The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) was first introduced in December 2011 to curb property price escalation in Singapore. In July 2018, the ABSD rates were further adjusted to make it even more expensive to own multiple properties in Singapore.
The ABSD is also not the only property cooling measure that the government has implemented to curb speculative property buying and investment in Singapore – there have been at least 10 rounds of property cooling measures since 2009.
Despite the existing property cooling measures in place, property prices have been on an upward surge in the face of the worst economic crisis on record in Singapore. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, the private residential home prices rose 3.3%. In fact, private home prices have been increasing ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Similarly, resale HDB homes have seen four straight quarters of higher prices.
On the back of this, there have been talks about a renewed round of property cooling measures.
We Need To Pay A Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD)
When we buy a residential property in Singapore we have to pay a Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD). Only if we are purchasing our second or subsequent property, we need to fork out the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).
Buyer’s Stamp Duty:
|Purchase Price or Market Value of Residential Property||Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD)|
How much we have to pay in Buyer’s Stamp Duty or BSD is dependent on the value of our home. We don’t just pay more for a more expensive home, but also incur a higher tax level.
How Much Is The ABSD In Singapore?
If we are buying our second or subsequent residential property, we then have to fork out for the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).
It’s also slightly more complicated than the calculation for how much Buyer’s Stamp Duty we have to pay. Rather than based on the incremental value of our property, it’s based on the profile of the buyer, with a flat ABSD rate slapped on the entire purchase price of the property.
|Profile of the Buyer||Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD)|
|Singapore Citizen buying 1st residential property||No ABSD|
|Singapore Citizen buying 2nd residential property||12%|
|Singapore Citizen buying 3rd and subsequent residential property||15%|
|Singapore Permanent Residents|
|Singapore Permanent Resident buying 1st residential property||5%|
|Singapore Permanent Resident buying 2nd and subsequent residential property||15%|
|Foreigners buying any residential property||20%|
|Entities buying any residential property||25% + Additional 5% for Housing Developers|
Singapore Citizens don’t have to pay any ABSD for their first private residential property purchase. However, we have to pay an ABSD of 12% and 15% for our 2nd and 3rd residential property purchase.
Singapore Permanent Residents and Foreigners have to start paying ABSD from their 1st private residential property purchase. Permanent Residents only have to fork out 5% ABSD for their 1st residential property purchase and then 15% ABSD subsequently. Foreigners have to start paying 20% ABSD from their 1st residential property purchase.
How To Avoid The ABSD?
The ABSD is a hefty price to pay to own a second or multiple private residential properties in Singapore. Naturally, people are going to try to find ways to get around it. There are certain ways we can do this legally.
#1 Any ABSD We Pay Can Be Subsequently Reimbursed With CPF OA Balances
Technically, this isn’t avoiding ABSD. It is just avoiding ABSD payment with cash.
When we pay for the ABSD, we typically need to fork out for it in cash first. This makes it even more painful, even if we can afford it in CPF balances or have no intention to hold two properties because we are selling our existing property.
We can only apply to use our CPF OA balances for the ABSD (and BSD), and effectively, get reimbursement from our CPF for the sum we paid in cash afterwards.
#2 Sell Existing Residential Property First, Then Buy Next Residential Property
It can be quite prohibitive to buy another home without selling our existing home, even if the intention is to do so. This is because we have to pay the ABSD before being able to apply for an ABSD remission. For example, the ABSD on a $1 million private residential property will be $120,000 at the lowest (e.g. Singapore Citizen couple buying another home to move into).
Another important thing to note is that applying for the ABSD remission only applies to married couples, who jointly purchase their next residential property. This basically means singles or unmarried couples cannot apply for ABSD remission if they purchase their next residential property without selling their existing residential property. Married couples must also purchase their next property under both names of the couple only.
The obvious workaround is that we should sell our existing property first, before buying a new property. Timing the purchases can be tricky, so we need to be very careful when planning it this way. Alternatively, we can always sell our home, move to a rented property for a period of time, before buying our next home.
By selling our residential property first, we can also consider de-coupling our names from our spouses to purchase two residential properties (with one couple owning one each) without paying any ABSD.
Decoupling also applies to private property owners who remove one of the spouse’s names from the property. Technically, this involves the other spouse buying over the share. Once this is done, the spouse whose name has been decoupled can purchase another property without paying any ABSD.
However, when doing this, the spouse who buys over the property must be able to refund the CPF monies that their spouse used, and they also have to take into consideration additional costs such as the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) portion of the transaction and lawyers’ fees.
If we cannot afford to buy two residential properties immediately, we can consider buying one, but with only one person’s name. In effect, this allows us to de-couple ahead of time. And, when we can afford it, we can use the second spouse’s name to purchase the 2nd property without ABSD in future. This will likely give us more time to accumulate sufficient savings to pay a downpayment for the 2nd property when the time comes.
#4 Apply As A Married Couple With One Singapore Citizen Spouse
Couples with at least one Singapore Citizen spouse can apply for ABSD remission. This means Singapore Citizens who marry a permanent Resident or Foreigner will not be penalised in owning their own home in Singapore.
If we are intending to get married to a Permanent Resident or a Foreigner, there’s no need to wait until they get their citizenship or PR status to enjoy lower ABSD rates.
#5 Foreigners Eligible For ABSD Remission
While it may be far-fetched to change citizenship or permanent residency status just to enjoy ABSD remission, nationals or permanent residents of certain countries are accorded the same Stamp Duty treatment as Singapore citizens.
Nationals and Permanent Residents of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, as well as Nationals of the USA are given this privilege under the respective Free Trade Agreements we have with them.
What this means is that they do not have to pay ABSD for their first private property purchase. Moreover, Permanent Residents of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland do not have to pay ABSD for their first private residential property, while Singapore Permanent Residents have to pay 5% for their first private residential property.
Purchasing Other Types Of Property Investments In Singapore
To avoid paying for ABSD, but still invest in multiple properties in Singapore, we can consider buying a commercial or industrial property. We can also consider investing in a popular asset class on SGX – REITs.
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