How the 4% Buyer’s Stamp Duty Made Speculators Look Foolish – Again

April 24, 2018

How the 4% Buyer’s Stamp Duty Made Speculators Look Foolish – Again

By Property Soul (guest contributor)

The recent Singapore Budget 2018 had only bad news for the property industry.The top marginal Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) rate was raised from 3 to 4 percent for residential properties valued over $1 million. The revised rate is effective immediately on or after 20 February 2018.

The Finance Minister explained this is done to enhance “progressivity” in our tax system.
For industry stakeholders who said confidently that the government would soon ease the property cooling measures “progressively”, this is no doubt a real slap in their face.

In July last year, I wrote the blog post “MAS makes commentators look foolish again”. Seven months later, our Finance Minister proved the commentators wrong again. It seems their betting skills haven’t improved at all.

Flexible payment scheme: genius or reckless?

Wait, what about buyers of new condo projects who are on flexible payment schemes?

What happen to those who bought under the deferred payment scheme (DPS), stay-then-pay program or lease option to help solve the developers’ Qualifying Certificate deadline problem? Those who got to own, stay or lease first, with a future date to exercise the option and pay the balance? Those who paid a slightly higher price, in exchange for better cashflow management? Those who bet the government would adjust the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD) in a year or two?

Projects which offer such options include:

  1. Deferred payment scheme: OUE’s Twin Peaks and CapitaLand’s Sky Habitat;
  2. Stay-then-pay program: CapitaLand’s The Interlace and d’Leedon, Frasers Centrepoint’s Soleil @ Sinaran; and
  3. Two-year lease option with refundable deposit: TG Development’s Lloyd Sixtyfive.

The matter is addressed in the IRAS website under “Requirement to Pay BSD”: If a buyer of a residential property has been granted an Option to Purchase on or before 19 Feb 2018 and executes it on or before the earlier of the following dates: 12 Mar 2018 or date of expiry of the validity period, the buyer may apply to IRAS for remission to apply the BSD rates prior to 20 Feb 2018.

Let’s hope that buyers who opt for such flexible payment schemes were not ill-advised and have fully prepared for the possibilities and consequences.

Ladies know what the DPS is

The Deferred Payment Scheme is nothing new. I already used it in the 2000s.

When I received a marriage proposal with a diamond ring, I remembered a good piece of advice from my sister. I didn’t have to give an answer right away but could keep the ring with the option to revert on an unspecified date.

There are a few advantages of the deferment:

  1. I can avoid making a rash decision by saying “yes” or disappointing the other party by saying “no” right away.
  2. I can still change my mind so long as I haven’t said “yes”.
  3. I don’t have to be tied down so early. I can keep my options open.
  4. It is a nice and expensive ring. I better keep it in case it ends up with another girl.

The same benefits apply for buyers who opt for DPS:

  1. They can avoid making a rash decision by buying it now or disappointing their property agents by turning them down.
  2. They can still change their mind so long as they haven’t exercised the option.
  3. They don’t have to be tied down by the property now. They can enjoy better cashflow using the balance of the payment for other financial commitment.
  4. It is a good unit selling on DPS. They better book it now before it is taken up by other DPS buyers.

You think you are smart. But the other party is also not dumb.

How long can you drag? A year or two? Sooner or later, you must make a decision.

Unless they don’t mind paying 4 percent BSD, buyers on DPS are forced to make the call before the remission deadline of March 12.

How could speculators get this wrong?

It is naïve to speculate on the relaxation of cooling measures and believe the government will make concessions.

Before the government announced each round of cooling measures, did they consult the industry stakeholders, seek their opinions on suggestions to deal with the issue, or warn them that “ABSD, SSD and TDSR would be coming this Friday”?

Take the hint from the recent incident of the stolen A-Level Chemistry exam papers where 238 students from four Junior Colleges were affected. The exam papers were stolen in the UK while they were in transit from the Cambridge Assessment’s office to the examiner for marking. The same thing happened before back in 1993.

Students could go for a re-examination or accept an average score of the other three papers. One lucky student left one-third of the paper unanswered but still scored an “A”. Straits Times then came up with the headline “Affected students mostly happy with awarded grades”.

Did the Ministry of Education let slip of the incident from the theft on November 16 to the A-level result announcement day on February 23? No.

Did Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) consult the concerned before they came up with the options? Not necessarily.

Did SEAB mention that the affected students were free to suggest a better alternative other than the two options given? Not really.

I just read a book by Hong Kong writer Li Yi (李怡). He explained how a big MNC’s recruitment mistake could have totally different consequences in different countries. Let me try to apply the concepts in the missing exam paper incident.

If this happened in the US, lawyers from different States would convince the parents of the affected students to sue the responsible party for negligence and pay for all tangible losses and psychological damages. The legal fee is a percentage of the compensation the students awarded after winning the case.

If this happened in Germany, parents would insist affected students re-sit the paper for scoring accuracy. The public would put pressure on the government to check all security procedures, report the findings, and have measures in place to ensure the lapses would not happen again.

If this happened in Japan, the responsible party would call for a press conference. In front of the national TV network and media, the management team would bow 90-degrees to admit their mistakes.

If this happened in China, parents of the students (who expected “B” or “C” but got an “A” instead) would bring the most expensive gift they could afford, kneel before the government officials, and thank them for giving their child the chance to score an “A” and qualify for admission to university.

Li Yi also has a good advice: Learn to appreciate the right thing in the right country – France’s culture, UK’s politics and the US’s technology. But never the other way round – France’s politics, UK’s technology or the US’s culture.

Got it?

By guest contributor Property Soul, a successful property investor, blogger, and author of the No B.S. Guide to Property Investment.

by on April 24, 2018 · 1 comment

Posted in Singapore Property Market

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lionel Lee April 24, 2018 at 10:04 am

Great article.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: