Stamp duty can be a costly barrier to homeownership for many, so how can you avoid paying it?
Stamp duty has been a hot topic in the last year, with the New South Wales Government floating the idea of axing it in favour of a land tax, while real estate groups across the country have called for it to be abolished. A report from Gateway Bank found over 60% of first home buyers (FHB) could buy a home sooner if they didn’t have to pay stamp duty.
For now, the unpopular tax is a costly expense prospective homeowners have to front up. However, (almost) every state and territory government has stamp duty exemptions for certain groups and circumstances. Find out if you’re eligible here, as well as how much stamp duty might cost if you’re not.
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What is stamp duty?
Stamp duty, also known as transfer duty, is a tax charged by State and Territory Governments on purchases like property, land, and vehicles. The cost of stamp duty differs depending on what the purchase is, its value, and where in Australia you purchased it.
With regards to property, stamp duty is typically paid upfront when your home purchase is settled, but some lenders will allow you to borrow the required amount and lump it into your mortgage amount. Your conveyancer can organise the appropriate paperwork and payment is usually required within 30 days to three months of settlement.
Stamp duty exemptions for each state and territory
Stamp duty rules differ between each state and territory. Below is a full list of the stamp duty exemptions in each of them.
All property prices and stamp duty calculations are correct as of March 2021.
New South Wales stamp duty exemptions
FHB exemptions: In an effort to help FHBs and the construction industry, the NSW Government announced in July the threshold above which stamp duty was charged on new homes for first home buyers would increase from $650,000 to $800,000, and from $350,000 to $400,000 for vacant land. New homes valued between $800,000-$1 million and land valued between $400,000-$500,000 would receive a concessional stamp duty rate.
The changes, which last for 12 months, came into effect on 1 August 2020 and only apply to newly-built homes.
Deceased estates: If you have received property through a will, you will only have to pay a concessional transfer duty rate of $50.
Off-the-plan purchases: If you have bought an apartment off-the-plan, you can defer paying your stamp duty for up to 12 months after you sign the agreement or until the property is completed or handed over, whichever comes first.
Family transfers: No stamp duty is payable when the family home or vacant land intended to be used for the family home is transferred between a married couple or de facto partners living together for two years.
NSW stamp duty cost: According to CoreLogic, the median Sydney property price is $895,933. Using the Revenue NSW calculator, stamp duty on a property of this price would be $33,655 without any concessions.
Victoria stamp duty exemptions
FHB exemptions: Victorian FHBs are exempt from stamp duty when purchasing properties with a value below $600,000. For properties valued between $600,000 and $750,000, FHBs are eligible for a stamp duty concession.
Stamp duty waivers: Temporary stamp duty waivers mean Victorians can get a 50% stamp duty waiver on new residential properties and a 25% waiver on existing residential properties and vacant residential land. The value of the properties or land must be less than $1 million and the contract must be signed on or after 25 November 2020 and before 1 July 2021.
This offer can be used in conjunction with any other concession.
Pensioner concession: Pensioners can receive a one-off stamp duty exemption or concession when buying a new or established home to live in if the home is worth up to $750,000. Applicants must hold a relevant concession card at the property settlement date, never received a pensioner exemption/concession in Victoria, and must buy the property for market value.
Off-the-plan purchases: People who have bought off-the-plan can reduce the value of the property by the costs of construction or refurbishment, occurring on or after the contract date. This reduces the amount of payable stamp duty. The property must be valued at less than $750,000 and needs to be your principal place of residence for 12 consecutive months, starting within 12 months of possession.
Victoria stamp duty cost: According to CoreLogic, the median Melbourne property price is $717,767. Stamp duty on a property of this price would be $30,482 (without concessions) according to Victoria’s State Revenue Office.
Queensland stamp duty exemptions
FHB exemptions: Queenslander FHBs are exempt from stamp duty for homes valued under $550,000 and vacant land under $400,000. It is possible to gain concessions on stamp duty in some circumstances for property and land above these amounts.
Home concessions: Queenslanders can claim concessions on the first $350,000 of the property’s value even if they’re not a FHB. To be eligible, you must live in the home on a daily basis within one year of settlement and cannot sell the home before you move in.
Queensland stamp duty cost: According to CoreLogic, the median Brisbane property price is $535,618. The Queensland Government’s calculator shows stamp duty on this median price for an existing property would be $9,999.50 without concessions.
South Australia stamp duty exemptions
Unfortunately for South Australian residents, the state offers no stamp duty exemptions or concessions, while also imposing some of the highest taxes in the country.
