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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Unequal treatment

This is a rant. It’s personal, but I think every property owner should take note because it is about a little known piece of information regarding stamp duty.

I got the shock of my life when I was told this morning that I had to pay the additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) of  7 per cent even though I am selling my current home and buying the next one to live in. Apparently, I have to sell first, be home ownerless, and then buy the second home to avoid the duty.

There is the option of selling later and getting the money refunded but, get this, this refund is only for married couples. And there I was thinking that the ABSD was to prevent too much speculative activity in the property market. Again, a policy objective with yet another head grafted on to it: The ABSD is not just to curb speculation but also to help married couples upgrade?

I can understand if the G imposes all sorts of restrictions on subsidised housing, and uses public housing policy as a tool to achieve other national objectives, like giving couples priority in the HDB queue so that they can start a family. But to intervene in the private property market to achieve other ends beyond the stated objective of cooling the market is way too discriminatory. Why should I be penalised with a 7 per cent ABSD because I am single? Why should the refund only apply to married couples? After all, I am not indulging in speculative activity. The proof will come when the current home is sold within the six months time frame set for a refund.

What’s ironic is that this single won’t be living alone. My mother is moving in with me after selling her HDB flat. That, however, doesn’t matter according to the rules. If it’s joint ownership, both of us would have to sell first and buy later. I suppose I can move in with my mother for the time being as I get my house sold with the new place in my name. I suppose the G thinks it’s okay to inconvenience singles and better to placate married couples?  

How many singles and parent-child combinations are in this bind, I wonder. This is unequal treatment. It should be re-looked and revoked. Seven per cent ABSD is a lot of money – and I don’t know why I have to pay this. Singles are already discriminated against in the public housing market, although there has been some loosening. Now, will the G please leave those of us in the private housing market alone? 

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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