financial situation. 

 

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