South Australia stamp duty cost: CoreLogic data shows the median Adelaide property price is $478,587. According to Revenue South Australia, stamp duty on a property of this price would be $20,260.
Western Australia stamp duty exemptions
FHB exemptions: Western Australian FHBs are exempt from stamp duty for homes worth under $430,000 and vacant land under $300,000. There are also concessions available for houses between $430,000 to $530,000, and for vacant land from $300,000 to $400,000. To be eligible, buyers must move into the home within 12 months of purchasing and need to live there for six consecutive months, or within 12 months of completion for homes being constructed.
Spousal exemptions: Couples who are married or have been de facto partners for two years can transfer residential property and not pay stamp duty if the property is their primary place of residence.
Off-the-plan purchases: A stamp duty rebate is available for Western Australians who entered an off-the-plan pre-construction contract between 23 October 2019 and 23 October 2021, or signed a contract between 4 Jun 2020 and 31 December to purchase an off-the-plan apartment under construction.
The rebate is 75% of the stamp duty paid, capped at $50,000 for the pre-construction contract and $25,000 for a contract under which construction has already commenced. There is no cap on the purchase price of the apartment.
Family farms: Family farms can be transferred to another family member without having to pay stamp duty. The exemption is not valid for the land for the following five years.
Western Australia stamp duty cost: According to CoreLogic, the median Perth property price is $491,795. Stamp duty on an existing property of this price would be $17,375.50, according to the WA Government.
Tasmania stamp duty exemptions
FHB concessions: Tasmanian FHBs can get a 50% discount on stamp duty for established homes with a value of $400,000 or less. You must live in the home for six months, within 12 months of when you purchased it.
Pensioner concessions: Pensioners selling their home to downsize can get a 50% discount on the new home, provided it is worth less than the previous home and is valued below $400,000. This offer is valid until 30 June 2022 and the purchase of the new home must be completed within six months of selling the previous one. You must be over 60 years old and need to hold a Pensioner Concession Card, a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, or receive a DVA special rate pension.
Personal relationships exemptions: Property transfers between married couples and significant relationships are exempt from stamp duty charges. The property must be the principal place of residence and held as joint tenants or tenants in common in equal shares.
Tasmania stamp duty cost: According to CoreLogic, the median Hobart property price is $535,994. The State Revenue Office of Tasmania says stamp duty on a property of this price would cost $19,777.50.
Australian Capital Territory stamp duty exemptions
Home Buyer Concession Scheme: From 1 July 2019, ACT residents don’t have to pay stamp duty on a home purchase provided they have not owned any property in the last two years. Another requirement is for at least one of them must have lived in the home continuously for a minimum of one year starting within 12 months of settlement, and their income must not exceed the thresholds seen below:
No. of dependent children
Total gross income threshold
5 or more
Source: ACT Revenue Office.
Pensioners duty assistance: The Pensioner Duty Concession Scheme (PDCS) assists pensioners in downsizing or moving to a home more suitable to their needs. The new home must be worth less than the old home and the scheme runs until 30 June 2021. For properties under $440,000 and land under $278,650 in value, no stamp duty is payable. For property valued between $440,000 and $570,000, and land valued between $278,650 and $390,000, there are concessions available.
To be eligible, at least one buyer must be a pensioner and the former property must be sold within one year before or after the registration date. Pensioners can also defer stamp duty costs under the Pensioner Duty Deferral Scheme, charged at a market rate interest rate until the deferral period ends when you sell the home.
ACT stamp duty cost: CoreLogic data shows the median Canberra property price is $706,454. According to the ACT Revenue Office, stamp duty on a property of this price would be $20,320.80.
Northern Territory stamp duty exemptions
Territory Home Owner Discount (THOD): The THOD is available to eligible homebuyers who have not owned property in the Northern Territory in the past two years. Eligible applicants can receive a reduction in stamp duty cost of up to $18,601 when they purchase a home valued at $650,000 or less. Recipients must move into the home within 12 months of purchase and live there continuously for six months.
Pensioner/carer concession: Pensioners, senior citizens, and carers can get up to $10,000 off stamp duty costs as long as the property is valued below $750,00 or $385,000 for vacant land.
Northern Territory stamp duty cost: The median Darwin property price is $438,645. Stamp duty on a property of this price would be $19,223.70, according to the Northern Territory Government.
Savings.com.au’s two cents
As you can see, a wide range of stamp duty discounts, concessions and exemptions are available throughout the country (sorry South Australia). Many of these offers can be used in conjunction with other offers, so make sure you’re getting yourself the best deal possible and combine as many as you can. Stamp duty is expensive, so any reduction you can get is worthwhile.
Photo by Ali Bakhtiari on Unsplash