When purchasing a property in Singapore, couples usually have an advantage over singles because they have the potential to own two properties by sharing the cost of ownership for two properties. Usually, couples would start off with purchasing a HDB flat together, be it a Build-To-Order (BTO) or a resale HDB flat from the open market, to take advantage of the grants by HDB. And if they wish to upgrade or own a 2nd property on top of the HDB, they can only do so after the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP).
However, if they want to own a second property, they will have to pay the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD). If couples want to avoid or minimise paying ABSD on their second property in Singapore, what strategies should they explore?
Before we dive in, let’s go over the basics and understand what does BSD and ABSD are. In Singapore, when you purchase a condo there are two types of stamp duties that come into play: the Buyer Stamp Duty or BSD, and the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty, or ABSD.
What Exactly Is A Buyer Stamp Duty (BSD)?
If you want to purchase a property in Singapore, whether you’re a local citizen or foreigner, you must pay the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD). BSD is tax paid on documents signed when you buy or acquire property located in Singapore. The amount of BSD incurred will be based on the purchase price or the property’s market value – whichever is higher.
The tax rates in the table below are on or after 20 Feb 2018:
Purchase Price of Market Value of the Property
|BSD Rates for Residential Properties||BSD Rates for Non-Residential Properties|
Supposedly you have purchased a S$2 million residential unit, you need to pay a Buyer’s Stamp Duty of S$64,600.
Here’s the breakdown:
- 1% of first S$180,000 = S$1,800
- 2% of next S$180,000 = S$3,600
- 3% of next S$640,000 = S$19,200
- 4% of remaining Amount = S$40,000
- Total BSD payable = S$64,600
If you want to own both an HDB flat and a private property, there is another, more expensive stamp duty that you will have to pay – the ABSD.
What Is Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD) And How Is It Calculated?
The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty or ABSD was imposed on December 8th, 2011 in order to control the growing demand for property investments by Singapore Citizens and foreign buyers. By doing so, not only does it maintain affordability of residential properties for locals, but also allows home prices to increase steadily along with economic fundamentals.
Profile of Buyer
|ABSD Rates from 12 Jan 2013 to 5 Jul 2018||ABSD Rates from 6 Jul 2018 to 15 Dec 2021||ABSD Rates on or after 16 Dec 2021||ABSD Rates on or after 27 Apr 2023|
|Singapore Citizens (SC) buying 1st residential property||Not applicable||Not applicable||Not applicable||Not applicable|
|SC buying 2nd residential property||7%||12%||17%||20%|
|SC buying 3rd and subsequent residential property||10%||15%||25%||30%|
|Singapore PR (SPR) buying 1st residential property||5%||5%||5%||5%|
|SPR buying 2nd residential property||10%||15%||25%||30%|
|SPR buying 3rd and subsequent residential property||10%||15%||30%||35%|
|Foreigners (FR) buying any residential property||15%||20%||30%||60%|
|Entities buying any residential property||15%||25%||35%||65%|
|Housing Developers buying any residential property||15%||25%||35%||65%|
Let’s assume that on or after 27 April 2023, Singapore Citizen who currently owns a HDB flat wants to acquire a private condo which cost S$2 million. Right now, the buyer has to pay an Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty of S$400,000 (20% of property price), on top of the Buyer’s Stamp Duty of S$64,600. In total, the buyer has to pay a total of S$464,600.
This is a huge sum compared to just paying the BSD of S$64,600.
Non-residents are also charged an ABSD of 60% on the purchase price in addition to the BSD. Exemption from the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) will only be granted to foreigners from these 5 countries due to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). They are Nationals and PR of Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and USA.
Now that we understand what BSD and ABSD are, so how can you own 2 or more properties in Singapore without having to pay or minimise the hefty ABSD? This can be done through various methods:
1. Listing One Person As The HDB Owner, The Other As Essential Occupier
If you and your partner are planning to purchase a HDB flat together, you can list one person as the owner and the other as an essential occupier. According to HDB, an essential occupier is a family member who must be listed on the application form in order to qualify under an eligibility scheme and purchase a flat. Depending on which scheme you’re purchasing your HDB under, an essential occupier can be anyone, from your spouse to your children or parents.
However, keep in mind that essential occupiers are essentially not the owners of HDB flats. Which means they are unable use their CPF OA to finance the HDB. And if you have the intention to sell off the HDB in the future, all sales proceeds will go back to the owner and not the essential occupier. And as there is only one owner, only one of them will be eligible to apply for the loan. Therefore the loan amount may become relatively low, which could limit or affect the HDB choices.
So, what are the benefits of listing one of you as essential occupier? As one of you is not considered as the owner, the essential occupier can purchase a condo after fulfilling the 5 years MOP (Minimum Occupation Period) without having to sell off the HDB.
The essential occupier will also be able to get a 75% mortgage loan on the purchase price from the banks when purchasing a private condo. This way, both you and your spouse will be able to own two properties and avoid paying ABSD.
2. Both Of You Buy 1 Condo Each From The Start
The second method is much straight forward as both of you buy 1 property each at the start. This is provided that both your CPF OA, cash on hand as well as the loan amount are sufficient to allow both of you to own 1 property each. Therefore, it is recommended that you run an IPA (In-Principal Approval) to check and ensure how much mortgage loan both of you qualify.
In this way, you can have the best of both worlds and own two properties in Singapore while avoiding paying the hefty 20% ABSD.
3. Sell 1, Buy 2
This method is for couples that already own a HDB or EC, and have passed their Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of 5 years. Selling off your current HDB or EC would mean freeing up cash and getting your CPF OA money back into the OA accounts, provided that you gain a profit from the sale of the HDB or EC.
With this, you can plan your finances thoroughly with profits from your current property and the CPF OA & accrued interest returned to your CPF OA accounts. Similar to the above method, both of you can buy 1 private property each and avoid paying the hefty ABSD.
4. Purchase 1 Condo Together And Decouple Later
If this is your first time buying or upgrading to a condo, and you have limited CPF OA or cash on hand, you can consider buying it together with your spouse first.
Buying a condo in Singapore is expensive, but if you pool your cash and CPF together, you and your spouse will have more purchasing power and be able to afford a bigger place. Additionally, it will also increase the amount of loan that you’ll both be eligible for. Do keep in mind that how you allocate your manner of holding this condo is essential as it sets the way for decoupling later on (e.g. 99% and 1% manner of holding)
There are also some loan complications involved when it comes to decoupling. If you need assistance with decoupling or have questions regarding the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would be more than happy to walk you through everything step-by-step.
So, what’s the best way for you and your spouse to purchase a property in Singapore without incurring ABSD? From the above, we can see that there is no right or wrong way. It depends on your personal situation and other factors such as the amount of CPF OA and cash you have in total.
However, do remember that there are many other factors involved when choosing which method to go for in order to minimise the ABSD. You may want to consult with your real estate agent for more information on what would be the most suitable option for you and your spouse.
No matter which method you choose, be sure to get professional help from a team of real estate experts at Mattjasatwork so that you can make the most informed decision possible. If you have any questions regarding ABSD, decoupling or any other real estate enquiries, please don’t hesitate to drop us a message via WhatsApp or give us a call at +65 9437 7361 today!