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Understanding stamp duty costs

By George Hadgelias

Stamp duty is part and parcel of buying property in Australia. But it’s also a tax that few buyers understand. 

Stamp duty refers to the tax you pay on certain transactions and documents. One of these transactions where you need to pay stamp duty is when you purchase a property.

Naturally when someone is thinking of buying a property, there are a lot of questions around stamp duty and we have made a list of the top questions below and spoke to Lachlan Walker, from Brisbane’s Place Estate Agents, to have these questions answered .

1. What is stamp duty?

Stamp duty is a form of tax. It is applied to a number of transactions, including transfers of property, mortgages and motor vehicle registrations.

“It can also be imposed on some insurance and gifts,” Walker explains. “The transaction is charged, with the amount based on the greater of the market value of the property or the price paid, including any GST. This means, the more expensive the property, the higher the stamp duty.”

For new investors or those buying interstate, Walker says stamp duty can “slide under the radar” and become a nasty surprise when it’s time to pay.

“If you are thinking about entering the property market, don’t forget to factor stamp duty into your budget,” he says. “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.”

2. Who pays stamp duty?

In real estate, the buyer pays the stamp duty.

3. How much is stamp duty?

Stamp duty is decided by separate state and territory governments, rather than the federal government, so rates vary.

“Working out the amount you have to pay can become confusing due to the different approaches by each state,” Walker says.

It’s also important to note that some states offer concessions to first-time buyers. And that rates also vary for those buying land.

Use our Stamp Duty calculator to work out how much you might need to pay.

4. When do you have to pay stamp duty?

Just as the stamp duty rate varies from state to state, so does the timeframe in which people need to pay it.

  • ACT – payable within 28 days of settlement (purchasers must pay stamp duty within 14 days of receiving a Notice of Assessment from Access Canberra. Buyers will be sent this in an email sometime after Access Canberra has received the transfer instrument (written document). Buyers have 14 days after the date of settlement to lodge their transfer instrument with Access Canberra.)
  • NSW – payable within three months
    • of settlement. When the purchase is made ‘off the plan,’ buyers must pay duty within three months of the completion of the agreement.
    • NT – generally payable within 60 days of entering into the transaction or at settlement, whichever is earlier.
    • QLD – payable within 30 days of settlement.
    • SA – payable on settlement day.
    • TAS – payable within three months of the transfer (which generally takes place on settlement day).
    • VIC – payable within 30 days of the property being transferred (which is usually the date of settlement).
    • WA – payable within two months of settlement.

    If you fail to pay within the given timeframe, you will have to pay additional penalty rates and interest.

  • 5. Are there any exemptions?

    State governments offer stamp duty exemptions when property changes hands following a death or divorce, or is transferred between family members.

    And most state governments also offer first-home buyers either a complete exemption or a large concession.

    For example, the New South Wales state government offers a full exemption to first-home buyers on homes valued up to $650,000.

    Meanwhile, Victoria offers a full exemption to first-home buyers who purchase a new or established home worth up to $600,000, as long as they live in the property for at least 12 months, and stamp duty discounts to those who buy property valued between $600,000 and $750,000.

    6. How do you pay stamp duty?

    State governments generally accept payments online, via credit/debit card or bank transfer. Some also accept payment via cheque.

    7. What is the money used for?

    Stamp duty is invested into the economy by the state and territory governments which collect it.

    “This revenue is added into all state government budgets, which typically cover sectors such as health, transport and roads, police, justice and emergency services,” says Walker.

  • Click here for more information
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